Stories for Avenues for Hope

Dec. 12-31 is Avenues for Hope here in Idaho. Trinity New Hope and The House Next Door  are doing several events together and we wrote stories about families we have accompanied.

FAMILY ONE – Trinity New Hope

The first family came to us in late 2015. They were a homeless family of seven made up of Mom, Dad, and five teenage girls. Everyone was living in two different vehicles. Four of the five children had disabilities and required a significant amount of assistance that was, and still is, quite costly. Mom literally had to stay home to take care of the family. Therefore, they were a one income home. The father had many challenges, because of the medical needs of his family, in trying to manage all of the expenses. Consequently, they lost their home two years prior. Yes, they had been homeless for two years prior to coming to Trinity New Hope! 
As a result of losing their home, the stability of having a home did not help his ability to maintain a job. At the time we met them, the father was working every temp to hire job he could get. But it was never enough to get started on getting into a home. That is where CATCH came in. Finally, someone was willing to help them get into a home. They just needed a housing provider to be a bit more flexible with their criteria and give them a chance. So, CATCH called us.
Three years ago, we started out with this family who was very broken, lacked confidence, and always lived in constant fear of losing their home. The heart was there, but that fear made communication difficult for them. It also made it very difficult for housing providers to qualify them. However, as the property manager, I had a significant amount of experience working with individuals and families in a fragile state and I was willing to help them. What I saw from the father was a sincere heart and willingness to do what it took to make sure his family was in a safe place. I also saw someone who had heard “no” so many times, that he did not feel worthy of anything or anyone. My goal, was to change that.
Now, after three years, the father has finally been given a full-time job that he has held for quite a long time now. He is trusted with a company truck because he lives in Canyon County and works in Boise. The eldest daughter is going to CWI; the second eldest daughter got married and has a home with her new husband; the mom has confidence in spades now and she partners with the property manager in doing whatever is required to maintain their housing. The girls have all learned, with some extra coaching from the property manager, how to help their mom keep their rooms clean, keep the laundry up, cook, and clean. These were all skills that they lacked because they had not had anything to take care of before. Ultimately, every month, every year, the family shows great progress and pride in what they have achieved. They have been able to consistently pay their rent and other bills, follow through with all of the annual paperwork for housing, and even buy a new-to-them 2010 car for her. She’s never had a car of her own and she is so proud of it.
This family still has more goals they would like to accomplish and I am confident, that they will.

FAMILY TWO – Trinity New Hope

The second family was a single mother with four children: a teenager and three children all under the age of 8, at the time they moved in. 
This mother came from a very violent domestic abuse situation and the level of fear was significant. She trusted no one and gave no one a chance to get near her to know her. As another CATCH family, she had an opportunity to get herself out of a very bad situation, but finding a home for her was a challenge. There were some significant credit issues, but they were not her burdens alone. The spouse had a lot of obligations he did not care to follow through with, so she was a victim of those poor choices. So, in early 2016, CATCH called us. They knew I liked to look at the whole picture of a family’s situation and not just focus on credit or rental history.
Her goal was to finish beauty school and get her instructor’s license so that she could get one job that paid well. For all of the two years she has been with us, she has consistently maintained 2 or 3 jobs to make ends meet. And…this summer, she was able to get her instructor’s license. We are so very proud of her. This month, she let go two of her three extra jobs, gained another better paying job, and just works two jobs. Just works two…wow, amazing girl.
This week, after having lived under constant fear and threat by the former spouse, she was able to find relief and peace because he is now facing a minimum of 12 years of prison time. The children are safe. She is safe. Her future has no limits.
FAMILY THREE – Trinity New Hope
The third family was a dad and mom, a teenage boy, a teenage girl, and two twin preteen girls. 
A year and a half ago, they heard about us from CATCH, but were on their waiting list, so there was no assistance. They used to be a very “well off” family with a 3500 square foot home, regular vacations, and just a comfortable and carefree life. Then the housing crash happened and by 2009 they had lost everything. They were in the construction business.
They had bounced around from place to place and tried very hard to find a decent place to live, but did not have any success. They had been living in another very rural town in Idaho, but work was scarce and they still were not able to climb out of their financial debt that kept plaguing them and preventing them from achieving a stable home. The housing crash years prior had put their credit in a very bad way and no one was willing to give them a chance even though he had been able to procure a good job. They too were living in their vehicles and had over extended their stay at the local shelters. They were very beaten down about the situation and even more distraught about being a separated family because of shelter requirements. Ultimately, they just needed someone to give them one chance to prove that they will be good renters. That is where we came in and it has been a year and a half and they are thriving.
The eldest son has graduated, the oldest daughter is focusing on art, the two teenage twins are stable and have made good friends, and the parents are both working very stable jobs. They are making ends meet, paying off their credit debt, and are finally letting go of the fear that they are going to lose their home. They have a goal again of owning their own home, but know it is going to be a long road. Fortunately, they have committed themselves wholeheartedly to making that happen.
FAMILY FOUR – Trinity New Hope
Finally, the last family was a single mom with five children: One teenage boy and all others under the age of 8. 
The mom had always been required by her husband to stay home and take care of the children, not allowed to work outside the home. Additionally, he never put her name on any mortgage contract or anything else to allow her to build any type of good credit. Conversely though, the credit that was connected to her was the bad credit choices he made by putting the utilities in her name and not making the payments. On top of all of this, she was a victim of domestic violence. Besides the oppression, the abuse was significant. In this case though, she had been homeless for a year and had been trying to break away from him for four years. But he had been tying her hands on everything in legal battles. Even her ability to work was and is affected because she had crazy restrictions from a judge that prevented her from being away from the children longer than two hours at any given time, on any day of the week, unless they were in his care.
Finally, CATCH activated her on their waiting list and called us. CATCH got her started. Even though she is STILL plagued by insane restrictions with her divorce and custody battle, she has been doing well in the last 9 months she has been with us. She says she has not felt this safe in a very long time. She still has a long way to go on her journey, but there is no doubt she will get there.
The House Next Door – One

