Remembering Ava

Through the love of God our Savior, all will be well.
Free and changeless is his favor, all is well.
Precious is the blood that healed us, 
perfect is the grace that sealed us,
Strong the hand stretched forth to shield us, all must be well.
from All Must Be Well

As I was safely sleeping inside a locked facility with two armed security guards for the poverty simulation Wednesday night, a block away my friend Ava was being beaten to death.

It is nearly incomprehensible to think that of all the nights this could happen, it was the night I was there -- not actually there but just down the road. While she was undergoing this horrible attack, we were laughing and talking, so nearby, and yet of course having no idea what was happening to her.

This morning*, on our way to our Bible study spot, like normal we stopped with the coffee cart as we passed our homeless friends who wanted coffee! Our friend "Sarah" came up to us and said, "We just received some horrific news." My mind raced in those split seconds as I wondered what could be so bad she would use the word "horrific."

"What happened?" I asked. 

"Ava was beaten to death last night."

I could hardly intake the words. I think she told those of us standing there some other details of the crime, at least what they knew. I'm not sure I said anything else besides, "I have to find Jonathan."

So I walked down the block to him and could immediately tell by the look on his face that he had already heard. Together, he and I found her boyfriend and someone whom I consider a dear friend, Mr. B. I reached down to hug him where he was sitting. Tears in his eyes. What is there to say?

Ava, Mr. B., and me

They are/were staples in our little community. I saw them at least once a week. They are my friends. I care about them. Ava was days away from having her own apartment, a fact that elated her. It was all we talked about the last few weeks. She updated me every time I saw her.

I also knew from Mr. B that she had a crack habit that reared its ugly head at the first of the month when she received payment. She would disappear for a week or so. He wished she would stop. Some have said that this crack issue played into what happened last night.

A friend of mine who has worked at CitySquare for 11 years told me today that Ava is only the fifth person he's known of to die since working there. You might find this type of tragedy unsurprising. But in this little community, death -- especially violent death -- is uncommon.

In the past I've wondered what would happen if one of my people died there. I knew it was possible; I even thought it likely. But I didn't expect it to be a result of violence like this. And that hurts. It's hard to know Ava won't be there anymore. Harder still not to see her move to a better place, to know she is safe. She was so close to a different kind of life.

Crack is a killer and life stealer. I hate the drug culture on the streets because it steals life from people. Even those that don't die because of it suffer immensely. It takes from them. It doesn't give anything good back.

Not once do I hate the person using drugs, for they are ensnared in something that to rise above takes a lot. I love that person and long for their freedom.

I care about Ava. I love Mr B. I'll never forget the first time he said to me, "I love you." We have a special bond. I pray somehow that God allows this tragedy to awaken people and to change the culture there. There is more life. For you. For me. For my friends who face a harsh reality on the streets.

Homeless or not, we are all ensnared by things. Even if your traps and my traps aren't as clear or overt as using drugs, there are things in our lives that keep us down, keep us from living life fully. In my life, I continually ask God to work to free from the things that ensnare me, many of them I'm sure I don't even see. I know that I cannot free myself, but He can and does set me free.

In the face of this tragedy, one truth comforted me today: All will be well. 

One day, all will be well.

How do we know?

This is not the end. This is not the end of Ava's story. This is not the end for the people living on the streets. Even if this life does not bring them more, one day all of this mess will be put right. "Through the love of God our Savior, all will be well." It is his love that will accomplish it.

I don't presume to understand how. I don't pretend knowing this means today isn't painful. But when facing such pain and tragedy, when facing something so senseless as Ava's death, knowing that things like this happen all over the world every day (we really are messed up), this truth is my deepest hope.