I am about to tell you the story of one brave woman who has given her life to live in East Garfield Park’s inner city community of Chicago. Arloa Sutter is one of my new heroes. I’ve got to tell you why.
I met Arloa through the Redbud Writers Guild we are both a part of. I had the honor of meeting her this May at our retreat. I had no idea what a culture rebel she was.
Her days of serving the poor in the inner city didn’t start as a grandma, but as a young woman. It all began with her church staff not knowing what to do with the many people who came into the building during the week needing assistance. Instead of pushing them out the door, she started a storefront room that provided a nice hot cup of coffee, food and friendly conversation from those wishing to escape the cold. This eventually evolved into her gathering a board of directors to form the beginnings of Breakthrough Ministries in 1992. She didn’t know what she was doing, but she did it anyways.
I love gutsy people like this.
I want to press pause for a moment and talk to the church. Many times, we don’t know what to do when the homeless walk through our doors to ask for help. We can give them pocket change and shoo them away, or we can respond like Arloa did; with a coffee and a listening ear. However, it’s the less convenient road..
Arloa and her team began to hire homeless men to clean up the streets of downtown Chicago. The Chamber of Commerce got wind of their endeavors and supported the employment of these homeless men. Soon the storefront had turned into an shelter. Not too much longer, they expanded to be able to provide shelter for women as well. She took time to listen to those homeless and take the time to knock on the doors of the people in her community to discuss her vision and hear their concerns. The amount of time and care Arloa was willing to invest shows the kind of heart she possesses. She is truly someone who goes above and beyond the call of duty.
Press pause again. Did you catch that? Not only did she provide a safe place with food, coffee and conversation for them, she also looked for tangible solutions to their problem. And the city noticed! Are we willing to go the distance to find the natural resources in our communities to solve the problems of poverty? They are there. God knows what they are and He’s willing to share with anyone who is willing.
Just as her ministry was flourishing, Arloa’s husband of 20 years decided to leave her and their two girls. This life-tragedy would have derailed even the strongest, yet even through the pain she still found the strength and determination to say, “I will not back down from my calling from God to ministry in the city”. It is evident the resilience I see in Arloa today was built on broken moments such as this. You can sense the depth of heart and character oozing out of her heart. Through those years Breakthrough became stronger and even more fruitful.
Oh, what can happen when we don’t give up.
Thirty eight percent of those living in East Garfield Park live in poverty, many of who are African-American. She lives among them, cares for their needs and continues to seek out ways to combat the poverty they live in. She has broke ground in one of the hardest communities in the United States.
Do you know why? Because she dared to. She believed in what seemed crazy and she didn’t let up. I’ll tell you something, I wouldn’t mess with her.
As she sat across from me, she fueled my passion as a young mom wanting to do something to make a difference. To me she is a way-maker, an inspiration to draw from when I need to think of someone who was once in my shoes. Someone who decided to say a brave “yes” to what could be. Now a grandma, she’s still saying “yes”.
Arloa, as you serve, I will serve and follow in your footsteps.
Women everywhere, it’s time to say a brave “yes” to what you were made for.
*you can read all about Arloa’s story and her ministry to the broken in her book, “The Invisible” (which I read in 2 hours. It was that good)
You can order your copy here: http://www.amazon.ca/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=The+invisible++Arola+Sutter&x=0&y=0