This post is part of an on-going Everyday Disciple series. We're celebrating here what it looks like to follow Christ faithfully in the day-to-day. I am thankful to share the stories of gracious friends and readers, and I have sought to preserve and honor their voice in the post below. I invite you to join me as we listen to their experience as an "everyday disciple."
The first time I met Sandi, we made a blanket fort together in her then-boyfriend-now-husband’s childhood home. He is one of Scott’s dearest friends from high school, and that was just the first of our seemingly annual home-for-Christmas gatherings. Over the years, we’ve gotten to know each other better visit-by-visit, as we talk and laugh at the guys’ antics. The time that crew all spends together is always so precious. This year, it included an adventure to D.C. and some pretty amazing burgers.
I have so much respect for Sandi’s heart and the compassion she pours into her work, and I’m glad to let you in on a piece of it today.
* * *
All throughout high school, I thought I wanted to be a nurse. After I graduated, I went on a three-month mission’s trip/internship in South Africa. On that trip, I met two social workers. They educated me on what a social worker was, and I quickly aligned with the thought of seeking social justice for people who were oppressed, marginalized and were the “least of these” in our world.
I emailed my mom and asked her to call the college I was supposed to attend and tell them I was changing my major. I now have an undergrad in social work and am about to enter my last semester of graduate school for my masters in social work.
I work as the Family Services Coordinator at a Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) in Dayton, OH. My main role is forensically interviewing children (ages 3-18) who are possible victims of severe physical abuse or sexual abuse. Our center also sees youth who are at risk for human trafficking or have been identified as being trafficked. We work with law enforcement, the FBI and Homeland Security, as well as child protective agencies and the prosecutor’s office, to seek justice for victims.
Every day, I see a lot of brokenness. Physical and sexual abuse are such broken parts of this world, but every day, I also get to see a small part of restoration. This does not always happen that particular day, but the little glimmers of hope that a child is now safe and protected remind me God is in the process of restoring brokenness. He cares about those who are lowly and oppressed. He cares about those who have been beaten, and He especially cares for children.
My faith has inspired me to advocate and stand beside those who have been told they are not good enough or they aren’t welcome at the table. God’s love is for all people, no matter who they are, their situation, or their background. I think when we invite those who think they are uninvited, it opens a world of doors for sharing the gospel with people. While I do not get to do this explicitly in my job, I can show grace, love, and hope to people who think they do not deserve those things, and I am inspired to do that because He does that exact thing for me every day. Whether it’s other staff, or the kids and families we serve, I want them to know they are loved (and deserving of love) no matter their story.
Some days, I get home and I cannot imagine talking to another person or having another conversation with someone. I need people in my community who understand that when I say I cannot do something, it is probably because my day was filled with a lot of trauma, and I am trying to recover from hearing about it. I need people who can join me for yoga and wine and are okay if I don’t talk at all.
The other thing I need from my Christian community? Prayer. This is such a bible-school answer, but it is so true. I can be prideful in my work, and I need to be humbled. I cannot do what I do without the support of the Holy Spirit giving me the emotional and physical energy to do this work. Knowing that people are praying for me is encouraging.
As I think about fellow believers who know what I do, I often hear the response “How do you do it?” or “That is so sad, I can’t imagine.” But as I look around our neighborhood and our city, it’s hard for me to grasp how they “can’t imagine”—how they don’t see the suffering and hurt right under their noses. I don’t want people to say they can’t imagine this, because it is happening…everywhere.
I wish I could tell them—Go and meet your neighbors, learn about them, love them, and be there for them when they need someone. Know their struggles and support them. Get outside your bubble, and go love people, with honest intentions of loving them, whether they come to Jesus or not. Just love them, and let Him do the work in their hearts. God is using each of us to help restore the brokenness in this world, not just those who are doing it as their jobs.
If you would like to be a part of this project, I would love to hear your story. Contact me for more information.