We are so thankful for the investment that many of our volunteers have made with the people we see on a weekly basis. Emily Herring, a graduate from Auburn University, is one of those. Over the past year, we have seen Emily love people well and build deep relationships with those people that allow them to trust her a great deal! Urban Purpose has been extremely blessed by the role she now plays in this ministry. Read below to hear more about why she chooses to take time out of her week to love on the people we serve downtown!
Name: Emily Herring
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Occupation: Social Worker with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Birmingham
How did you find out about Urban Purpose: I found out about Urban Purpose through Rachel Coleman. Rachel and I had become close friends, and I was looking for a ministry to serve with soon after moving to Birmingham. Rachel told me all about Urban Purpose, and I started serving weekly at the downtown meal.
How long have you been serving with UP: I have been serving with Urban Purpose for just over a year.
Why do you continue to serve downtown: I love to see the way that the Lord uses the mealtime downtown each week. God has brought about some precious friendships with some of the people downtown over the past year, and I want to serve and love these friends just as Jesus has done for us. Serving downtown each week has become one of my very favorite parts of the week, and I love to bring along my family members, friends, small group, and other members of my church to be a part of serving through this ministry.
Tell us about your most memorable moment of the Sunday meals: My most memorable moments while serving downtown have been with a friend named Melissa. Melissa and I met a couple of months after I started serving downtown, and she began sharing with me the many difficult things in her life. As we were together nearly every Sunday, we grew closer and she began calling me her sister. I walked through many hard things with Melissa in the months that followed, and God brought about many opportunities to share about the hope we have through Christ in these times. Melissa had seen love that was twisted by addiction and domestic violence, so I was overjoyed that the Lord provided the opportunity to love her with His love!
Last week, we once again experienced the battle of readiness.
We were connected with a young girl who had finally come to the realization that for the past five years, her life had been far from normal and that she needed help. She had already suffered from a heavy meth addiction and was only 21-years-old. This addiction partnered with other difficult circumstances and life choices, led her down a path of destruction, instability, and loneliness.
As we began to meet with her, we heard over and over again about how she wanted a different life. What is harder to discern is if someone is willing to put in the hard work it is going to take to successfully get that new life. [This is where most people fall short- they have the desire to change but when the road becomes rough, their perseverance isn’t there.] She had decided that she wanted to go to a rehabilitation program that was out of town. This usually takes time; maybe a week, maybe two weeks, but it is rarely ever immediate. We were left with a choice- how do we temporarily help this girl before she receives the long term treatment she needs? Her immediate needs were things like a home, food, clothing, places to go during the day, things to do at night, and people to be around that were not controlled by drugs. Typically, people who desire help do not have any of these things and therefore do not last long enough to get to where they need to go! But this girl had something going for her that other addicts lack: she had a group of people that were willing to rally around her and help her get to where she wants to go. For six days we had people willing to give their homes, time, food, clothes, families, and more to help give this young girl a chance to succeed in life. Many of the addicts we work with have burned all of the bridges that they once had in their lives. This can leave them feeling hopeless, and that there is no way out of their current circumstances.
We hope to confront that fear of being alone and without hope, and relieve it. The goal of Urban Purpose is to walk beside people who are in difficult situations and help them find their way out of it, so that they may begin to lead the life God intended for them to lead.
We were able to take our friend to a rehabilitation center in Mississippi where she will be for a month (thanks to a partnership with a local church body in Birmingham). After this month, we hope to walk with her during the time of transition into a more normal and stable life. We look forward to the future she has in store!!
“When I went to rehab programs before, I figured they’d fix my problems. But now I know that’s not the case. Now I see that I’m just a regular person with a sin problem. And that’s what needs to be fixed.”
We were having lunch last week with a guy that we’ve walked with for the last two years. He has a lot of great qualities, but has struggled to put the all the pieces together and move forward with his life. We’ve walked with him through a number of ups and downs and a little under four months ago he entered a local recovery program. Over these past few months we’ve seen some positive changes in his life and we asked him what he thought was the difference this time. The quote above was his response and while it might seem like a small step in his mindset, our hope is that it’s the beginning of a whole new approach to life for him. Addiction is a unique struggle, but at it’s core, it’s a sin problem like all other sin problems. It’s a pursuit of satisfaction and fulfillment apart from what we believe is the only source of satisfaction and fulfillment. It’s a desire to escape one’s problems without dealing with the real crux of the problem. It’s an attempt to get what we want on our terms, rather than through a relationship with Christ. And so, our hope for this young man is that he continues to grow in his understanding of what his deepest problem is and that begins to find what all of us are ultimately longing for in Jesus.