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Lent 2011

A Homeless Wanderer

Day 7

By Mary Gates, former board chair of Emma Norton Residence, St. Paul, Minn., and former Women’s Division director

I'm a homeless wanderer on Earth.

—Genesis 4:14 (The Message)

"I'm a homeless wanderer on Earth," from the Eugene H. Peterson's translation of the Bible, reminds me of the women who stay at Emma Norton Residence in St. Paul, Minn. Many of the women are homeless or at risk of being homeless when they come to us. They are struggling to recover from addiction or mental illness and sometimes both. Emma Norton Services is comprised of a residence housing 45 women and 13 townhouses for single parents with three or more children. The population we serve is vulnerable and in need of a safe place to stay with supportive services. The daily struggle to overcome addiction or conquer the mental health challenges they face daily is hard work. The women who succeed at Emma Norton grow and become more self-reliant.

Emma Norton Services is Love in Action.


The assigned Old Testament text for this day is the story of Cain. We read the passage and shudder as brother turns against brother. How does this tragic story of Cain relate to the mission of Emma Norton Services, or to our daily lives for that matter? This is not the story of someone with a strong faith, or someone living a courageous life that you would encourage others to emulate. The story speaks of alienation and separation from God. It speaks of anger and jealousy. The jealousy and rage result in violence.

Cain says to God, "My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth" (Genesis 4:13-14).

The story tells us that God did not like the way Cain acted, but God did not give up on him. Cain is assured of protection as God has placed a mark on him, a mark that indicated Cain could not be killed. God did not give up on Cain. God does not give up on us, either.

Confident in God's love we are free to reach out to others.

Over the years, Emma Norton Services has provided housing for various populations. The women now living there have a disability, whether chemical abuse or mental illness, demons real or imagined. It would be fair to say they are homeless wanderers needing a welcoming community and a safe place to stay. I have been a board member for more than 20 years, coming on the board as a community representative and then serving by virtue of one office or another in United Methodist Women or The United Methodist Church. I'm proud of the work that has been accomplished by this agency over the years. Emma Norton has been offering a safe, supportive community since 1917. Few social service agencies experience such longevity. We are grateful to all who have supported this ministry over the years. Emma Norton Services is Love in Action.


God ever present, refresh us as we pause in the midst of our daily routine. We pause to remember that already you have been at work in our lives this day, whether we noticed it or not, whether we have remembered to give thanks for it or not. Grant that we may live this whole day to your honor and glory as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Last Updated: 04/16/2014

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