I chose the moon as my face of love, because it looks like a wafer hanging over the earth, and it was the biggest expression of love for the sake of the world I could imagine. In September fifty artists and our hosts for this evening gathered at Dyer Observatory to share their face of love images and take pictures for the video. At the end of the evening we were invited to climb the stairs and see Jupiter. I looked into the telescope and for the first time saw the gilean moons of Jupiter, all four moons bigger than our small moon. And, like the countless times before, the face of love expanded beyond my own imagination to encompass a bigger idea. That is how love works. Last year my youngest son, Moses, asked me, “Are you the boss of Magdalene because you thought of it?" "Yes," I said. "It must have been a big thought." "No sweetie, it wasn't." The community of Magdalene now, this face of love, is bigger and wider than anything any one of us could imagine. This community is the coming together of individual visions into something more powerful and lovely than any single idea. It is why love in community remains the most powerful force for social change in the world.
The really beautiful part is that this community is still growing and changing. The face of love will keep expanding as we include women we have not even met yet. We are currently able to serve 25 women in our two-year residential facility and transitional home where 72% are clean and sober 2 ½ years later. New women will come into the program and enhance the vision already full of grace. This year we have been humbled by some of the new women coming to seek recovery and sanctuary. This year the new women have taught me that the horrific violence that they have known in their bodies is the battlefield of nightmares, that to cross the ongoing mountain of recovery means a life long commitment to mental health and healthy relationships, and that this work is a life long task of loving the world one person at a time. All of us are called, not to change the world, but to love it, and that means that we change and grow to speak our truth in love, without fear of reprisal, to help others live unbounded.
After the first evening that Val, a graduate of Magdalene and I taught at a retreat on the beach in South Carolina in September, we walked out to the beach to see the moon. She grabbed my arm as we walked on the sand and said, “Can I hold onto you, I have never seen the ocean before.” Val is 48 years old, she has seen the inside of prison, the underside of bridges, and preaches that serenity is silent and you shouldn’t take any action before you say a prayer. But she had never felt the moon pulling a tide against your ankles or heard the wind surfing on the water.
The vision of Lynn Taylor along with, Dr. Sandy Stahl, our board president, and a crew of people including Curtis, Carlana, and Jeff means we will break ground this week on a new house that will be an earth craft home ready for 4 more women who may just now be praying for this sanctuary. We hope to raise an additional $15,000 to complete this home. We are working with Vanderbilt students and faculty preparing plans to secure new graduate housing, and working towards expanding our education and training of all the groups from around the country coming to learn about this model for recovery and healing. Already this year we have welcomed groups from Atlanta, California, Alabama, Memphis, and Dayton, offering a day of touring and training and story-telling. We have finally completed our agreement with a group of women survivors of the genocide in Rwanda since our journey last year to be a wholesaler for their geranium oils. They are the central ingredient in our new bug spray; we are going to create a whole line with this amazing oil. We hope to underwrite the capitalization of this project. We are launching a new prison tour beginning next week in Florida to share our story, to foster community and free women. We will travel to eight cities in the next 12 months in a partnership with the United Methodist Publishing House and the Turner Foundation with graduates of the program and musicians who will read from the book, Find Your Way Home, talk about the miracle of recovery, and the undying hope in the face of love. We have a team of volunteers helping us grow our marketing department to launch a full effort to get into the tourism market and hope three or four more volunteers join us. Our hope tonight is to raise $200,000 in gifts and pledges to cover these goals, the five residences, and dream again of new ways that love can grow.
I haven’t had to take a salary for this work and like all the staff, volunteers and directors; we are here because this work changes us and gives us hope and healing. I know that these past 13 years have changed me. I think in some ways I believe less. I believe less in the myths about women on the streets. I believe less in political, social and religious structures that make little difference in the suffering of our sisters. I believe less in my ability to understand theology. But in the things closest to my heart, I believe more. In hindsight I see nothing but love leading us. I believe with all humility that we can trust we are heading towards deeper and deeper and deeper love.
Last year we began selling thistle paper boxes filled with healing oils from the geranium oils, cinnamon oils, and tea tree oil. These oils are packaged in handmade thistle paper boxes and offered for $100. We took the boxes to Atlanta in May to sell. In preparation I researched again the meaning of the thistle so that not only could I say that we are thistle farmers that see the world as our farm, with plenty to harvest, and know that when we can see the beauty of the thistle we know there is nothing in this world to be condemned, but to say what the purpose of the thistle was in healing. I read the thistle extract is used for detoxing and restoring the liver. Many of the women served in this program need treatment when they come in for hepatitis C and cleansing of their liver from the drug use. The images of residents and volunteers out on the streets picking thistles, grinding them in blenders with the juice spewing out the top, and mixing them into pulp with bare hands filled my mind. I thought of Tonya, clean and sober for 4 years patiently picking the down from the stems for hours. In a world of a million weeds, we picked the one eight years ago that women coming off the streets would need for healing, without knowing it. We are drawn towards healing. We are drawn to each other so that all of us can be well. Because of the Magdalene women in this room, because of the police in this room, because of the ministers in this room, because of the social workers in this room, because of the marketers in this room, because of the students in this room, because of the artists in this room, because of the community leaders in this room, because of the friends in this room, because of the volunteers and staff in this room, because of everyone in this room, we can go back out, healed by love, and love the world better than we ever imagined.