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Dec 01, 2014 • David Vanderveen

A (Not Always) Merry Christmas

Before I came to Hope I would spend each holiday with my family. I'd cook the turkey or ham and loved to take care of everyone and make sure they had a good time. The Christmas before I came to Hope was a hard one for me – my sister and my boyfriend both passed away, and I fell into deep depression. I lost my job and my home and became homeless for the first time in my life. It was a very dark time for me because I've had a lot of loss in my life. I was hospitalized twice and then came to Hope in February. Hope has helped me in the healing process. I go to Oaklawn and attend classes there that help me learn to deal with my depression. It's very hard for me to deal with death and loss, but I'm dealing with it better since I've had the support here at Hope.I'm looking forward to this Christmas season and can't wait to see my children and grandchildren over the holidays. I'm looking forward to watching all the children at Hope enjoy the Christmas decorations and fun activities. I thank God for another day – another year – on this earth. Each morning, I wake up early and thank God for Hope – for the bed they provide for me, the food they give me, and a roof over my head. The staff of Hope go way out of their way to support and help the residents here and I am grateful for all they do for me.-Terrie Before I came to Hope it was a very difficult time in my life. I lost my family and when that was taken away I felt so alone and empty. The holidays didn't fill me with joy because something was missing and I had no one to belong to. When I came to Hope I met a lot of other people who were in similar situations and it was good to know that I wasn't the only one who felt alone in this world. What got me through the holiday season last year was being at Hope and reaching out to my Hope family. It felt good to see so many people I didn't even know come to Hope and volunteer their time to make our Christmas special. They made us laugh and feel comfortable and loved – like we were at home. Of all the activities they had at Hope last year, my favorite part was people being here and making me feel like I was with a family. They decorated and made everything festive. I loved the Christmas trees and all the lights! It really helped me to enjoy the season as much as possible. I really appreciate the staff at Hope. I trust them and that is a new thing for me. They make me feel comfortable and show me that I am not the only one dealing with hurt and loneliness. The staff are very interactive with residents and I know they love me and can relate with me because they are so open and honest with their lives. They share with me that they struggle with anger and hurt too, and I know I'm not alone. They are showing me that we are all broken people who have problems and I deeply respect them.-Robert Note from Hope's Executive DirectorWhen I first came to Hope Ministries I was ready to enjoy and appreciate Christmas with our residents, both for what it is (a celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior) and for what it has become (a celebration of our families and loved ones).But I quickly realized that many of our residents did not see Christmas as a time to celebrate. For them, Christmas was a stark reminder of what they had lost. Christmas reminded them of the family and loved ones they had lost to death or to the bad choices they had made in life. It reminded them of their loneliness, and of the shame and guilt they felt for the ways in which their choices had hurt themselves and others.Realizing how difficult the Christmas season is for many of our residents makes me especially grateful for two things. First, I am grateful for Immanuel. In Matthew 1:23 Jesus is called "Immanuel", which means "God with us". Jesus came not only to solve our eternal problem (our need for redemption and reconciliation with God), but also to be with us, to fill the loneliness and emptiness that so many of us feel on this earth.And second, I am grateful for the many of you, our partners and friends in the community, who invest yourselves and your time in loving our residents during the Christmas season. By providing gifts for a family, hosting a Christmas party at Hope, inviting residents to a celebration at your church, helping decorate our building or the many other ways in which you show your love for the residents of Hope, you help to fill the emptiness and loneliness they feel at this time of year.Thank you for partnering with us. And thank you for helping to make this Christmas a truly Merry Christmas for all of our residents-David Vanderveen
Aug 20, 2014 • David Vanderveen

