One of our favorite and most significant events of this season is Heart Sisters Week. It began more than 30 years ago when some staff decided that Valentine’s Day should be celebrated first to demonstrate the love of Christ for each of us, and second to celebrate friendship.
Even though the activities have changed over the years, the basics are still the same. Staff and program residents exchange little secret pal gifts every day and then we have a “revealing” party and give each other a nice gift. We also include the crisis home women in some things such as our Valentine’s Day luncheon and by giving them a gift each morning on their pillows.
Through the years, Heart Sisters has been one of the most powerful and joyful ways to show the love of Christ to our women. It is important for us to be able to provide activities for them that are fun – that is something they have not really known.
We are so thankful for our friends who support us and who allow the Lord to touch His chosen in this place called Evangel Home.
Serving Him Together,
A special thanks this month for the wonderful friends who helped us close 2016 on a strong note financially. It was a lean year, but giving in December was about $186,000 bringing total 2016 giving to $758,000. It costs about $65,000 a month or $780,000 a year to run the Home, so we will probably dip into savings at some point.
HOWEVER, . . . I capitalize that ‘however’ because it indicates the God column on the financial spreadsheet. In nearly 30 years of working with Evangel Home finances, I have learned that just because we can’t count it doesn’t mean we can’t count ON it. God has surprised us in more ways than I can count, and so I believe He will do so this year if we have to cover any gaps.
But now we thank Him for the provisions we have, and we thank you for your support and encouragement.
At this month’s staff meeting, we shared some of our favorite Bible verses in a completely spontaneous devotional time. The random verses basically lay out the foundation for our faith and direct our actions. I chose Ephesians 3:20 and the beginning of verse 21: “Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory . . .”
I like the way the Message paraphrases this Scripture: “God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, His Spirit deeply and gently within us.”
Blessings and Beyond for 2017,
As we enter the final two months of the year, our days are paced by what can become rapid-fire activities rather than by meaningful acts. I would encourage you to pamper yourself a bit during this season to make sure you stay physically healthy, to ask God to give you an experience outside of your traditions or your comfort zone, and to listen for Him in the midst of all the noise. That thought was delivered to me last month through a very unlikely source: donuts and neighbors.
I had purchased a box of Krispy Kreme donuts for a fund raiser and decided I would give it to the first person I saw when I left work. As I drove to the end of the alley I saw 4 people — 3 black, 1 white. The white person was the oldest; in a wheelchair, wearing some sort of beach umbrella hat, and I could not tell if the person was a man or woman. A second person seated in a wheelchair was a very thin woman wearing a wig, hooked up to an oxygen tank and drinking a beer. There was a handsome young man talking to them, and a little boy about 3 in the middle of it all. OK, there was my donut group.
I stopped the car and walked up to them with the box. I cannot tell you how excited they were about the donuts — they began planning dinner around them, the thin woman dumped her beer on the ground and the person with the umbrella hat saluted me. The young man said, “God bless you,” and the little boy said, “Let me see, let me see.”
I got back in the car, looked at the scene, grabbed my phone to take a picture, and then God tapped me on the shoulder and said, “No. These are your neighbors; this is your city; My image might not be easily seen, but it is in them. Pray for them and think about My image — not your picture.”
Many of you will do similar things this time of year: distribute food to strangers, buy gifts for people you hardly know, make sandwiches to give to hungry people. What if God is using those acts to speak to you – even more so than to the people you are helping? Listen for Him. Thanksgiving and Christmas might be days that come once a year, but to Christ followers they should be year-round. They should mark the conditions or our hearts, not the calendars of our events.
Serving Him Together,
I suppose every class thinks it’s special, but the 1966 Patriots’ class really does own several distinctions. We attended a brand new school, and we were the first class to enter as sophomores. The entire student body was less than 900 and our class was about 375.
We had excellent teachers who were chosen to get the new school up and running. We did not win a single football game the first two years but we won the league championship in 1966. We still talk about that season.
We have lost about 50 classmates (that we know of) – a number which seems more than our fair share, but this was just prior to drugs becoming a problem, Viet Nam was calling and claiming some, and we ARE getting older.
We were raised by the Greatest Generation and yet embraced much of the Counter Culture – childhood and young adult markers for those of us known forever as the Baby Boomers. Many in my class are successful, many are still married to their high school sweethearts, many are believers, and many are very generous.
One of the proudest moments of my life came at our reunion dinner, Sept. 24, when I was called to the podium with two others: one a classmate and one a 1966 coach. The class of ‘66 had extra money in the reunion fund and divided it among the three of us whose organizations “are making our world a better place.”
