These are the words we all long to hear. “You did well my Daughter, come rest with me for eternity to come.” There will be a time that comes when we stand in front of our Maker, as He evaluates the life we’ve lived, and the work we’ve done for His kingdom. If there’s one thing that should stir our affections and spur us on to good works, this should be it. It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m back in College Station, Texas, sitting at my favorite coffee shop, on my favorite couch at Sweet Eugene’s, dwelling on my 6 1/2 weeks at The Living Vine in Savannah, GA. If there’s one thing that rang true throughout my time there it was this: there is work to be done. For a few? For the called? Only on the other side of the world? No, for us all.
We are all called. There’s work to be done right where we are. This world is broken. Everywhere. If we take the time to dig, to really listen, it’s painful, and it’s right in front of us. There’s no easy button to press, or amount of money to give that can turn this world away from the path we set down a long time ago. But what we can offer is hope – a hope of something better in Christ. We, as believers and followers of Christ hold the knowledge to a life that is still full of pain, but a life that can be lived with a source of strength that will never fail. The girls at The Living Vine Maternity Home so often come in through our doors not having known love growing up, but having known abuse. They come in unknowingly with a mindset that Satan has sewn in deception and lies and fear beyond anything I can comprehend. The first step is to make them feel safe within the walls of the Vine. To be any kind of open to truth, they have to first take a tiny step away from their “survivor” mindset, and into a mindset where they can allow themselves to heal and grow emotionally.
A few days before my flight was scheduled to take me away from the Vine I was emotionally overwhelmed. Nellie was scheduled to have a C-section Thursday morning July 3rd, Racquel’s baby girl, Bella, hadn’t come yet, and our new resident Jen had really taken to me but was all over the place in mind and spirit. I was not feeling anywhere near ready to go, and just felt like I was about to pack up and walk out of these girls’ lives in the middle of crazy times for them. Wow, did the Lord have a gift (more than one!) in store for me. Friday morning July 4th at 9:37am, I received the best phone call- Racquel delivered her baby girl with no complications and hardly any pain! She weighed in at 7lbs 3oz, and was beautiful. This was about the best going away present I possibly could have asked for! To get to see Racquel to the end of her time at the Vine was amazing. It was the closest thing to closure for my time there. I got to visit her that night, and hold baby Bella in my arms. It was one of the most incredible moments of my life so far holding that burrito-wrapped little girl. I experienced pure joy holding that little innocent child on the first day of her life. I like to think she came two weeks early just so she could meet Miss Nicole.
All of our residents take a shot at three days with the simulator baby as part of our program. I promised the girls I would do it as well. I named her Abigail Elise, and this little nine-pounder gave me a run for my money. I just know they programmed her to be a Colic baby. Woke me up five times the first night, 11 times the second night, and 13 times. (That’s right, 13 times the third night.) I broke into tears at 5:30am on night three. Let’s just say having a baby is not in my immediate future.
In all seriousness though, I am 21 years old and caring for this baby for three days was one of the toughest, most exhausting things I’ve done so far, and there are two brand new 16-year-old mothers in Georgia as of this last month. It was a crazy mix of emotions watching this 16-year-old girl who I’d gotten to know – the good and the bad – for the last month and a half holding her newborn baby girl in a hospital bed. Little Bella will forever look up to her Mom for guidance, love, and support, and her mom is just barely dipping her toes into figuring out who she is herself.
My chapter at the Vine has come to a close, but it will forever be etched into who I am, the way I view people, and the way I approach ministry. I long to hear the words “Well done, My good and faithful servant” come out of the mouth of the one who created me. My actions and work for His Kingdom are not limited to my chapter at the Vine, and I am well aware of that and the pain that is so deeply rooted into our culture and the lives of the lost around us. So, my charge and prayer for you is that you may be sensitive to, broken by, and changed by the needs that surround you on a daily basis. Put a face and a name to our generalized grouping of “the lost,” and “the broken.”
Take time and intertwine their lives to yours, so that they may come to know the deepest well of satisfaction, love, and strength that is offered in this world. There is work to be done my friends.
With conviction and hope,
Nicole Bartley, a student at Texas A&M University, is serving as a Go Now missionary in Savannah, Georgia.