On social media, LOL means “laugh out loud.” But for Alice Byram, LOL is short for “life on life.” In a recent interview, Alice talked about how she enjoys “doing life” with Hispanic women in San Antonio.
Alice served at Navigator headquarters in Colorado Springs for a dozen years and as director of women’s ministries in churches in Wyoming and San Antonio after that. In 2011, someone told her about a ministry in what some would call an inner-city neighborhood. “I went to a Bible study there and I never left!” she says. Why? Alice realized her life experiences had uniquely prepared her to minister to women there.
One of the first women she connected with was Sofia. The Bible study met in a home where Sofia lived, but Sofia didn’t join in the study. “That Jesus stuff” wasn't for her, she told Alice. Still, Sofia hung around during refreshments. One week Alice asked her if she’d like to go out for breakfast that Saturday, and Sofia agreed.
They met for breakfast at 10 a.m. and talked until 4:00 that afternoon! Alice told her, “If you ever want to look at the Bible, I’m here.” One night something prompted her to call and take Alice up on that invitation, and she became a believer soon after.
When Alice met Sofia, she was estranged from most of her family. Now she is reaching out and becoming reconciled to many of them. In fact, Alice now meets “LOL” with Sofia’s sister, who is reaching out to her colleagues at the school where she works. “Sofia and her sister are taking what they are learning and sharing it with others,” Alice says.
As Sofia grew in her faith, she started partnering with Alice in ministry. She began teaching a class on crafts, and after the lesson, Alice would tell a Bible story. Alice told her, “You are my friend and we do life together. It’s both of us sharing with each other.”
Alice’s ministry in this neighborhood has expanded far beyond the Bible study. She got to know a social worker who invited her to become a mentor to girls at a local high school. Some are single parents. “I love them as they are, walk by their side, embrace their culture. I let them know I’m here to do life with them,” she explains.
Every two weeks she visits a group for seniors at a community center and tells them Bible stories. “This culture really likes stories,” she says. As she sketched out the life of Moses, the group “got really excited—they really entered in” as they saw the ups and downs of Moses’ life. “They saw how God has a design and plan for all of our lives,” she says.
Alice adds that it is very important for her to take ministry slowly, as God leads, and be sure to build trust. “Trust is the biggest thing,” she says. “You have to take time to allow the women to trust you. Trust comes very slowly. In their experience anyone who is Anglo will want to make them into a white American.”
God uses Alice’s life experiences to help her relate. She was a single mother to three children, and some of her family members have struggled with drug addiction.
“As I meet with these ladies I am not shocked or threatened, because I’ve been there, with my own children or with others,” she explains. She has always had a heart for the broken, the downcast, the “woman at the well.” God gave her this verse for her ministry in San Antonio:
But I’ll take the hand of those who don’t know the way,
who can’t see where they’re going.
I’ll be a personal guide to them,
directing them through unknown country.
I’ll be right there to show them what roads to take,
make sure they don’t fall into the ditch.
These are the things I’ll be doing for them—
sticking with them, not leaving them for a minute.”
—Isaiah 42:16, The Message
In some ways, Alice’s connection with women in this neighborhood is deeper than with those she’s met in more affluent communities. “There’s a depth of life here that you don’t see among the more privileged,” she says. “Life means more to them in some ways; they don’t take anything for granted.”
This fall, Alice began leading a Bible study with recovering drug addicts. “It’s one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done,” she says. These women are finding healing through telling their stories and learning what it means to find their identity in Christ.
What is Alice learning these days?
“Allowing God to be God,” she says. “I cannot fix anyone. I’m learning to allow God to go before me, behind me, and surround me. To depend on the Holy Spirit to be the agent of change. I’m learning to pull back, share the truth from the Word, and let God be God.”
“Some people look at this community and see only drug addicts, teen pregnancies, and crime, she says.” I see people I love and want to be with—people with hopes, dreams, and desires for their lives and their families’ lives, people wanting to be accepted and loved. I see women and girls who embrace me as their friend as we do life together.”
Alice Byram serves on Navigators Encore staff in San Antonio, Texas. She is pictured with her friend and ministry partner Sofia. To contact Alice or learn more about her ministry, click here.