So I got to stand in front of those people I’ve known (and some I’ve not known) for 50+ years and speak briefly about Evangel Home. I was privileged to share my life’s work because of their generosity.
Those high school roots are anchored firm in fellowship and have grown into dedication to Christ for many of us.
Thank you for being part of that root system.
Serving Him Together,
One of our staff members recently gave me a great gift — a chubby little gold hedgehog wearing a pink party hat. Perfect.
This golden hedgehog joins about 15 others on a shelf above my desk. Groups of animals can have such descriptive or interesting names. There is a gaggle of geese and a battery of barracudas; a coaltion of cheetahs and a rhumba of rattlesnakes. But a group of hedgehogs sounds very business-like and no nonsense. They are called an array “an ordered arrangement.”
This little creature became our mascot about 10 years ago for those no-nonsense reasons. Nothing flashy. Nothing to draw attention to itself – just do what it does best: eat, keep its little home, and roll away from danger. I had read a book called “Good to Great” by Jim Collins and he proposed the idea of a “Hedgehog Concept.”
The Hedgehog Concept looks at 3 questions: What are you most passionate about? What can you be best in the world at? What drives your economic engine?
We worked on those questions for weeks, and even though are answers might be different today than 10 or 15 years ago, the Hedgehog Concept resulted in our motto: Christ Leads, People Care, Lives Change. Everything we do should fit into one of those phrases.
And the hedgehog? He reminds us to keep focused, keep doing what we do best, don’t worry about what others are doing, and then start all over again tomorrow.
Every staff member has a Margaret Hudson clay hedgehog. Sometimes we will get distracted and one of us will just say “hedgehog.” Remember why we are here.
Serving Him Together,
I recently gave a report to our board of directors on the many facets of Evangel Home, and how I see things at this point. I used sort of a stick figure example to provide an evaluation, and thought it would be good to share the results with you.
HEART = Christ. Outward signs of worship might change through the years, but Christ was and must always be first here. “Christ Leads, People Care, Lives Change.” Those six words are not only our motto, they are the foundation of ministry and the blueprint for all we do.
BACKBONE = Staff. We have a staff of 20 full and part-time dedicated servants including two professional counselors. Among full-time staff, the average tenure is 10.7 years. That is testimony to the dedication and quality of our people. The work is hard, and the pay is low, but none of us want to be anywhere else.
ARMS = Program and Counseling. The key here is to provide a balance of self-awareness and relevant classes, Bible study, fitness and counseling. Our women and children face different challenges than they did in earlier years. Therefore, we need to be flexible enough to keep up with change, but firm enough to not bend on the basics.
HANDS = Volunteers. The time and type of service that people want to give has changed, but volunteers are still crucial in shaping our property, programs and people.
LEGS = Donors/Churches. Our donor base and budget are stable, but we will need to increase both in the future in order to keep up with things like increased minimum wage.
MUSCLE = Board. It is the muscle system that provides strength, motion, movement, tone and flexibility. It is unseen but essential to the health of the whole body.
BRAIN = Things to think about. There is plenty to think about, but I believe that as we face things, we do so head on; we pray always; we pivot when necessary; and we never allow the pursuit of money to set our vision. We ask only two questions in all that we do: (1) How is God honored? (2) How does it help our women and children?
Thank you for the part you play in keeping us healthy and vibrant.
Serving Him Together,
One of the things I am blessed with at Evangel Home is
Blessed beyond measure,
Several years ago staff tried to summarize our ministry in as few words as possible and came up with these six words: Christ Leads, People Care, Lives Change. Those 3 phrases became our motto several years ago, but more than that, they are words to live by.
You, our supporters, are literally the link between Christ and changed lives. We are fortunate to see the results of your caring commitment every day and as we enter the last weeks of 2014, we are praying to close strong financially, spiritually, and relationally. It is our prayer that those Changed Lives, having received new life in Christ, will one day share in the blessing of standing with those People who Care and make all the difference.
Yes you do! You, our supporters, are renovating an apartment and leading chapel; organizing the donations in the basement and answering phones; serving on the board and giving financially … The list also includes you helping our Kid Zone becoming a reality. We have hired a second teacher, staff has come up with a model, and we are off and running! Also, your generous outpouring of funds at our banquet in 2014 helped our ministry tremendously. We raised $50,000.
We’ve even given people like you, are supporters, a special name — The Home Team. You give us the Home Team advantage, are always there for us, and cheer for our women and children in a way that helps them. Thank you, Home Team!
