If you're like me, you're looking forward to 2016, but also taking a last look at the year we’ve left behind. “Looking back” can be an inspirational thing to do, because for a person of faith, everything that happens is worthwhile, both victories and challenges. When you have faith in God, don't worry about what went well or what seemed to go badly, because in the end, God works out everything for the good.
That’s what we found this year at the Julia Greeley Home. Yes, we had to hold on tight through some twists and turns (I’ll explain in a minute), but the important thing is we begin our new year in a house filled with motivated women who are healing from the effects of homelessness, reclaiming their dignity, becoming cheerful and hopeful again, and learning the skills to become self sufficient in the world. That’s what our mission is about.
Now let me tell you about our twists and turns and the lessons we learned. Maybe some of these lessons will fit for your life, too.
2015 opens a new path - but to where?
We began 2015 hanging on a big question mark. We had to move out of our original home to a new, larger space. But where? Last January, we had no idea. But we kept moving forward, one day at a time, praying for guidance. During that time, our former director, Lynn Reid, who was busy with her own new plans, generously kept Julia’s program thriving at our original home while we searched.
I put everything in the hands of St. Joseph, who has never disappointed me. After all, God entrusted Joseph with protecting and arranging everything for Mary and the child Jesus. But that didn’t mean their lives were easy. Imagine what it was like for Joseph, wondering if he should “divorce” Mary bcause of her “unplanned pregnancy”! He probably thought his future was “over,” when it was just beginning. Of course, now we know “the rest of the story,” that Joseph played a central role in the mystery of salvation. But Joseph didn’t know that -- he had to figure out everything just like we do, one day after another, trusting God without knowing the outcome.
It’s been the same for us at the Julia Greeley Home. Only later did we see how St Joseph, God’s “right hand man,” was arranging things behind the scenes. Does today -- or the new year -- look uncertain to you? My best advice is, don’t worry, just get up every day, do your best, and pray. God will not let you down.
Letting God work it out
For example, In the spring we thought we had accomplished our major goal, to find a new director and a new home where we could expand and grow. We began making plans to move. Then, suddenly, our new director had to decline the responsibility for personal reasons. Now what?! Three months of planning had unraveled in a day. If this happens to you, just remember: When God has a work He wants you to do, be sure you will be tested. God wants to know if you will persist and endure through hardship. Anyone who gives up at the first disappointment -- or even the second or third -- loses the opportunity to experience the great rescue plan God is working out for those who trust Him.
We were back in full househunting mode when, one day in June, I was touring a location with a group of strangers. One of them was Leslie Collins-Pottebaum, who for over 30 years has run Shannon’s Hope, a home for pregnant women. Her home, built as a former residential facility, is very large. As we talked, we both recogized that God was presenting us each with an opportunity. We recognized that for this next step on our journey, we were meant to take it together. Since then we have seen how our “shared community” has helped each of our programs to grow. Here’s the lesson: many times, God works things out in stages, not all at once. It’s not up to us (His students) to set the curriculum. God is the teacher, so let Him work out the lesson plans in His own good time.
2016: A new year to grow and serve
And that’s where we are at the start of 2016 -- growing, learning and grateful for the blessings that have led us to this point. Since Julia’s began sharing our large home with Shannon’s Hope in August, we have grown in patience and the art of “abiding with one another.” Our mission statements are in harmony -- each of our programs is dedicated to promoting a woman’s dignity and inspiring her to move toward independence and self sufficiency. In that spirit, Leslie and her experienced team are implementing Julia’s program with authority.
Best of all, we have watched Julia’s residents pitch into the life of a large family and begin to heal from the cycle of homelessness and alienation. The need is great. Despite many homeless programs and awareness, there are very few programs for the hundreds of women in the Denver area who are homeless and alone, without family support. We know the numbers are high (maybe as high as 800 women on a given night, with far fewer available beds) because of surveys done annually through the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, and also from what we hear anecdotally through our own network of social services agencies.
That’s why we want 2016 to be the year when the Julia Greeley Home keeps growing and moving forward, so we can welcome even more women into our program. We know God doesn’t intend to abandon the most vulnerable among us. All He asks is our trust and willingness to work, and He will do the rest.
We are ready.