Shelter from the streets

Nicole James | Central Asia

Stepping up to the bright blue metal gate at the end of the dusty alley, Irini* knocked briskly. Several seconds passed, then a woman on the other side of the gate loosened the pin from its rusty hole and creaked open the door for the guests.

She welcomed Irini, a long-term OM worker in Central Asia, with a hug, scanning the area around her to see if she’d brought her young daughter along. It was too hot for the two-year-old to be out, Irini explained, as she and the other visitors stepped into the courtyard, scattered with a few empty day beds and decorative plants.

Inside the building, low-lying beds framed almost every wall of three simple rooms, broken up only by the kitchen’s row of cabinets, refrigerator and stove as well as a tiny desk stacked with books and craft materials. Though basic, the accommodation was clean—and cooler than the outside temperature, 39°C (102°F) in the shade.

For Aziza*, one of seven women living in the shelter, it was home. When Irini and the others entered the women’s shelter, she immediately busied herself preparing tea and serving a handful of the sweets Irini had purchased on the way as a gift.

“When we came here, our lives got changed,” Aziza stated. She pointed out a bookmark-filled Bible lying on the desk and then pulled out a bag of craft materials.

“This is what we are doing every day,” she said, fishing out a handful of tiny felt ornaments—angels with curly hair and an assortment of coloured hearts. Though her accommodation costs, as well as the other women’s, were covered by churches and other ministries, Aziza used income from her handicrafts to supplement her personal expenses.

“I cannot work outside and carry heavy things, but I can do this,” she said, smiling. “Praise God that He gives us the ability to do and not just sit.”

Manal*, sitting on her bed in the next room, had welcomed an extra special guest that day: her daughter. “They haven’t seen each other for two years,” Irini explained.

A year and a half prior, Irini and her team had found Manal in the streets while distributing weekly food packets to homeless people they knew. “She was drunk and half-dead,” Irini recalled.

On the streets, Manal had lost contact with her husband and children. After moving into the shelter, Manal first reconciled with her heavenly Father and then reconnected with her children. “In the past, I didn’t pay attention to what God is doing, how He is working,” she said. “But now I see miracles every day.

“I’m reading from the Bible. In the past, I didn’t read books. I didn’t understand the Bible. …But now I understand each word has so much meaning.”

Manal also used her time in the shelter to re-apply for official identification, which she had lost on the streets. When she received her new documents, she applied for—and received—pension payments.

“She was so proud [of] her ID card,” Irini recalled. “She said, ‘Thank you for supporting me. Now I have a pension, and you can pay for someone else.’”

*Name changed for security

Nicole James is a world traveller and writer for OM International. She’s passionate about partnering with fields to communicate the ways God is working across the globe.

Published: Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Credit: Nicole James
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