Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Answer the call

The internet is a funny thing. You stumble upon someone's blog--some random person you don't know from Adam, who could be who they say they are and could also just be playing you--and something they say resonates with you, so you keep coming back. After a while you realize you know the names of their kids, the name of the guy who broke their heart, what they did last weekend and what they want to do with the rest of their life. You leave a comment now and then, and then they start to comment on your blog, and before long you're chatting over Gmail. The next thing you know, you refer to the person as "my friend."

I was lucky enough to meet "my friend" a few weeks ago when she was at ICRS here in Denver. Claudia, aka the Ragamuffin Diva, whose life is so different from mine it's hard to imagine we live on the same planet, much less in the same country, was just as fabulous and funny and sweet in person as she is on her blog. I honestly don't know how we got to the point where we truly were friends--friends who email, who talk on the phone, who lift each other up when we're beaten down and talk each other down when we're peering over the edge of the cliff of writing-induced insanity. But it happened, and my life is blessed and richer for having Claudia in my life.

Tonight I got an email from Claudia. Here's what it said:

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.” – Dorothy Day

One of my favorite parts of Dorothy Day’s autobiography, The Long Loneliness is the postscript at the end. She writes, “We were just sitting there talking when…” She goes on say that Peter Maurin came, and lines of people needing bread—and she couldn’t tell them, “Go, be thou filled!” Folks moved in and the walls expanded. “It was as casual as that,” Dorothy writes, “It just came about. It just happened.”

My friend Lisa Samson and I were just sitting there talking when someone brought up human trafficking. I’ve always wanted to do something to relieve this brand of suffering. The needs are astounding, but these victims are so easily forgotten, truly the least of the least of these Jesus talked about. Turns out Lisa always wanted to do something for this needy group of people God loves so much, too. In the wee hours of the morning, a work of mercy and hospitality, The Living Room, was born.

We’re going to get a building in downtown Lexington. People have already offered their expertise to help us get started. In a safe, cozy respite, we’ll quietly offer compassion, coffee, and a comfortable seat to women who come off the street, or find their way to us by other means. We’re going to preach the gospel, but only use words when we absolutely must. If the ladies need more we’ll give them that, too. We’ll make wrap-around services available. God sent me to school, inexplicably, to be a social worker fifteen years ago. Now I know why. Ken and I, and the whole Burney brood were on our way to Lexington on August 3 for our first vision trip. We were so excited.

On July 28th, our car was stolen. Two days later, we got an eviction notice. Most of the time I’m given room to get our rent payments in. Our apartment managers know I’m a writer. My income comes in slowly, but I wasn’t given that wide and generous berth this time. We have ten days to leave. I don’t have the means to fix this. I’ve tried, in the most humbling, pride crushing ways, but I gots nuthin’. I have felt every terror and loneliness a mother with four children and a disabled husband would feel in this awful predicament. But I keep hearing voices—no, not that kind!—but friends urging me to ask my readers and cyber-friends for help. Among those voices is my soul-mother Dorothy Day who said, “the only solution is love, and that love comes with community.”

If I’ve had an intentional community, it’s been here in cyber-space. We have laughed, cried, prayed, and stumbled along on the journey together. Now, I need your help, as I never have before.

Will you join me in love? Could you find it in your heart to be a part of the solution to this difficult set of circumstances? I want you to be part of our mission to love people for Jesus. Will you help my family get to Lexington where opportunity awaits us? We would be so grateful.

It's a humbling thing to write a letter like that. But it's the right thing to do, to ask your community for help. I may be a couple thousand miles away from Inkster, Michigan where the Burney family lives, but I'm still a part of her community, because the body of Christ is not contained by state borders or divided by interstate highways. And so, because I am a part of her community, I'm going to help her in whatever ways I can--like by posting the ChipIn widget in the sidebar, and donating to her family.

They need a car. And a U-Haul. And gas to drive to Kentucky. And insurance for the car. And hotel rooms to stay in on the way down there. And food to eat. And cell phones. And rent once they're in Lexington. And while some book contracts and bestsellers for Claudia and some tattoo customers for Ken would be great, those aren't the kinds of things we can whip out of our pockets. All that other stuff, though--the car, the gas, the hotel rooms, the food--we can provide.

So here's the thing. I know there are a lot of you out there. Five bucks multiplied by 10--or 15, or 25, or 100--of you would go a LONG way to helping the Burneys. Even if all you can spare is one dollar, that's one dollar more than they have right now. The widget will bring you to PayPal. Don't worry if you don't have a Paypal account, you can still use the service.

Thanks in advance to all of you who are able to chip in.