First things first, apologies for the lack of visuals in this post, as much as we love to use photos to keep things interesting, as a team we don’t feel that now is the time for pictures. We aren’t overly comfortable using our phones and taking pictures of the women in the shelter, as we want to respect and love them well and are unsure of how photography plays into this, particularly as we don’t know all their circumstances. We hope you understand, and we trust that Ruth’s incredible writing skills will maintain your focus as you read this!
Of all our projects, our work in the shelter is the one where we’ve been able to see the most fruit, in terms of building relationships. Most of the volunteers only come once a month or so, but we help every week. This has therefore been a great opportunity for us to get to know the women who come to the shelter and for them to recognise us as familiar faces.
In the 6 or so weeks we’ve been helping here, we’ve already taken great joy in the friendships we have been able to build with these women. A handful of highlights include being called ‘sister’, helping teach some English, being taught some French, dancing to ‘Despacito’ and laughing at jokes which manage to transcend language barriers (throwing hats across the room onto one another’s heads is a real crowd-pleaser!) We are still slow on the names of all the different women, particularly as attendance isn’t always regular, but we recognise faces, and the women increasingly remember our names. The opportunity to share a meal with the women once a week is very valuable and often a time of joy, laughter and companionship.
We don’t speak a great deal about Jesus with the women, as conversations are still limited due to language differences, but we speak to other volunteers (all of whom are Christian) about our faith, as they tend to have a good grasp of English. These conversations are occasionally translated into French, which allows the women to hear about God- this is a time when we will condone eavesdropping! We are also getting good at answering (in French!) questions about why we are in here, which means that we can explain that we aren’t students or here solely to learn French, but are here to work with a church. We pray that God would work even through these brief conversations and statements of faith.
-we’d be able to maintain relationships despite helping less frequently during December, due to timetable clashes
-language improvement so that we might be able to speak to the women more, build deeper relationships and share our faith
-safety for the women during the winter, especially those who are pregnant and whose babies are due soon, because although many of them sleep in an Islamic centre, it isn’t always clear where or how they spend their time outside the shelters