SAN FRANCISCO—Even the most beautiful cities in the country have a dark side. San Francisco is no different, especially in the section of the city known as the "Tenderloin." The name was supposedly given because the city paid officers patrolling that area enough to afford the expensive cut of meat.
Women who live in the Tenderloin especially suffer a rough life. But a Christian ministry is changing that, one gal at a time-like Lisa.
Addiction, Prostitution and Poverty Take Their Toll
Her addiction, prostitution and poverty took their toll. When she hit rock bottom, she found Jesus. "I was depressed for 40 years and now I don't know what depression is," Lisa smiled.
Lisa's problems began early in an abusive home. "My parents gave me drugs and alcohol at the ages of eight and 12 respectively-alcohol and methamphetamine," she recalled, "In childhood."
Her life went downhill from there, to where she didn't want to live any longer. "Ten years of homelessness, ten years of dialysis," she explaine, "My kidneys had failed because of my lifestyle, I was losing hope and faith and ready to tell them to stop the dialysis and let me go."
Lisa landed in San Francisco's most notorious neighborhood, the Tenderloin, where people deal drugs and sex right on the sidewalks-sleep on them, too. The women of the Tenderloin are very tough, but also very vulnerable. Many have faced decades of abuse, addiction and mental illness and don't know what it means to feel safe.
Because Justice Matters
These are the women the Christian ministry Because Justice Matters seeks to help.
As a licensed psychotherapist and pastor, Julia Pferdehirt, a leader of Because Justice Matters, builds relationships to connect women with hope, recovery, emotional and spiritual healing and each other. She left her comfortable Wisconsin home and moved into the Tenderloin to be close to the women she serves.
"The longing of my heart is that every woman would know the love of Jesus that transforms. The 'shalom' that drives away chaos. The compassion of God that says, 'I see you. I love you. You matter. You're not invisible,'" she explained, "Oh, they feel invisible."
She says while many ministries simply donate much-needed supplies to the needy, BJM is different, because it's a ministry whose workers seek to form personal bonds.
"We believe that relationship is one of the most powerful forces for healing and change in the world," she said, "Jesus is all about relationship."
Lisa felt the love of Christ in the women she met through BJM. She learned a lot in the sessions where women would just get together and talk.
"We had groups about strong women in the Bible, groups about how to communicate properly, how to treat others as we want to be treated," she said.
Woman at the Well
The Bible tells us in the fourth chapter of John about how Jesus changed the life of a damaged woman he met at a well. BJM has a daytime refuge, just for women of the Tenderloin, called "The Well." Here, females of all ages express themselves through art, cooking, dance, music and conversation, all within a loving, safe environment, staffed by dedicated volunteers like Kendra Ma.
"I'm focused on being open. I think here in the Tenderloin you don't know who can come through the door. So open to the Holy Spirit, what He's doing, what he's saying. And once I realize, and put my self-ego down, it's amazing what Jesus can do here."
BJM offers "Manicure Monday" when women of the Tenderloin can walk off the streets and enjoy an afternoon of pampering to include getting their nails done, enjoying delicious food and most of all, non-judgmental friendship."
"Sometimes when I do the nails on one of the ladies it wasn't the best," Kendra admitted, "But they love a smile. I leave with a smile. I know their name, they know my name. And it's about the community and connection."
"We were wounded in relationship and we will be healed in relationship," Julia said.
Four years after walking with the Lord, Lisa now volunteers at The Well. "I have purpose, a strong sense of purpose, of being a tool of God," she said, "A few of the women I know have gotten clean and sober because of my example. They were atheists before and now they talk to me about, 'Thank you Jesus!' and telling me and testifying to me about how their lives are changing."
So while many consider the women in San Francisco's Tenderloin lost causes, Because Justice Matters takes the opposite approach, offering hope many of the women there never believed possible.