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  • Writer's pictureAshley Thomas

Another year.

I didn’t know how to begin this. So much has happened over the last decade, it’s hard to know what to highlight. Do I give people what they want…the heart wrenching yet, redemptive stories or what I often want to share.. the gut wrenching fatalities that left me questioning why.

Why did it have to be the city that I was called to? I love the country. I look out my front window and I see corn, and I’m beyond thrilled about that. People drive slow enough to see God’s beauty around them, I know the Farmer down the street, and the trees in my backyard remind me of God’s great creation….and yet during the week I make the all too familiar drive into Hope Street, into the city. I have 40 whole minutes to be reminded of WHY.

In the beginning I thought it was to help those people. The people we drive by on corners, or the ones we hold our belongings a little tighter when walking by. You know, addicts that are out of control, lazy homeless people that just won’t do what they need to do to make it…those people didn’t have names when I made my first drive down to Hope Street, but they do now.

Names like Sabrina who came to us after incarceration and did everything in her power to regain custody of her two girls, graduate from culinary school and get a job…and she did.

Names like Sarah, who fought the raging addiction and unhealthy pattern of relationships to be reunited with her daughter…and she did.

Names like Cornelius, who spent a good 20+ years incarcerated for murder, and upon release gave everything he could back into the community in which he came…and he did.

There are hundreds of names, imprinted on my soul. Names of beloved sons and daughters, image bearers with a rap sheet longer than many of us care to read and YET those people are my WHY. Because they saw me when I was too immature to see myself in the mirror. They waited graciously until I could see that I am no different, even with my education, socioeconomic status, zip code…any other barrier I had created. That I had created to keep myself safe. When in reality I wasn’t safe, because I didn’t see life clearly. I didn’t see life the way God intended. In a manner that says I’m only as well as my neighbor and if I haven’t figured out who my neighbor is yet, then I’m not well.

I have held hands of beloved members moments before their passing, and I’ve snuggled in close to new ones being brought into the world. Both eliciting tears, both reminders of His great grace. Grace to get up the next day and do it all over again.

It’s been 8 years on staff at Hope Street. I didn’t think I would still be here. There were days that left me completely heartbroken, drained. I’ve had my share of “people just don’t get it” and been too tired to try to help them understand. I’ve been welcomed into heaven, beautiful kingdom moments - and fought my way out of hell. There are some things I can’t unsee, some stories I can’t unhear… and yet all of it together somehow still points me to our saving grace…Hope. There’s always Hope and He has a name. Jesus. Jesus reminds us that He provides, exactly what we need for today.

And the final word in life and death is love.

Abide in His love.

Here, at Hope Street we do that. It doesn’t matter if you filled out an application to live here, serve here, or work here - Hope Street was created with YOU in mind. Because our gracious Father is always welcoming us home. His home, is full of “us and them” in one space in harmony to His glory.

Until then, we pray - kingdom come.

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