When I first began volunteering for Hope Place, there were no other people in the building.
In those early days, before HPASS kids filled the basement with laughter and conversation, I’d arrive in that eerie calm before the chaos. Soon after, neighborhood kids would bound in to do their homework, Elevate Dance students would arrive for a lesson, and waiting parents would sit in a circle and pick up last week’s conversations. Life and energy would explode throughout the building.
But when I’d arrive, it was silent.
As an extrovert with big dreams about the vision and future of Hope Place, it was a little disconcerting to find myself alone. In my mind, I’d expected to forge meaningful friendships with the colorful and interesting women from the neighborhood or gently shape the futures of the shining young students who found refuge in the halls of Hope Place. Instead, in His great wisdom, God brought me into a season of quiet solitude.
There were a few practical things I could do to serve while I was alone. I’d clean out closets or make popcorn for the coming rush of students. I’d sweep the floors or wash discarded dishes. But mostly, I prayed.
I began using my hour alone to pray urgently for the future of Hope Place. I’d pray for the staff and volunteers, who could have easily become overwhelmed and stretched thin. I prayed for the volunteers and ministry teams who’d learn more about their own world as they were immersed in this colorful world of cultures and contexts at Hope Place. And I prayed most of all for the children, women, and families who could potentially have their very first encounter with the loving grace of Jesus when they entered that building.
I begged God for protection and favor. So many things could impede the purpose and dreams of Hope Place, including neighborhood violence, government interference, division and discord, lack of resources, trauma insensitivity, or other attacks from the enemy. I prayed that God would unite the staff and leaders of Hope Place, and that through their humble, passionate efforts, He would bring about His purposes.
As I prayed, I began to imagine the transformation that He could accomplish there. I dreamed of unguarded laughter, breakthrough conversations, family transformations, and a shelter in the storm.
Now, when I volunteer, there are kids everywhere. HPASS leaders genuinely know and love their students. There’s laughter and honest conversations and transformation. It’s everything I prayed for and more.
But as COVID-19 paused the activity in the building, it felt familiar and powerful to return to my old habits.
In the absence of all the people, I prayed.
Written by: Carla Williams