*Brittni had been through years of trauma and abuse, drug use and the loss of several children to the state. At just 25 years old she was homeless but had accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. I saw such rapid transformation and could see a call on her life. However, Brittni never knew what it truly meant to accomplish something and feel good about it. She started to fear the good feelings she had inside and began to self-sabotage.
Unfortunately, I see this kind of behavior far too often. But, this week I couldn’t bear it. I cared deeply for Brittni and even more, I knew how many MTM staff members deeply cared for her as well. I saw with my own eyes the Fruit of the Spirit at work in her heart. I had preached my little heart out, had prayed and encouraged and believed in her more than she believed in herself. Yet, I couldn’t help but recognize that what was happening was so much greater than any of that.
“She reached out to one of our staff and stated that she was on a suicide mission – ready for any drug that would come her way.”
Though I knew she was facing a spiritual attack, I was not ready for what was next. Soon after graduating our program, she reached out to one of our staff and stated that she was on a suicide mission – ready for any drug that would come her way. My reaction was probably similar to many who work in ministry; I coached myself and thought: “OK, let’s pray. God is still in control.” Honestly, I half-heartedly meant what I was thinking and truly felt devastated.
“I started to feel what I now refer to as a ‘Holy Anger'”.
My simple words and weak faith weren’t cutting it for me this time. I was becoming increasingly angry. I was finding that as much as I wanted to remain calm about the situation, God had something so much greater in store. I started to feel what I now refer to as a “Holy Anger.” I had only felt this specific emotion a few times in my life. I knew it was a call… a call to prayer, as Dennis Van Kampen (MTM CEO), encourages us to initiate when needed.
That morning, I couldn’t help but pray a little bit harder, a little bit louder, a little bit “needier.” My own prayer time wasn’t sufficient. So, I sent out the email. I invited staff, but also invited our women guests to join me. I wanted them to join in on this with me; I wanted them to cry out for themselves, for their roommates and for their friends. We had studied about God and experienced His grace together, but this time I wanted us to go to battle together. I knew this day was the perfect day to live out “the fight against the principalities,” as talked about in Ephesians 6. We would be the individuals acting out my vision. We would be the ones to stand in the gap and fight through prayer. And that is what we did.
The vision that I had been seeing all week was given to me for a reason. I truly believe in standing in the gap for our guests at MTM. Often, we don’t know all of the circumstances that lead up to someone having nowhere else to turn, other than coming through the doors of MTM. But I think I am safe to say that the road that brought them here wasn’t an easy one – mental illness, addictions, unresolved traumas, broken relationships, and more. With all of this comes great brokenness, hurt, pain, and suffering, not to mention the demonic and evil forces behind all of it.
Let me ask you:
Have you ever needed someone to believe in you more than you believe in yourself? I have.
Have you ever needed someone to fight for you when you no longer have the strength to fight? I have.
“Standing in the gap” for the men, women and children that come to Mel Trotter Ministries means believing in them, letting them know it’s all going to be OK, but most importantly it means fighting for them through intercession. I envision this person in the gap with their palm out saying, “Don’t go this way. This way is destructive. Head back that way. Even though this way is powerfully pulling you back, God has so much more in store for you.” In the same way I know I have had people stand in the gap for me, I find it a strenuous, but great privilege to do for others.
Judah Smith, Lead Pastor of The City Church in Seattle, Washington preaches often about Jesus being our #1 resource. That day I felt convicted to take these ladies by the hand and lead them everywhere else, anywhere else – counseling, therapy, recovery meetings, you name it. Grand Rapids is packed with so many accessible resources that it is easy to make Jesus resource #2, #3, or #4.
However, while reflecting on this new year, I think about who our Jesus is. He never came to this world to be #2, but to be #1. That day, after the call to prayer, women were healed. Women were empowered by Christ through our staff. Women prayed for one another. Chains were broken. All in the name of our Jesus.
“Women were empowered by Christ through our staff and through each other.”
Brittni left the shelter for a little while, but has now returned to MTM to continue on her path to recovery. She’s faced some very devastating things in the past couple of months, but I know that what God started in her life is real. That day after our Call to Prayer, women were healed. Women were empowered by Christ through our staff and through each other. Women prayed for one another and they even cried out for the women in this city that face similar struggles as Brittni. Chains were broken. All in the name of our Jesus.
Christ stood in the gap for each and every one of us. What a privilege it is to be able to stand in the gap for our guests and to walk alongside each person on their faith journey at MTM. I find great joy in showing grace and gently speaking to our ladies when they are at their darkest moments and need to hear the gracious story of who our God is. But may they see in me more often this Lioness whose heart is broken for what breaks the Father’s heart. May they see in me more often this same desperation that I experienced that day – a desperation for my Savior. We will keep standing in the gap for Brittni and others like her, simply because that is what Christ did for us.
Erika Mariglia is the Program Manager at Mel Trotter Ministries, where she oversees the advocates and has a major role in spiritual life initiatives. After spending seven years in Honduras helping to build a bilingual Christian school and doing prison ministry, God called Erika to MTM to demonstrate the compassion of Christ to the homeless, hungry and hurting in the greater Grand Rapids area.
*We used a pseudonym to maintain confidentiality of this guest