About 22 years ago, my aging and ailing parents were in possession of property for which they could no longer care but on which they were still dependent for the rental income from a house and a couple of cottages that sat on it. The challenge was compounded by the fact that the big house (which had been converted to contain two apartments) had suffered severe fire damage, had a seriously leaky roof, and was infested by termites. The cottages had also fallen into serious disrepair over the years. Though I wanted to help them in any way I could I had few resources, knew nothing about home renovation and had no building skills. Nonetheless, when my father offered to give me the house if I would fix up the cottages to bring in rental income for them, I could only say yes.
It seemed a double blessing - a way to do something for my parents and a big house that might prove an extension of a modest vision of ministry that God had planted and was tending in my deepest heart...providing sanctuary for women facing challenges and seeking a deeper relationship with the Lord.
With the help of a small group of girls from a Bible study I conducted in my home, and whatever materials I could scrounge as needed, I cleaned out, repaired and painted the cottages to get them rented. Then, we bravely (naively) tackled the house. By this time, the girls and I saw that this could be a home for a couple of them who needed a more secure roof over their heads, so we decided to restore the house to include five bedrooms and three bathrooms. We tore down walls, patching the roof, renovating one room at a time, learning skills we never knew we had, until at least part of it was livable.
As soon as a bedroom, bath and the kitchen were restored, the girls were able to move into the house, and we held Bible Study there. The Bible Study group grew, as did the help we started to receive from my church and the community. Thus was born, the house my earthly father gave to me - the discarded treasure our Heavenly Father helped us to redeem...My Father's House.
Today, nearly twenty years after it officially became home to a handful of women who needed transitional shelter and support as they found their way back to productive lives, My Father's House is part of the non-profit ministry Stand at the Crossroads Ministry. SATCM is now a campus that will soon have grown to provide sanctuary and supportive community for up to 18 women - 8 single women and 10 women with children! In addition to two houses and two apartment buildings, We have a Community Center for meetings and child care with an attached laundry cottage, an office, a thrift store (Redeemed Treasures Boutique), gardens, a playground, and several storage buildings.
Never in my most far-flung prayers or wildest imaginings, could I have foreseen what God would do with my small dream - or what He can do when we trust in Him and follow His lead. He brought in the volunteers, donors, and resources needed to build His House into a Community, and as we have continued to pray and remain faithful to His guidance, He has never failed us. Though we are not able to accommodate all the women who turn to us, we believe that the Lord brings in those who need us most.
~~~ Debbie Lamb
More than Coincidence
Shannon knew it was more than coincidence when, homeless and struggling with an addiction relapse, she heard three times from kind strangers that My Father's House was the place for her. The third time she agreed to have a look, and by day's end, Shannon was accepted into the program.
"Debbie believed in me," Shannon says, "so I was going to earn my keep." She was a risk, but Debbie and Linda, our executive and assistant directors, saw something special in her.
That was a year ago, and they were right. Here she has learned how to be a person, set boundaries, have confidence and even make friends. "Living here has helped me grow up," she acknowledges.
Shannon's spiritual life, too, is blooming. As a child, she was forced to go to church and didn't see how church related to real life, especially in a home filled with anger. As she attended daily devotions and Cedar Creek Church, Shannon began to see that God had kept her alive, and she was eager to go to the Bible and see how to apply it to her life.
Now the manager for our thrift store, Redeemed Treasures, Shannon couldn't know that the ministry had been praying for many months for God to send her. She thrived in our program and found jobs in fast food, but longed to return to retail, which she truly enjoys. So, Shannon volunteered in our store, arranging displays and talking to the customers on the monthly sales days.
With the purchase of the store building and plans to open full-time, the time was right for the ministry and for Shannon. In April, she became our store manager and loves every minute. "We have regular customers who come in twice a week to shop--and to visit." She is assisted by volunteers from among her friends on our campus as well as from ministry volunteers. Shannon also handles our online sales.
With God's grace and support from SATCM, Shannon has reclaimed her life, reconciling with her two teen children, her mother and her sister. Recently, she moved from the big house to a Crossroads Community apartment in anticipation of regaining custody of her five-year-old daughter. “I love this place!" Shannon says.
There's No Place Like Home
Several months before arriving at Crossroads, Andrea would not have believed she and her three boys would live in a comfortable apartment with their needs met. "When I arrived here, I had my boys and two back packs.” The housing and support she received was critical in retaining custody of her boys and keeping her life on track during a painful divorce.
"Within a short time, I had enough to buy a car," Andrea says, amazed at the rapid turnaround in her life. However, the most striking change for her family was the discovery of what home could be. "Throughout my life, home was never a place of peace." This peace doesn't end at her cozy apartment door but flows through the ministry grounds, where she feels the presence of God.
Frequently, though, tranquility is disrupted by the community's children -- Andrea's sons ages four to nine -- among them. They thrived at Crossroads, where lively children can romp on the playground and spacious grounds and always find playmates. "It's a nice kind of chaos," she says.
Andrea, too, enjoyed the other residents, appreciating that they helped each with child care and other needs. "It's more of a big family than a rental," she says of the community. Since many of the women have had difficult pasts, they understand one another's struggles.
During weekly Bible study, Andrea appreciated learning more about God in his Word but also how these time-tested truths apply today. These sessions provide another time for her and the other women to share honestly the ups and downs of their lives.
Andrea is especially grateful for the care from Debbie, our director, and assistant director, Linda, and their willingness to listen and counsel. "They keep me strong and helped me make it through when I faced losing my kids. "
What' s next for Andrea and her family? Keenly interested in the weather, she loves to watch a good thunderstorm and plans to earn a degree in Atmospheric Science. She has made a good start by taking science courses at Aiken Tech.
Most important, her time at the ministry was one of healing, especially of relationships with her ex-husband and mother. She reflected, "I'm a completely different person from the one who moved in." Andrea's life still has many challenges, but faith and caring people keep her strong. "God's looking out for me."
A Prayer for Peace Answered
Elizabeth's need to find a safe home for herself and daughter Emma was so sudden that she can't recall how she heard of our ministry. "It was a tumultuous time. I applied and found out that evening that I was accepted for an apartment."
From life as a wife and stay-at-home mom, Elizabeth found herself a single parent headed toward divorce. She quickly found a job, started to save money, and steadily worked to improve her credit – aided by financial coaching from the ministry.
As important, she was able to heal emotionally with support by executive director and assistant director Debbie and Linda, who patiently listened to her difficulties. "I could tell them my story without hearing opinions." In Wednesday night Bible studies with the other women, she learned she could share her struggles, drawing strength from God's Word and others. "One of my prayers was for peace to surround Emma," Elizabeth says.
And her prayer was answered. Emma bonded with Debbie during babysitting, benefiting from what Elizabeth describes as her "calmness and steadiness." Within the Crossroads Community, there were other kids for playmates. When asked if she liked living at the apartment, four year old Emma nods a vigorous "yes."
After a year and a half, Elizabeth was ready to buy a house and move out on her own. Today, she and Emma are enjoying life in their new home, and Elizabeth has a job she likes.
Elizabeth reflects, "There is no way I could have done this without God."