The world was in shock yesterday as a video surfaced of NFL running back Ray Rice hitting his girlfriend (now his wife) in an elevator knocking her out. The contents of the video were disturbing, horrifying and unfathomable. For the staff and leadership of Impact! Church we, unfortunately see it all too often in our neighborhood.
Ray RIce doesn’t live in Lakeland or go to our church – but there are many “Ray Rices” living in the Parker Street neighborhood surrounding Impact! Church. Seldom does a week go by that we do not find a broken, battered and bruised woman sitting on the sidewalk in tears. Some are drug addicts, some are prostitutes and some are just impoverished women trying to get through life. All of their stories are the same – “he beat me”, “he gets so angry”, “I don’t know why he doesn’t love me” or “I deserved it.” It always ends with us comforting her, getting her to the emergency room, contacting law enforcement and trying to convince her to file charges. Quite often – in the middle of the night – we’ll get a call from one of the police officers that patrol our area. They’ll have a woman – fresh out of the emergency room – that has been abused and needs a temporary place to stay. Most of the shelters and facilities are closed at that time of night and local law enforcement know that we will provide comfort for a few hours. We’ll take her in, make sure one of our female leaders is with her for the night and provide a safe haven for her sleep. We provide toiletry products and a change of clothes as most leave their home with nothing. Some want prayer. Some want to talk. Most just want to be held by one of our female leaders until she cries herself to sleep. The next morning we make sure she’s fed a good breakfast and then begin working with some of the amazing local organizations so she doesn’t ever have to go back to that life again.
Domestic violence and abuse happens way too often in America, For the Parker Street community of Lakeland, Florida it is an unfortunate way of life. That is one of the many reasons that God called Impact! Church to move here. I am glad we answered that call. I am glad that we love God, love people and make an impact! I am glad that God allows us to constantly see lives changed and wounds healed – both spiritual and physical.
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