Hope: Celebrating 60 Years of Changed Lives

When I was younger, I sometimes walked past Hope with my mother. I had no idea that someday I would come here and find so much healing. I came to Hope due to family circumstances that kept me from finding stability and safety for me and my children. My plan wasn't to stay here long, but since I've been here I've grown and learned so much more about Christ. My children haven't had a safe home for a long time, and they are really happy here. They love just being stable and having a safe place to live. We have more time now to read the Bible together, have movie night, and play with other kids. My son wouldn't talk before we got here, but now he has come out of his shell and is talking and enjoying his friends at Hope. All of my children are coming alive in this environment. We still have a few bad days, but so many days we just enjoy the gift of being together.This place has really opened up my eyes to understand how to be a Christ-like parent. I'm growing so much as a person by learning to depend on God and not a man to love me for who I am. I'm learning to put God first and to love my children. I'm excited to go back to school – something I've dreamed of doing for years.I've been clean from marijuana since February. I used to think that I needed drugs to cope with my day – something to make me happy and escape from my pain. I'm learning to not try to escape, but to live in the moment with my Hope family. It's so great to know that I'm not alone. -Kiara Note from Hope's Executive Director Hope Ministries, formerly known as Hope Rescue Mission, was founded in 1954 by Tobe Schmucker, an insurance salesman who felt God calling him to do something to help hurting people in South Bend. Many things have changed in our community and at Hope over the last 60 years, but two things have not: the problem and the solution.The problem was and is the deep pain and emptiness that people carry in their hearts as a result of hurtful and traumatic experiences in their lives. This pain and emptiness causes people to make very unhealthy choices in life. Tobe knew this well. In his book "Beacon of Hope,” Tobe recalls telling one of the men in the program:"There are a lot of rough edges in life and some of these are like barbed wire, cutting deeply into our psyche or flesh and most of us are literally carrying around open wounds. Finally the pain becomes so unbearable that we become vulnerable to the kinds of solutions that appear to be answers but later prove to be very temporary and above all artificial solutions.”Fortunately, there is a real and lasting solution to this pain that is just as relevant today as it was 60 years ago: the hope that Jesus Christ offers. Tobe knew that only Christ could bring hope to our community's most hurting and "hopeless” members. He felt God calling him to create a place where people could come to find that hope.Kiara is a current resident at Hope who is finding true healing and hope through Christ, something she never found through drugs and unhealthy relationships. We are sharing her story with you so you can see that God is continuing to bring hope through Hope Ministries today.-David Vanderveen
Jun 26, 2014 • David Vanderveen

