It is in this month that we are reminded of love. The first thought in many minds is that of Valentine’s Day and romantic love. Romantic love is indeed a beautiful thing and makes a relationship lively and meaningful. Romantic love reminds us of our uniqueness to our partner and is to be celebrated.
words + photographs JAN WEISS, pictured in featured photograph, above, wearing the poncho. Standing beside Jan is Carol, the managing director of Women’s Medical Respite.
A different kind of love, agape love, is an unconditional love of giving to others. Most major religions hold this as fundamental: loving others, compassion, and mercy. When Christ commanded us to “love one another,” He was not referring to romantic love. Rather, the type of love that enables us to make the world a better place by loving our brothers and sisters. 1 John 4:21 says, “This commandment we have from him: Those who claim to love God ought to love their brother and sister also.”
We have endless examples of love played out in the lives of others. Some grab headlines such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who urged us to love others unconditionally, as unconditional love is necessary to bring about social change. Mother Teresa gave of herself to help the poor in their desperate circumstances. More often though, agape love is demonstrated by people who quietly go about their work of loving others without acknowledgement. Soup kitchens, shelters, community groups, organizations, churches and individuals work tirelessly every day around the world to give to others in need. These people/organizations reach out to the marginalized, as if they were their brothers and sisters.
One such organization is a small nonprofit in Springfield, Missouri. Women’s Medical Respite was born from a nursing student’s realization that our community was lacking respite care for homeless women with medical needs. The WMR opened in 2015 and began providing a safe and comfortable temporary landing place for homeless women who have either been discharged from the hospital or have an acute medical need. Care continues to this day, thanks to loving and committed hearts seeing beyond a person who is homeless, and instead to a woman needing care, compassion and mercy. During their stay, ladies are provided a warm bed, nutritious meals, comfort and connections to community resources and appointments to help them recover. Equally, but perhaps even more importantly, the service of the WMR helps women move beyond homelessness that existed prior to their illness or injury.
Amanda had hit the bottom of life due to addiction, loss of both her home and custody of her daughter, and was living in her car, but a car accident changed everything. Her car was totaled. She was severely injured and was hospitalized. Suddenly, she was in a place where she was unable to carry her belongings from place to place and needed physical assistance due to her dominant arm being immobilized. She was referred to the WMR where she was cared for and given time to recover. Initially, Amanda simply recognized the WMR for how her physical needs were met: housing, food, assistance with daily activities, and transportation to medical appointments. As she recovered at the WMR and no longer needed to live in survival mode on the streets, she was able to process where she wanted her life to go. Thanks to her opportunity for recovery and community connections during her stay at the WMR, she was able to find employment, her way out of homelessness, and reconnection with her daughter.
Rainy had a history of abuse and addiction from a young age and had experienced prison time. She stayed at the WMR twice due to medical needs. Rainy fondly remembers the kindness shown to her during her time at the WMR. “Carol (managing director of WMR) taught me how to administer my own medical care, and she encouraged me and assured me that I had value,” Rainy says. “They helped me find Christ and helped me on my path to becoming clean.” Today, nearly two years clean, Rainy, like Amanda is also living in her own home, is in a good relationship, and is working on improving her health.
Amanda and Rainy will always be thankful for the WMR and view it as a place of love where ladies who have been homeless are shown care, compassion and understanding. They found it to be a place where it is not simply the job of workers at WMR to care for homeless, ill women, but, as Amanda says, “they genuinely care with unconditional love.” They truly want to make a difference in the lives of the ladies. Amanda believes the WMR shifted the outcome from where she was years ago, to where she is today, and will be tomorrow. Amanda also credits Carol with being a true friend who continues to love and care for her even now that she is living life adjusted and securely housed.
The WMR would like to help more ladies like Amanda and Rainy. The greatest need is for sustainable donations to continue to care for and support ladies in their recovery and efforts to move out of homelessness. A second great need is for an affordable single story, larger facility, as our current location is extremely limited in available beds.
Jan Weiss is a retired physical therapist with an interest and heart in working to elevate the lives of those who have experiencing homelessness. She is the president of Women’s Medical Respite.
Further information about, including the opportunity to donate to the WMR, visit its website at womensmedicalrespite.org. To donate financially, click on the “DONATE” tab, or tax-deductible contributions may be payable to:
“Women’s Medical Respite”
P.O Box 385
Springfield, MO 65801
For inquiries, call 417.225.7409 or 417.861.1705.
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