“Don’t allow anyone to silence your voice, ladies! What you survive is your power,” LaNita Butler encouraged 20 mothers at Shadyside Presbyterian Church who are undergoing the Sojourner House substance abuse program on a Saturday morning during a retreat.
Butler, who completed an internship at Shadyside, and is now the Associate Minister at Mount Ararat in East Liberty, knows what it’s like to overcome adversity. She used “You’re an Overcomer,” by Christian recording artist Mandisa as one of the anthems in her presentation.
She got down to what she referred to as “internal work” with four questions. The mothers were given paper and pencil and instructed to write down their answers. First, what would they thank God for regarding themselves? Second, what weakness or imperfection would they invite God into? Third, what personality talent or gift could they offer someone else? Fourth, what is something positive that they would never change about themselves?
And the floodgates of tears were thrust open when the retreat participants began sharing. They thanked God for multiple chances to get clean. They spoke of forgiving themselves. All the moms invited God into their recovery process.
If we Christians are honest with ourselves, we would admit that we are all in some stage of recovery. Just because I’ve never had to go through a drug treatment program doesn’t mean I’m perfect, that I’ve never hurt others through my selfish behavior, or that I’m free of my own addictions, such as low-esteem, fear, envy and pride. (If only drug rehabilitation centers treated those addictions too)
I was grateful to be a witness to God’s healing touch on the moms. I felt pure solidarity, and caught a glimpse of freedom in recognizing that truth. Our collective river of tears required two boxes of tissues. Some tears were shed from healing, some gratitude. Mine brought to the surface insecurities I didn’t know I had about Butler’ s four questions.
Cupcakes with candles were given to every Sojourner Mom. As volunteers lit them, Sojourner Moms sang or spoke, “Looks like a girl but she’s a flame, so bright she can burn your eyes, better look the other way. You can try but you’ll never forget her name, she’s on top of the world, hottest of the hottest girls say,” from “Girl on Fire,” by Alicia Keys. Butler said that she chose this other anthem because the flame represents the essence and power of each Sojourner Mom.
Most of the Sojourner House Moms don’t have family willing to accommodate them for the holidays. They have to deal with loneliness and isolation when relatives either reject or ignore them due to the nature of addiction. This is why Shadyside Church members are passionate about ministering to them and eagerly welcome them to worship.