Posted December 29, 2005 in MH Roanoke VA:
Notes from Near and Far: Roanoke, Virginia

by Patricia Lawton, MH Roanoke.

The big word in the news recently has been hurricanes—terrible winds that blow down concrete structures and bring distressing change into people’s lives.

Tots Collins, a friend of our house since 1991, is from New Orleans. Last spring she moved back to the area south of there where most of her children live. All of them were able to get out before Katrina struck.

Tots is now back with another daughter, Theresa, who has been living in Roanoke for fifteen years.

Eleven immediate relatives of this family have lost their homes and jobs. One weekend we stayed with Tots while Theresa and her husband went back to Louisiana to help the family salvage whatever they could from the wreckage of their homes. Their homes were scheduled for bulldozing the following week.

Melanie Murphy and Beth Ryan took up the theme of hurricanes in their presentation to the Peace and Justice Committee at a parish outside Roanoke. “All that we build and do can end up in pieces unless our lives are founded on the rock of our relationship with Christ,” they said.

In fact, the night of their presentation, the folks at that parish were in a storm of emotions themselves. They had heard that their pastor had been in a serious car accident with a tractor-trailer. But, thanks be to God, to the astonishment of the rescue crew, he suffered only a very badly broken leg.

There are winds blowing through this house as well—not hurricane winds though—winds of change. After more than three years, Beth Ryan was transferred to our house in Winslow, Arizona.

She entered the hearts of many here, and it is always difficult and confusing for people to adjust to our transfers. At the same time, many people experience a deeper appreciation of Madonna House as we explain to them our promise of obedience and tell them about the various houses we have lived in.

Every day brings different people and situations for us to pray about, to stand with, and to rejoice in. I am continually astonished at how God blesses people who come here.

A young husband said recently, “I am like the man on the stretcher who can’t get to Jesus because the way is blocked by the crowds. But you in Madonna House are the people who lift me up and put me through the hole in the roof and into the presence of the Lord.”

This kind of comment is like a powerful wind of the Spirit shaking us up and reminding us that God is the one who brings hope, peace, and joy out of the chaos of life. All he asks is that we stay faithful to the struggle to love, to serve, and to be poor with the poor. As Catherine Doherty said, “Suffering is God’s hurricane of love.”


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