Where the Spirit of the Lord Is, There is Singing and Dancing
As women file into the Ellis Room from the eager line that forms up to half an hour before Nail Day begins, they enter into a safe space, a space that emanates the Spirit of the Lord, whether they are aware of it or not. II Corinthians 3:17 says, “Wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” We love seeing the diverse ways this freedom manifests itself in each treasured woman that comes through our door. We see it through healing: physical, emotional, and spiritual. And we always recognize it through the way women feel accepted and free to just be themselves. Dancing, singing, rapping, and performed musical numbers are never uncommon at Nail Day.
Lately we’ve noticed a sense of newfound freedom in one woman in particular. Marie has been a long-time veteran of our Nail Day outreach, having attended the past four years. Despite the Chinese/English language barrier, her fun and deviant personality is never short of evident. Most weeks she sports colorful clothing and funky bags, and wears her hair in high pigtails. She frequently acts out on her sly kleptomaniac tendencies, whether that’s attempting to sneak a few bottles of nail polish, some craft supplies, or a handful of brownies into one of her fashionable purses.
For the first few years, Nail Day was a place for Marie to hang out by herself. She never got her nails painted. Or, she would visit the communal art table, only to grab the supplies she needed and go off by herself. Our staff members continually love on her, while having to be strict with the rules about theft. At the time, these factors collectively withheld her from deeper engagement with other women and staff members.
A year and a half ago, we noticed the first significant change. Marie put her name on the list to get her nails done–a huge step for her after refraining for so long. Though she continued to get her nails done after that week, she always painted them herself, never letting the staff members or volunteers touch her hands.
Recently, instead of remaining alone, Marie has been sitting with the other women in fellowship at the craft table. She’s also begun letting other staff members and volunteers paint her nails. The everyday violence in the Tenderloin makes for a required amount of trust when welcoming even gentle physical touch, so we know what a big step this was for her. Best of all, when Marie’s nails are done, we’ve seen her let our volunteers rest their hands on hers to pray.
The other day, amidst the usual topsy-turvy symphony that is Nail Day, there was Marie, singing and dancing, something that has now become an almost weekly occurrence. Despite the language barrier and strict no-stealing rules enforced over the years, being weekly immersed in a long-term, Christ-centered environment has in Marie given rise to restoration, trust, and freedom—and of course, singing and dancing.
*names have been changed for the protection of the women and children of our community