For 36 weeks, Sheila Bauer of Holland invited fellow committee members to join her to worship at 36 different churches in western Michigan. The group was on a mission for Imago Dei.
Visiting the churches provided a foundation for the nonprofit organization to explore how the houses of worship could form co-ministries with agencies to help parishioners hurting from abuse.
“Without fail, every faith leader (we met) was incredibly approachable and open to us,” Bauer said. “We must have the highest concentration of incredibly capable and caring faith leaders in the nation. It is humbling to work with them.”
The 36 churches represent only 10 percent of the over 300 faith communities that Imago Dei is bringing together to help those suffering from abuse.
Bauer coordinated a forum, Uniting Against Abuse Conference 2017. It played a huge part of the group’s effort to raise awareness about avenues for help. Former President Jimmy Carter endorsed the conference.
Held recently in Holland, it drew 30 speakers from across the country. Bauer said opening a dialogue about domestic violence is a first step in providing hope.
“The statistics for Michigan are alarming,” she said. Michigan ranks ninth in the nation for domestic homicides, second in sex trafficking and ninth in child abuse and neglect.
While organizing the conference, Bauer and her team discovered an uncomfortable perception: When it comes to personal suffering from violence, most people have the erroneous perception that “someone else is taking care of it.”
“We are grateful to God for leading this effort to care for the hurting,” Bauer said. “This is a grassroots movement that is completely volunteer driven.
“By coming together to support our faith communities and nonprofit agencies, we can make a profound difference in the lives of those who suffer.”