A Thirsty Soul

“O God you are my God, for you I long; for you my soul is thirsting. My body pines for you like a dry, weary land without water” (Psalm 63:1).
I was out of sorts on Tuesday morning before Manna House opened. I am not sure why. Some of it might have been the tedium of folding the laundry from Monday’s showers. Some of it might have been my own neglect of time for quiet and prayer. Maybe I was just tired. At any rate, I found the opening verse of Psalm 63 from the Liturgy of the Hours to be spot on. I felt spiritually parched. I was a thirsty soul.

Then Ashley called me to the front door, twenty minutes before we were to open. A guest was complaining about another guest taking her seat on the front porch. The accused guest was forceful in her defense. She also punctuated her comments with plenty of curse words. I am not Solomon with a wisdom to make discerning judgments. So my response?

“You can both go.”

This set off a round of recriminations now aimed at me instead of each other. And a third guest decided that he would get involved to adjudicate the situation.

“You can go too,” I responded.

As they left, I heard one make an angry assertion that I was not fair—probably true. I heard another question my Christian faith—a worthy question.

And then the last parting shot came, “You need the people here to make money.” That last one made me laugh. No one is paid to serve at Manna House.

I went back inside to continue folding laundry. Other volunteers began arriving to help with laundry, to get the coffee table set up, and to prepare the clothing room for the showers that would be offered for women—the normal preparations for Tuesdays.

Once we were open, the morning moved along without incident. Then, about an hour in, the man I had asked to leave, came by the front gate.

“Can I ask you a question?” he asked me.


“First, I want to apologize. I should have kept my mouth shut.”

“Apology accepted.”

“I’m new here. Tell me about this place.”

I explained the days and times we are open, and what we offer each day. And I added, “We are all volunteers. There is no paid staff.”

“I’d like to get on the shower list for Thursday.”

I wrote his name down on the list.

“Can I come back in for coffee?”

“Yes. Welcome back.”

By the end of the morning I was no longer out of sorts. I felt like some graciousness had been extended to me, by this guest willing to come back and try with me again, by the other guests and volunteers who made for a peaceful morning, by the warming sun that promised a beautiful spring day.

The next verse of Psalm 63 floated back into my heart, “So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and glory.”

The love that flows continuously from God, even when I am too hard-headed and hard-hearted to notice, had gently brought relief to the desert in my soul.

Manna House Women’s Sanctuary

Kathleen has a vision of a Women’s Sanctuary. In this sanctuary, women and children are welcomed into a safe place for shelter, for food, for healing and wholeness.

Kathleen’s vision started at Manna House and at Room in the Inn. In both places, women arrive with a few small children or even an infant in tow. Almost always the women and children were homeless because they were fleeing a violent man. The National Coalition for the Homeless reports, “When a woman decides to leave an abusive relationship, she often has nowhere to go. This is particularly true of women with few resources. Lack of affordable housing and long waiting lists for assisted housing mean that many women and their children are forced to choose between abuse at home and life on the streets. Approximately 63% of homeless women have experienced domestic violence in their adult lives (National Network to End Domestic Violence).” This national reality is worse here in Memphis where poverty is more widespread and there are few shelters.

Like Manna House, the Women’s Sanctuary will be small, completely staffed by volunteers, and a place where hospitality can be offered, where people will be respected, their dignity affirmed, and time will allow for conversation and relationships to develop. It will be a warm and inviting place, comfortable and not institutional. The guests will be welcomed as bringing the Divine presence, who comes in the stranger’s guise, echoing an ancient hymn:
I met a stranger yest’-er’en.
I put food in the eating place,
drink in the drinking place,
music in the listening place,
and in the name of the Triune,
God blessed myself and my house.
My cattle and my loved ones.
And the lark sang in God’s song:
Often, often, often goes
the Christ in the stranger’s guise.
Often, often, often goes
the Christ in the stranger’s guise.

To start to make Kathleen’s vision a reality, Manna House purchased a duplex last fall. It had “good bones,” but years of neglect meant it needed significant renovation and repair. Work began, demolition of a dilapidated garage, and removal of old plumbing, some walls, some ceilings. Roof repairs were made.

As winter turns into spring, the work continues. The goal is to open by late summer. Manna House will be entering its 15th year. That seems like a good time to begin this new venture.

Volunteers have helped a great deal. More Volunteer Days are coming where you can join in to help with painting, cleaning, yard work, and more. Watch for notices here on Manna House Memphis for future Volunteer Days.

But volunteers are not enough. Professionals have to do some of the work to make sure it is up to code. So, there is also need for financial support. We are estimating $30,000 should complete the renovation, covering materials, plumbers, electricians, carpenters.

If you can help, Kathleen and I would be very grateful. Checks can be made out to Emmanuel House Manna (our 501c3), and mailed to 248 N. Willett, Memphis, TN 38112. Thank you!