By Jo Ann Carpenter
This past weekend I had the opportunity to spend several days with my parents at Pipestem Resort in West Virginia. People who know me understand I am a beach girl. I love the beach… listening to the waves, shelling, reading in the sun and the distinct sea smells! But this vacation was for my parents and they chose the mountains.
The majestic scenes were breathtaking, all the green and trees, rivers, and valleys. I will admit it was a perfect place to relax and spend quality time together. Dad, mom, and I reflected on past vacations from when I was a child, even traveling with my grandparents. Fond memories!
Now as my parents are aging, I am grateful for every moment we have together and I spend as much time as I can with my children and grandchildren. Making memories!
As my thoughts often do, I think of our dinner guests and residents in the shelter. I have heard so many stories of memories, but not fond ones. Through my studies in generational poverty I have learned that we believe our situations are the “norm,” meaning that because this is how I have lived, everyone else’s lives were just like mine.
But that, my friend, is not the case most of the time. One day while two of our residents were helping me in the kitchen, they were talking about their fathers and some of the abuse they experienced. After several stories, I said, “I am so sorry you had to experience those things as a child! It breaks my heart.” Their reply was, “It is just how it is, and everyone lives that way.”
Their childhood situations became their “norm.” Both residents had drinking problems, and at that time only one had a child. Both men were living in a homeless shelter due to their choices in life. One man has since passed on and died believing his “norm.” The other I have not seen in a while but heard where he has been living and it is not in a good area of town.
Since that afternoon, I have been convicted to help others see that their “norm” growing up does not need to define their life now. Everyone has choices, but they don’t realize that if all they know is what they grew up with.
At Refuge of Hope, we have the opportunity to show dinner guests and our residents a different life, a different “norm.” Building relationships with them allow us to share experiences and stories and perhaps change their perspective on life.
These relationships also afford us the chance to share God’s love and the “norm” we experience as a child of His! I honestly can say that I have experienced some challenges in my adult life and my earthly father helped me make some difficult decisions. But my Heavenly Father molded my spiritual life and walked beside me and does to this day!
My reflection in the mountains this weekend was gratefulness toward my parents for a good life. I am thankful to my Lord and Savior for His provision throughout my life and my future. So my conviction remains to the men, women, and children we serve at Refuge of Hope! We cannot change their past, but we can impact their future with the Hope through Christ!
Jeremiah 29:11 “…for I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” If God had a plan for the exiles from Jerusalem, I certainly believe He has a plan for my life, for yours and those we serve at Refuge of Hope!