Women often stop by the Home, and if they graduated from CrossRoads or the GARDEN, always ask to see their name on the wall. There are more than 250 names in our Hall of Faith. It is testimony to the Changed Lives that you have helped re-direct, and for those gifts, we are eternally grateful. Here are some examples of recent lives that have been changed:
Gina: Gina Walker graduated in 2010, joined our staff as a house manager in 2012 and this year qualified to become one of our parenting teachers. Gina brings a sense of joy and a call to accountability for the women she supervises and teaches. She has been where many of them are right now and is able to connect with them on that level, but more important to inspire them to step up to another level. She is living proof of a life changed through Christ, and it was her faith in Him that pulled her through a tragic time last year when she lost her son, Jerome. Gina and her husband, Derrick, are now raising Jerome’s children. There is no quit in Gina. There is only Christ.
Kelly: “My mom’s name is on the wall!” These were the proud words of 5-year old Addison for something her mother, Kelly, accomplished before this little one was even born. When stopping by the Home recently, Kelly showed Addison the 2002 grads and pointed out that her name plaque was the first one that year. Addison was as excited for her mom at that moment as we were in 2002.
Judy: We love it when grads and former residents drop by for a visit. We are really glad Judy paid a visit because we discovered that her graduation name plaque was in the wrong year, so we moved it to 1999 where it belongs. It is especially touching and encouraging to staff and current residents that these name plaques are so important. Judy is doing well and works as an office manager in a medical office.
Serving Him Together,
We recently had something minor happen that offered a major illustration of God at work even when we don’t see what He is doing; even when it might not feel good. The old wooden sign that has hung on the post in front of our property simply says, “EVANGEL HOME 137.” It was splintered and weather beaten, but it still identified us and welcomed people here; something it has done for decades. Then several weeks ago it disappeared.
I had no idea what happened, and was suddenly and profoundly saddened by the empty space — not just the absence of the sign, but the fear of what would happen in the absence of our ministry. The old wooden sign is in a way a symbol of what women and children can find in this place. You give life to that symbol by being the hands, feet, and heart of Christ.
I thought about the disappearing ministry because of last year’s disappointing finances. Evangel Home has a financial need, and I am asking for your help to meet it. Year-end giving was not as significant as it usually is. In fact we experienced the fourth lowest December giving in 15 years — coming at the end of a year that was already down. Now, we have very little in reserve.
Here are the basics — excluding large designated gifts for projects such as the kitchen:
— Total giving was down 14% from $702,000 in 2012 to $603,000 in 2013
— December fell by 17% from $173,000 to $143,000
— Individual giving was down 11% from $396,000 to $354,000 — Churches followed the same pattern and fell 14% from $93,000 to $80,000
We were able to reduce expenses from $732,000 to $717,000 in 2013 and relied on the 2012 financial cushion to get us through last year. That cushion is now threadbare. Many of our donors have remained steadfast and committed during these unsettled economic times, but some have had to reduce the amount of giving. Compounding this is the loss of several large and long-time annual gifts. We lost $30,000 in this area.
Back to the sign for a minute. I soon learned it had not been stolen, and even though it has now been returned, it is not perfect. A friend named Rod had taken it to freshen it up, and he planned to make it better than ever. However, as he sanded, puttied, painted, and varnished, he suddenly envisioned the sign as an example of what God does as He welcomes women and children to this place. So Rod left some splintered wood and unfilled cracks; some dull paint and rough spots to remind us of the women who still need to come to Evangel Home and let God put them together.
Just as our friend had a surprise plan for the sign, we believe that God’s plan for Evangel Home is a similar story. We do not always know what He is doing, but we do know that He is always faithful. We will never be perfect, but we pray that Evangel Home will continue to welcome women and children, in His name, for decades to come.
Many women have said they find Christ in this “place of love and restoration.” Please consider helping us through this rough financial time and ensure that such discovery is possible for those women and children yet to come.
Serving Him Together,
You are also like pebbles, but rather than being the ones who land, you are the ones creating ripples that touch the lives of our women and children, hold up our ministry, and affect a neighborhood as well as a Kingdom.
If Evangel Home is a body of water, the ripples of financial support are pretty calm in this season. Comparing ripples to ripples, we are down 15 percent from this time last year.
We have received large designated gifts in each of these years for special projects such as remodeling the kitchen. If these gifts are removed from the income stream, the numbers look like this:
|2012 total giving without restricted gifts = $702,000|
It is encouraging to know that giving in the last quarter of the year usually picks up and carries us into the next year. However, we do see some warning signs on the water and are asking more people to serve as those ripple-creating pebbles. In addition to trusting that some will read these words and respond here, we have also created a special Team Evangel area on our website with some opportunities for consistent support. Visit us at www.evangelhome.org/teamevangel.
Serving Him Together,