Below is an email that Leroy Lamar from Serenity’s Steps wrote recently to his supporters about Nikki Reeves, an amazing woman who now works with Leroy. Not only does REMERGE live out reconciliation with those on the margins but we are always trying to shed light on others that do it as well here in Atlanta and Serenity’s Steps is one such non-profit.
What’s unique in this story is that Nikki went through Dignity Serves five years ago at Buckhead Church, met Dan Crain, Dan heard about her passion and connected her to Leroy Lamar of Serenity Steps. She now is the Outreach Coordinator for the ministry.
The first and third Saturday of every month they grill hot dogs in the Texaco parking lot from 2:30 until 5 on Fulton Industrial as a way to live out dignified interdependent relationships with our neighbors on the margins. You can reach out to Nikki at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to learn more about Serenity Steps or join them for hotdogs and meet a neighbor.
By Leroy Lamar:
“I don’t often use these updates as a place for theological reflection but the sheer number and magnitude of natural disasters this past month have me contemplating God’s presence to those suffering. The comments from my social media timelines focused less on the logical and moral problems associated with pain and suffering and more on the existential ones. The question to which I’ve returned is, “Can God’s presence be felt in times of suffering and loss?”
I pulled all my books on God and evil off the shelf and got ready to dive in when I got a text message from Nikki. On the Tuesday morning that Maria commenced her cruel course towards the Virgin Islands, Nikki wrote the following:
Would you join me in prayer for my friend? I’m going to pick her up right now from work. She’s having a very hard time with anxiety and not relapsing into past addictions as she’s watching this next hurricane approaching the Virgin Islands. That is her home and her family. Please pray that I have the words and presence to comfort her and for God to be her strength.
Before Nikki came to Serenity’s Steps, she was intimately connected to those living at the margins on the Virgin Island of St. Croix. Like here in the United States, many of these people were homeless and struggling with mental health issues. Some were survival sex workers with deep addictions and psychological trauma. Some of them now live here in Atlanta and Nikki has tried to maintain an active friendship with them. There is one relationship that is close and flourishing. It was this woman that reached out to Nikki.
Imagine the fear and pain this woman must have been feeling watching and listening to the news reports. Imagine the sense of hopelessness, the complete lack of control and the fear of knowing that God has not promised to protect your home or your family from the impending carnage. Don’t divorce these feelings from the context of a life on streets. A life defined by a lack of control, hopelessness and a feeling of the absence of God. While she was intellectually confident God was with her, this confidence wasn’t enough to overcome the emotions and stress she was feeling. So she reached out to Nikki. Nikki sent out a text requesting prayer, picked her friend up, took her to breakfast and stayed with her until the woman felt she could make it through the day.
Nikki’s response was a picture of what I think the presence of God during suffering looks like not just in theory but in practice in my life. When I’ve cried out to God in pain, my heart’s yearning was for God to make himself palpably present to me. I wanted to see and feel him with me. He never did that. However, there were times when I needed to cry and there was someone to hold me. There were times when I needed to laugh and there was someone to take me to the movies.
Theoretically, I know that God is always with us and never leaves us, but there are times when I need to feel Him and experience Him. I think this was what one of Jesus’ followers had in mind when he wrote, “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” When we love one another well, God is present.
This our ambition at Serenity’s Steps. It can sometimes be inconvenient and demanding, but it is worth it for one boy, one girl, one person, to feel God with him or her. I’m not naive as to believe this answer doesn’t exhaust the challenges with the problems of pain and suffering. My books are still on my desk awaiting engagement. But this is a meaningful start — a substantial first step.