There are 60-some beds at the Kings Motor Inn, but it doesn’t seem like our friends find much rest here. People bounce from room to room, cars come and go, kids play in the parking lot. Everyone looking to escape, to feel some peace, but nobody really finding it.
Out in the parking lot we’re having a good time cooking hot dogs. Friends from all around our city of Fife, Washington, make their way to eat with us and catch up on life. I look over and see Raquel and Laura praying with Ashley. Her bag was stolen while she was at the casino last night. Her “boyfriend” walks across the parking lot and stands nearby, listening in. Ashley’s demeanor changes noticeably.
I hear a big laugh and turn around to see Tom piling up an ungodly amount of toppings on his two hot dogs. It’s spilling out all over his hands, but he doesn’t care. Steve asks Tom how he’s doing, and he mumbles something unintelligible as he walks back to his room, grinning. He returns later, to share his struggles with the men at the grill. Brothers encouraging each other. Tom left with a grin on his face.
The following week, as I chat with the motel manager, I notice a woman sitting in the corner, tap-tap-tapping away on her phone. Outside Julianne has gathered the kids for face painting. Two little girls beam, transformed into princesses. The woman from the lobby comes out, still consumed with whatever’s going on at the other end of the phone. Julianne gets a senses this woman is in some danger. After some short words they exchange information. Her name is Sonia.
A few days later Julianne gets a call from Sonia. She’s panicked, “He beat me up, I thought he was better, we were doing so good. I tried to stop him. He said it’ll only get worse. I have nothing. I don’t know what to do.” The next few days are a blur—phone calls for safe housing, a trip to the ER, prayer, worries about the boyfriend, more prayer. She has a black eye and a fractured jaw. The boyfriend knows we are helping; he tries to get us to tell him where she is. Come, Lord Jesus.
Saturdays are always busy at the Kings. We show up and the staff are busy checking people out, cleaning rooms, checking other people in—all on top of the normal drama at the Kings. As Robby and Steve are talking by the grill, the mood of the place changes. The maintenance crew is speaking in hushed tones, the manager is close to panic. The owner pulls up and tells us we need to go.
The body of our friend Tom has been found in a room not 10 feet from where we were cooking out. We pack up quickly and retreat to the room we’ve rented. Prayer, confusion, words of comfort, calls to friends, tears.
We gather upstairs and watch as they unceremoniously carry away Tom’s body in a black bag.
“Good morning. I just wanted to say thank you for starting Dope Church. At first I didn’t understand why, but now I do. I know you are the reason I was able to break free from Satan’s hold on me. I was so lost AND felt trapped in Fife. Because of you doing what you do I found God. I can never explain how truly grateful I am. There are so many others like there who need you, Dope Church. Maybe someday I can help save some of the people there too. I love you and your family. May God bless you always. Have a great day. Thank you again. – Sonia”
Not long after getting to safety, Sonia is reunited with her kids. They live together in a safe place, away from danger. Sonia has shed many tears in her life, and she has terrible memories, but we laugh a lot together now. Fear and regret and shame are fading away. We talk about the future and pray as a family. The old is gone, the new has come!
Cherie sits on a bed and speaks life into Bill and his girlfriend, Katie, while they eat turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce. A motel room is a really weird place for a Thanksgiving dinner. It’s an even stranger setting for a memorial service.
We reminisce and thank God for Tom’s life, read the 23rd Psalm together, and sing “Amazing Grace.” That night, a room where people shoot dope and women are exploited became a fitting place for a holy God to do some healing.
Tom may have never realized it, but he came to the Kings Motor Inn, in a way, to find rest. And there are thousands more like Tom (and Ashley, and Sonia . . . ) all around us, searching for peace, satisfaction, and meaning in all the wrong places.
May God wake up his church and send us as his family to bring his good news, his hope, his healing to our neighbors in the dark places.