May 18, 2022
REACH + RESTORE + REPEAT
It was a Thursday night in August of 2021 when Roberta Jordan first entered the doors of the weekly prayer & outreach service of Restoration Church of Sanford. Roberta had been released from jail about a month prior, her children were in foster care, she had just recovered from a long battle with Covid, and she was living in her car with a homeless friend who had a young son.
Several of our ladies talked with her that night. None of us had any idea of the great work the Lord had in store for her and for us. We had willing hearts, but nearly zero experience with helping a woman in Roberta’s shoes. The needs felt overwhelming – traumatic childhood, unemployment, homelessness, the loss of a child and her remaining children held in foster care.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
Where to even begin? Our pastor, Arthur Goncalves, teaches us that the most important needs are always spiritual. The challenge for our church, and especially the women of our church, was to trust the Lord in that while also leaning on Him for discernment to meet some of the physical needs as well.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 2:22-23
Roberta had a history with the church. As a teenager, she was hurt deeply by the church and, after losing her 11-year-old son in November of 2019, she had all but given up on God.
But thanks be to God, He had not given up on her. Roberta loved to gather with the church every Thursday night and Sunday morning. As she made her journey back to the Lord, she began to serve with our team at every opportunity given. Relationships began to form between her and the women of the church and by the middle of September, Roberta began to meet with a small group of women for Ladies Discipleship.
It's important to note this was not easy. It was, in fact hard. It was hard on Roberta, and it was hard on the women who were trying to minister to her. We often frustrated her. At times she felt like we asked too many questions, pushed her too hard or shared too much information about her with each other. It was hard for her to let us in, to be vulnerable. Deep down, she was not used to people caring for her in this way. On top of that, she felt as though she was too messed up to truly be embraced by the women in our church.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
From the women’s perspective, we often felt in over our heads. Communication felt difficult at times. Roberta felt excluded and didn’t understand us. We didn’t always understand her either. Some of us had to learn to be better listeners, to be gentler and to show the grace the Lord shows us, especially when speaking hard truths. Through this process, prayer began to feel more vital and reliance on the Lord was essential.
And the Lord was faithful to do the restorative work only He can do.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians. 5:17
I think it was the change in Roberta’s countenance that many of us first noticed – it had softened. The Lord was literally transforming her right before our eyes. Roberta began to dive deeper into His word and asking deeper questions to help her understanding. She was listening and responding to godly counsel. The resistance we had previously felt when offering advice was waning.
The changes came when the Lord opened her eyes to see that she really could trust these women who professed to love her. From her perspective, this happened when she was given the opportunity to serve at events and when a couple of the women brought her in much closer relationally. One of those women began including her in her family life – both in her home and at family outings. The other physically came to sit with her during a few desperate hours and listened to her cares into the wee hours of the night. Through these relational moments, she began to believe that she was indeed loved.
Roberta was baptized on January 9th and has become a covenant member of our church. She continues to grow in the Lord and is an eager student of the Word and of Theology. She serves whole-heartedly in our church and loves to surround herself with God’s people. She is working for a local ministry that helps the underserved and loves to help those in need. She is working hard to get her kids back and was recently awarded greater visitation rights with her children.
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7
I recently asked Roberta what the hardest part of this journey was. She responded that it was being vulnerable and letting people in. I followed up by asking her what has brought her the most joy on this journey. Her answer: finding a family.
The connection between her struggle and her joy is obvious.
True restoration and true fellowship always require that we lay down our pride and be honest before the Lord and with ourselves and others.
Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:11
This work is hard. This work is messy. But our encouragement to you is that the hard, messy work of restoration is worth it. It may be the most difficult task of the church, but the Lord has undeniably called His church to it. We know that only He can do the miraculous work of reviving and restoring a life, but He calls us to partner with Him. And, when we engage, we find out that the privilege of fulfilling this call is life-giving, invigorating and faith building. And, we find great reward in our obedience.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
In closing, it’s important to add that Roberta still faces challenges – she needs to secure better employment and housing so that, Lord willing, one day she will be able to have her children with her under one roof again. Our church is committed to walking this journey alongside of her as together we seek full restoration for our sister in Christ.
Written By Kim Melnick
Covenant Member of Restoration Church of Sanford