She sat in the parked car, staring at distant invisibility.
Perhaps she was recalling sparks of tenderness with her lover; maybe a cup of coffee poured in kindness or a text message that made her day. Maybe she was recalling the moment it seemed like a good idea to move in with him. By the time we arrived, any satisfaction with the relationship was a distant memory.
Her gaze transcended the broken window and glass shards. She stared beyond the ransacked apartment. She was looking at something, far away, that only she could see. Her daughter sat in the passenger seat.
Her daughter's gaze was fixed and obvious. She was looking at her mother's bleeding arm; at the officer with whom I was riding; at the furniture on the front lawn. She was focused on the cell phone belching her mother's boyfriend's texts.
He promised to finish what he started earlier in the day; to finish the argument; finish attacking them; finish wrecking the home they shared. Mom was quiet but her eyes told a tale the property manager's video confirmed.
Domestic violence — also called intimate partner violence — occurs between people in an intimate relationship. Domestic violence can take many forms, including emotional, sexual and physical abuse and threats of abuse. Domestic violence can happen in heterosexual or same-sex relationships. (reference)
Collecting the video is the officer's job. Stabilizing the bleeding arm is the emergency medical technician's job. Providing a ministry of presence is the chaplain's job.
They did not want to give any information to the officer, and there are all kinds of reasons, but their frigid indifference thawed with the chaplain.
I didn't fix her relationship or make her daughter feel secure. There were no right words spoken because neither would talk to me. Instead they rolled down the window all the way. I squatted, placed a hand on the car, made eye contact and her mom let the tears flow. Her daughter, with pursed lips, looked away and wept. I encouraged them to let it out and they did.
No words; just a prayer infused space.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Reminders of the presence of the Lord come in different forms: a speedy response by law enforcement professionals; the promise of medical care; a chaplain coaxing tears because words fail.
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. (Romans 8:26)
The Holy Spirit was present.
Before her window was shattered, the Holy Spirit began building a chaplaincy team. Some members of the team pray for officers and members of the community. Other members provide regular, generous financial support. One of the team members kneeled at a car window and provided a ministry of presence.
Christ is equipping our team to use the Gospel to serve human populations at the intersection of faith and public health. Several places to which we are called have broken glass, crumpled furniture and dashed dreams.
When fixing situations is not an option, abiding with the brokenhearted is.
National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1-800-799-7233 or visit www.thehotline.org
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Dating Abuse Helpline
National Child Abuse Hotline/Childhelp
National Sexual Assault Hotline
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
National Center for Victims of Crime
National Human Trafficking Resource Center/Polaris Project
Call: 1-888-373-7888 | Text: HELP to BeFree (233733)
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
National Coalition for the Homeless
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
Futures Without Violence: The National Health Resource Center on Domestic Violence
National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health
1-312-726-7020 ext. 2011
National Runaway Safeline
1-800-RUNAWAY or 1-800-786-2929
Childhelp USA/National Child Abuse Hotline
Children’s Defense Fund
Child Welfare League of America
National Council on Juvenile and Family Court Judges
Child Protection and Custody/Resource Center on Domestic Violence