Hard Pressed but Not Crushed

Writing our story on discharging the mentally ill from the Genesee County Jail was both a trying and moving experience. When I first met Lori and Julie, who work at the jail, I immediately felt that I was standing in the presence of the anointed; these women live with purpose. And like two tiny Davids against an army of Goliaths, they fight overwhelming odds to bring hope to one of the darkest places in our city.

During my time with Lori and Julie, I felt the weight of the burden that they carry around every day. “The jail is a dark place, a sad and sometimes evil place,” said Lori, who admitted that some days she wants to despair and give up because what she sees is just too painful. Despite those moments of hopelessness, she said, “I can feel the presence of God walking with me, and I know his work has to be done here.” The women have such a sincere love for their patients that it wrings the heart. “I look at every single one of them as if they were part of my family,” Lori told me with tears in her eyes. “This person could be my mother, my brother, my child who’s been broken by this world. Are we just going to abandon them? We’re all brothers and sisters.”

While the women are doing the Lord’s work in ministering to the inmates in their care, they need support and care too. “I tell Him every day that I just can’t do this by myself,” Lori whispered tearfully. “‘If you want me to do this, you need to surround me with an army of Christians because I just can’t do it alone. I can’t.’” Then she brightened: “And he does! One by one, he sends another warrior to help us fight this battle. So I do have all the hope in the world that we are going to turn this around and help these people.” Julie says that many community members have come alongside them personally to support their efforts. “There are people who pray for us on a daily basis,” she said gratefully. “It’s easy to get overwhelmed with sadness. Some days, I don’t think I could get through it without their prayers. But I can feel those prayers sometimes.”

I see the care lines worn into Julie and Lori’s faces and I don’t envy them their job, except perhaps in one way. I see these women turning into the saints they will be in heaven. Although outwardly they show the burden they carry, the radiant light of joy in doing God’s work shines out of them all the brighter because of it. Like fine wine which can only be made by trampling the grapes, these women are being transformed day by day into something finer than merely human. If nothing else, we need to be praying for them, thanking God for them, and asking Him to bless their work. ♦

“We glory in tribulations, knowing that sufferings produce perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”
ROMANS 5:3-4


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