Written by Mike Verkaik
The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5 (NIV)
Dawn and I just finished eating lunch with Edelyn*, one of the middle school residents at the motel ministry we are a part of. While sitting around the table, an honest conversation developed of parents/partners who are stuck in a life full of struggles with addictions, joblessness, and strained relationships. She shared of a dark season she went through this past summer while fighting and substance abuse intensified in their 14 ft. x 14 ft. room. She found herself hopeless and empty in the midst of it all, with no place to escape.
Through the last five years at the motel, there are are about a dozen children we have watched, prayed for, and nurtured from childhood to teenagers. These children live in conditions of much brokenness and chaos, yet we have seen our Shepherd Father’s nature seek out His sheep, revealing them as His sons and daughters, and placing His Spirit within them.
For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my lost sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, So will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. Ezekiel 34:11-12 (NIV)
There is no room at the motel to hide the daily dis-functionality of lives from the children who reside there. Life for them is unquestionably difficult and traumatizing, yet we see God’s hand upon children as they navigate with the Light of the World through the darkness. Edelyn, which means “God is my refuge”, is one of a handful of children who have asked Jesus into their hearts and asked to be baptized. Dwelling at the motel we see His hand upon her and witness not only our Father’s pursuit of His children, but also His Spirit’s filling and equipping to use them to bring His shalom into their struggles, fears and daily lives.
Leah*, which means “Struggle”, is now a former resident. She will always be remembered for how God used her hunger and thirst for worship to begin our Sunday worship times at the motel. In the midst of her struggles with depression, insecurities and family issues Abba created a hunger and thirst for worshipping Him in her. Through our Father’s perfect alignment He brought Leah especially close to one of our volunteers, Amber. She became a mentor and friend. After years of emails, notes and cards of encouragement during Leah’s season of homelessness, unhealthy family dynamics, and searching for her identity outside of her past, Amber became Leah’s foster mom.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege to witness Leah’s baptism at her foster parents house. Amber told me that Leah woke up that Thursday morning and shared her desire to be baptized.
When I showed up for Leah’s baptism on Saturday, I was met with the news of how Leah’s decision brought out the longing of two of Amber and Brian’s children to also be baptized. Once again while Leah struggled with mental health and belonging, Abba stepped in and blessed Leah’s hunger and thirst for Him to lead others to act on their desires.
Below are the words of a mother’s heart as Amber wrote:
“As I was reflecting on Gods goodness in aligning the baptism for Leah, Briella, & Tritan I was brought to the following passage:
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)
We prayed for this day to happen for our kids and God aligned it to happen with Leah in our backyard. God’s love was on display in more ways than one. Tritan, our adopted son, was brought into our physical family along with fostering Leah, but God has adopted us ALL as sons and daughters into His family -the kingdom of God.”
Amen and Amen. What a beautiful reminder in knowing that even amidst terrible hardships we indeed have a God who is on a quest, seeking, chasing and pursuing the hearts of His children.
Life at the motel is hard. Hard to live at, and hard to watch life happen. Especially for children who are trapped in the situations their parent(s) find themselves in. However, as we pray, listen, and bring the message of our Father’s loving heart, we find encouragement in knowing and trusting Jesus’ prayer for us:
I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.
John 17:26 (NIV)