9.30pm. Sitting at home in a warm, winter jumper and my hands wrapped around a steaming mug of tea, scented candles gently burning and filling the room with soft autumn scents. I glance at the clock, and the realisation hits me that I am going to have to get up from the sofa, throw on a scarf and take a step out of my front door, into the wintry chill outdoors.
The mix of emotions before every outreach is hard to describe. It feels such a privilege to serve in this way, heading out on the streets late in the evening and standing alongside the working girls. But there is also sadness. Sadness that I have to leave my place of comfort and brave the cold outdoors when all I want to do is put on my pyjamas and jump into bed. And then comes the guilt. Guilt that I have a warm home that I am sad to leave, guilt that I can just jump in my car after a couple of hours and know that a warm house, food, and a loving husband awaits me. But greatest of all there is love. Love, and excitement when I think about the familiar faces that we may see. For the women that we see aren't just a "project" or a "number"that we add to spreadsheets for record keeping. They are friends. Friends who we connect with, commune with, and genuinely care for.
As I jump into my car and blast the heaters, I am filled with love and excitement as I think about the individual women that I might bump into during the evening ahead, and the stories they may update me with. At Restore we make a real effort to know each woman by name and remember the details of her life that they choose to share with us.
It is so important to us that they know we aren't there to take anything from them, which is such a contrast to what they are used to with in their line of work.
Last night we had the privilege of taking our new van out for the first time and I thought what better time to write about the experience and share with those who support us financially and through prayer. We have felt so blessed with this generous gift from Jericho Road, and excited about the opportunities and growth it can provide for Restore. The evening started out with nerves and anticipation as the new van means starting our outreach from a new location, and driving a van is very new to a lot of us on the team! We have been using our cars as a base for many years now, and as easy as it is to drive up and down Derby's Red Light District, handing out supplies from the boot, it isn't the most practical and user friendly. It works fine for the women that recognise our faces, but I suppose it can be quite intimidating to be "chased down" by an unmarked car, and three ladies jumping out offering you food, drink and condoms! That is why we have been so keen to have our logo updated onto the side of the van, so that the women begin to recognise our name and what it means when they see us.
When they see our name on the Van, my prayer is that they are reminded of our vision and why we are there- "To restore women to the Fathers heart" by offering friendship and support in a non judgemental way, nurturing their self worth and demonstrating God's restoring love. It is also a great reminder for the Restore team as we serve the women that we meet!
The van also provides us the space to park up and be stationary, welcoming the women to come to us. It has felt difficult sometimes when driving in a car to know whether to stop, as we never want to intrude on a lady's working hours. As much as we don't want to see them working, we have to respect that this is their way of earning money and it is not our right to come in between that. So, by having a stationary vehicle, it provides the opportunity for the women to choose to come and receive from us when they are ready, therefore encouraging their sense of autonomy, and emphasising our belief that they have a choice and are worthy.
Last night, we parked up and opened the doors and within 10 minutes we had welcomed our first woman into the van to receive toiletries, condoms, and food. By the end of the evening, we had seen six women and four of these had come into our van to sit at the table, share a drink and chat to us. We have seen all of these women on the street before, but two of these ladies in particular have never been able to engage in a long conversation as they had wanted to get back to work. So by providing a invitation to them to come to us, they choose to come at a time when they could sit with us and share in deeper conversations.
The van also provides a space for us to keep more supplies such as toiletries and clothes, which is much needed in this winter season. Overall, a very successful and rewarding evening.
We are so thankful for God's provision to us at this time and hope it continues to bless the women that we see.