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I slipped into my seat on the front row at church. My usual spot is next to my husband, who is the pastor. Halfway through the message, I smell honeysuckle and orange as my sweet friend Eileen’s hair brushes the left side of my face, and she taps me on my right shoulder. Trish, there is someone here who needs you. I quietly step into the hallway to see a slight woman in her early 30s hunched over sitting on a child’s bench. Her auburn hair extends far down her back. She is lovely, with golden skin, and she looks up at me. She has startlingly green eyes. Kind and luminescent that are red from crying.
“Hello, how can I help?” Autumn shares she needs a safe place to stay, she lives with three women and a man, and it is not a good situation. Of course, we can help. I sense she is letting her guard down a bit. Her next question”Do you have any food I can eat?” I led her into our food pantry, which is stuffed full. She gingerly fills a bag with tuna cans and peanut butter. She looks straight into my eyes and states, “I’m so sorry I smell like smoke” I smile and offer her a hug which she takes. She holds on like she doesn’t ever want to let go. So I share my Mom loved Marlboro lights, so the smell is lovely to me. The sides of her mouth turn up slightly, and she inaudibly laughs.
I ask her if it is okay for me to pray for her and pray down Jesus. I share how beloved and precious she is to Him and that He loves her. The room fills with His Holy Spirit, and I hold her close as she weeps. She has tattoos everywhere, the also lead from her neck and then all over her face, and fire engine red-tipped fingernails with glistening crystal tips brush her cheek. Nails that look like someone paid a fortune for them. I know she is probably on something, and she also makes her way in the world by selling her body. I’m wrecked and broken-hearted for my new friend Autumn. My heart aches. I want to take her home, and away from her life, she knows or anywhere she wants to go besides her home. I share that it will only be 10 minutes, and Todd will finish his message. She waits 5 minutes and states I’m going home to eat. I’ll be back in a few minutes. I watch her quickly walk across the school parking lot and in-between homes and can no longer see Autumn and her auburn hair. I sit outside the church with Todd wondering how I could have persuaded her to stay. An hour passes, the wind is fierce against my face, the sky foreboding gray, and Autumn never returns. I have prayed for her every day, hoping she would step through the church doors again.
Eileen has a safe house near her neighborhood, but at this point, all we can do is pray Autumn into Isaiah 43:1-2. It states ” Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you. I’m asking God to do a new thing for her, to set angels all around her. Not a day has gone by this month without me praying for her freedom and that she is in a safe place. I thank God for placing us in the neighborhood near her home so she could walk to us that day or maybe again someday soon.