“How can we pray for you?” Diane Rose asked the waitress during a lunch with friends on a recent Saturday.
Sarah (named changed), the waitress, began to cry. She then poured out a story about the domestic violence she had endured and said she now lives in a women’s shelter.
Diane, a Stonecroft hub leader in Marietta, Georgia, and her friends, volunteers on Diane’s hub team, prayed with Sarah and offered encouragement.
“You need to come to our group at Diane’s house!” one volunteer said.
She explained that Diane soon would start a Bible study for a small group of women and assured Sarah she’d be welcome there. Diane gave her the meeting details, and on the first night, Sarah and her two daughters showed up!
‘God’s love has been radiant’
The group just started the Stonecroft Bible Study What is God Like? Diane chose this study as a follow-up to the women’s recent participation in Stonecroft’s Where Love Lives, a small-group experience focused on the principles of healthy relationships and the true Source of love.
Group members come from all walks of life. Some are nonbelievers. Others are new Christ-followers. Several group members are Stonecroft volunteers recruited by Diane to pray for participants, invite new women, and make each one feel cared for.
“From the first night we met, God’s love has been radiant in the group,” said Diane, also a Stonecroft Speaker. “These women have made such great connections with each other. And each woman has told me she feels so loved there.”
Diane and her team pray that every nonbelieving woman in the group will realize God’s love for her and begin a relationship with Him through Jesus. “We’re picking up where we left off with Where Love Lives and focusing on the basics (of the Gospel),” she said. “And we’re always looking to add new women to the conversation!”
Sharing their struggles
Since Where Love Lives was launched this past February, similar groups of women have formed in homes, churches, rehab centers, and women’s shelters across the nation. One has met in the Cocoa Beach, Florida, home of Stonecroft’s Emma Reynolds, Southeast Divisional Field Director. During the five-week Where Love Lives experience, Emma watched a group of relative strangers become a close-knit “sisterhood.”
The group’s leader, Amanda Tate – a new Stonecroft hub leader Emma is mentoring – created an atmosphere where the bonding happened quickly and naturally. “Amanda has been an exceptional leader, making sure every woman has felt welcome, comfortable, and valued,” Emma said.
Emma said the women connected immediately the first night with the authentic and vulnerable presentation by Suzy Shepherd, creator of Where Love Lives, during the livestream from Louisville, Kentucky. (Click here to watch a recording of it.) Suzy’s teaching then and during four subsequent recorded video sessions paved the way for the women to share openly about their own struggles.
A healing environment
During the first meeting, a participant named Holly (name changed) told the group she was homeless, having recently moved to Florida to escape an abusive family situation in another state. Emma had met her when Holly visited Emma’s church shortly before Where Love Lives started. She invited her to breakfast and learned then that Holly was sleeping outdoors and in need of support as she sought a fresh start.
Emma told Holly about the Where Love Lives group and encouraged her to attend. On the first night, Holly showed up early and stayed late. “Sometimes people try to hide their struggles, but from the start Holly shared honestly with the group about what she was going through,” Emma recalled. “And these women rallied around her and loved and encouraged her.”
As the group continued to meet, the women – several of them nonbelievers – helped Holly find a room to rent and gave her household goods, furniture, and clothes. “But more than any of those things, Holly needed friendship, love, and a healing environment. The group has provided that for her – and for one another,” Emma said. “The world would tell Holly she doesn’t have value, but when she walked into my living room, she felt just as valuable, just as important, and just as worthy as every other woman there.”
Emma added, “That’s the Holy Spirit at work. That’s Where Love Lives – loving people the way God loves us so they can recognize His love for them.”
Watch for upcoming news about the future of Where Love Lives!