I love the fact that every July, as we contemplate celebrating Independence Day, I find myself in a deep reflection about freedom. As we operationalize our new program in our new home, I find myself compelled anew by a verse from Isaiah that Jesus quotes in the gospel of Luke:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free,” (Luke 4: 18)
This is Jesus telling us his mission. The clarity of focus is absolute. There’s a lot packed into this verse. The people who Jesus is sent to help are the “poor,” “the captives,” “the blind,” and the “oppressed.” As I have followed Jesus for over 4 decades, I’ve learned that a lot of people and conditions can be described with these four words. Certainly, these words can be literal, but they can surely be psychologically real as well. Sometimes our blindness, for example, is an inability to understand or take in what we see. Or, it is a blindness to something right in front of us that is obvious to others but not to ourselves. And of course, it is also the inability for our eyesight to function.
Jesus was anointed to “bring,” “proclaim release,” “recover,” and “to let go free.” These are true acts of compassion and salvation. Jesus was about making things better. Healing brokenness. Building a bridge back to God.
As we think about the relationship of God’s love to the people we serve, we are heartened by Jesus’ love and care for the poor. So often, when folks first start their journey with us, it is clear that they are being held captive. Some are captive to hopelessness. Some are stuck in a survival mode. Some have been victims and hold onto that as their core identity. Most are captive in the present or the past, and have no concept of a future of freedom and new life.
The Jesus Center is committed to embodying God’s promise in Jeremiah, chapter 29:
11 For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. 12 Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. 13 When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will let you find me, says the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
Our friend Cathy came to us over two years ago to begin her journey from captivity to freedom. She was pregnant and had let her first four children go into the foster care program to protect them and find true homes for them that they wouldn’t have found on their own. Drugs had “blinded” her to the pain and damage around her.
When we met her, she was ready to stop and get on with finding her new life and a pathway to a new, unchartered future.
Her pathway to freedom started in small increments: working on her own words was her first goal. Then, she came into Sabbath House for a few months, graduating into our
St. Joseph Lily House, to prepare for the birth of her child. When her day came to deliver, our staff drove her to the hospital and attended the birth. They both knew that the child may not make it or may have difficulties due to her past drug use. Her deepest fear was to have the child taken from her because of her past failings as a mother. Yet, that was not how the story turned out. Her child was born and returned home to Lily House with her to begin the journey to becoming a family.
Cathy’s journey today is one where her captivity has been fully replaced by freedom. A full-time job, a return to school, healthy relationships, and stable independent housing are all signs of the freedom she has received. We recently watched her in amazement as she supported another struggling mother, she was loving another as she had been loved!
This is what Jesus has shown us. It is our work, in His name, to release the captives and to proclaim the good news of God’s love to those who are stuck, impoverished, blind and lost. God wants each of them to find a pathway to an abundant life, to a future and to a hope.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
The folks who come to the Jesus Center usually lack support systems and families to come along side them. So, we stand in that gap to fortify, encourage, cheerlead, and resource them so that their captivity ends and their life of freedom begins. Won’t you join us and be part of that support system as they find their way back into our community?
A gift of $40, $75, or $100 means that you are doing your part to help fulfill God’s mission in Jesus. A monthly commitment insures that our work can continue month after month to bring freedom and new life to those who struggle in our community.
With gratitude for your partnership,
Laura R. Cootsona