It's NOT the Economy, Stupid

When I was born, my parents were not married. I was one of 3 kids and we were all neglected and malnourished. My dad was in and out of my life – he kidnapped us multiple times and finally took us away from my mom. One of my first memories was being in an RV and wanting so badly to be loved and belong to someone. The only person I felt loved by was my grandma, and I remember wishing I could be with her. I was really young when I started being molested by my grandpa. I remember when those things happened and how I felt dead on the inside. Then I started being molested by my step brother. It continued until I got older and turned to rape. I told my dad but he didn’t believe me. I started to feel like there was something wrong with me – that there must be some reason people didn’t love me. I wanted my dad’s love so badly, but he was so broken and he didn’t know how to love.In school, I was needy for attention and started to get into trouble. At age 13 I tried meth. From that moment on I realized I liked drugs and how they made me feel. I didn’t hurt as much, and they helped me cope with the pain in my life and all the horrible thoughts and memories. I was never allowed to show my emotions so I started cutting myself to deal with the emotions and terrible things I saw. By the age of 16 I was totally out of control and dropped out of school.As soon as I turned 18 I got married to a meth addict. I thought he loved me because he gave me drugs. We lived in a car and he fed my addiction. I was arrested multiple times and finally went to jail. After being in jail for 2 months I didn’t want to be the one who got saved because I was making fun of people following God and I thought that was fun. I finally went down to chapel one day and the speaker talked about a verse in Philippians. I cried out to God that day to take away all my addiction and fill me with something good. I started teaching a Bible study because I wanted to learn about God and his love. I served 11 months in jail and during that time, my grandma died. Her death was so hard for me because she was the only one who really loved me. It’s hard to be in this world alone, and I felt like I lost everything when I lost her. When I got out of jail, I found some community organizations that helped me and eventually came to Hope. I don’t know how to do anything – even fill out a job application. I only know how to do meth. I always thought I’d be dead and wouldn’t have to worry about the future, but God freed me from myself and my addictions and pain.I know God led me to Hope. I’m learning and growing so much. I’m learning that I’m not a victim anymore – I’m not alone and I’m learning how to spend daily time with God. I’m so serious about my walk with God. I’ve lost everything – but I have God. I’m grieving for so much, and I’m allowing God to heal all the wounded places in me – all the abandonment and loss and hurt. I ask God to help me every day – sometimes the thoughts of what used to happen to me are so bad and I have to beg God to help me and heal me. I’ve been clean over 16 months, and I’m so thankful to be in a community like Hope. People here genuinely care about me. They reach out to me and help me in this process of healing. I’m so thankful for a place that gives me support and loves me for exactly who I am.-Dorothy Out of all the brothers and sisters I have, I was the child that my mama didn’t pay attention to. It was like that Cinderella story where all the brothers and sisters got to do things while the one child was pushed away and did all the house tasks. I did a lot of cooking for a child my age. At one point, I got injured by a pressure cooker. My mom asked me to check the food and I lifted the top of the cooker and it exploded on me. I had third degree burns on my legs, but no one took me to the hospital. I felt very depressed as a child. I felt like I had to be the grown up – caring for the babysitting and household tasks. My bedroom was in the attic all by myself. One thing after another made me feel like I wasn’t wanted and I kept wondering if I really belonged here.When I was 6 years old, the state removed me and my older brother from my mom’s home and took us to a foster home. I was used to always being hungry, but my foster family made sure I had regular meals and snacks. They made a huge cake for me and my brother when we arrived and we were so excited we couldn’t stop eating the cakes! Eventually my brother decided he wanted to go back to our mom, but I wanted to stay with my foster parents. Being raised by foster parents was a whole different world. It seemed like if I thought it I got it. I had anything I needed – food, clothes, medicine, love. My foster mom really loved me and taught me a lot. When I did something wrong, she would sit down and help me understand what I did and why it was bad. She would hug me. She could discipline me and love me all at the same time, and because of that I knew that her love was unconditional and very real. They couldn’t have kids, but they loved us like we were their kids. I didn’t know it was possible for a person to have so much love in them to give to strangers like me, but I’m forever grateful that they loved me. When I turned 18, I remember hugging my foster parents goodbye and we both cried. I visited and helped them whenever I could and did anything I could to take care of them.It's been hard for me to deal with feeling unwanted throughout my life. Even though my foster parents loved me, I’ve struggled to forgive my biological mother. I made a lot of bad choices and have struggled with addictions that I used to cover the pain I felt from her not wanting me. Hope’s community has helped me a lot. Hope has given me hope in a lot of ways – basically taken up from where my foster parents left off. Who would have known that there was a place that could do so much for you and ask for nothing. The only thing they ask of you is to be honest and have a willingness to change. For those of us who have been out on the streets with no food in our stomachs, no clothes on our back, no home to live in – this place is a place that lets you know that there is a God and without Him none of this would be possible. This is where I should be, and this is where I need to be. I should have been here a long time ago. I want this so bad – I want to succeed so bad.-Aaron Note from Hope’s Executive DirectorPolitical strategist James Carville famously coined the phrase “The Economy, Stupid” as one of the key messages of Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign. Carville wanted to stress that the single biggest issue on the minds of voters was the economy. I have to confess that when I first came to Hope in 2005, I thought homelessness was an economic issue. I thought that if the problem is that people were unemployed and lacked housing, the solution, obviously, is about employment and housing. It’s economic. But I was the stupid the one.I have come to learn that the root problem in the lives of almost every person we serve is pain. Not physical pain, but the deep emotional, psychological and spiritual pain of past abuse, abandonment, neglect and loss. It is this pain that leads to the vast majority of drug and alcohol addictions, and it is this pain that either causes or greatly contributes to most of the mental health problems our residents are facing. So while jobs and housing are still important, they will not solve the root problem. Only Christ can do that. It is “by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). I am grateful to Dorothy and Aaron, two residents currently at Hope, for their willingness to share how pain has affected their lives. And I am grateful to you, our supporters in the local community, for providing the resources that allow us to bring Christ’s healing love and power to Dorothy, Aaron and the other 100 men, women and children living at Hope Ministries.-David Vanderveen

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