Sandi heard about The House Next Door from a mom who used to live here.  She was couch surfing with her 2 kids, desperately trying to find a safe, reliable, and affordable place to live.  Sandi had started her GED years ago but then the test scoring changed, and she lost the progress she had made.  But she never let go of the dream of completing her GED one day.

Just a few weeks after moving into The House Next Door, you could see that a lot of Sandi’s tension had disappeared.  She shared with us that, “Just having a safe space to live has let me breathe and has brought peace to my life.  Now I am able to focus on the things I need to focus on like school, work, and spending quality time with my kids.”

Sandi began working on her GED and within a few months had already passed half of the tests.  She was able to take her kids on a family trip to see out-of-state relatives they hadn’t seen in years.  Her work, school, and family life merged into a healthier balance.

We are proud of the progress Sandi has made. But the real beauty is that Sandi is proud of her own progress and knows with the continued support of The House Next Door she will be able to complete her GED.

The House Next Door – Two

Allison found The House Next Door through her social worker.  She had been living with family in a run-down trailer that was overly cramped and not very safe for her 1-year old son.  After Allison visited The House and interviewed, she was determined to come live here.  She just seemed to sense that the community aspect of The House was something she not only needed, but an addition to her life that she longed for.  Like many of the mothers who come to live at The House Next Door, Allison told us, “I’m excited to live in a place with other single moms who get what I’m going through.  I want to learn from them; and hopefully I have something I can share with them too.”

Allison was spot on about how community can help us thrive.  The shared experiences of the mothers living at The House Next Door allow them to support and encourage one another not only in the good times, but especially in the hard times.  It didn’t take long before Allison felt she had a better handle on being a mother and pursuing school.  We could see her confidence blossoming along with her ability to hope for a better future.

This is one of the joys of working with these mothers. As we accompany them on their journeys, we get to witness the many transformations as they grow and learn, beaming with new skills and a healthy self-worth.  Allison recently shared with us, “I’m just so grateful for this program. I will say I have been able to work through any problems I have had and am sure I can do so in the future.”

House Next Door – Three

Esperanza was bouncing from homeless shelter to homeless shelter and was on as many housing lists as possible.  She was also in recovery and working to regain custody of her daughter.

She found out about The House Next Door at one of the shelters she was staying at and immediately came over to our office.  She picked up an application and got herself enrolled to complete her GED.  She was extremely grateful for just the opportunity to apply to live at a safe and community-focused place like The House Next Door.  Esperanza kept saying, “Even if I don’t get to live here, you have changed my life so much already.  I have confidence now that I can get my GED and more.”

Esperanza worked hard – hard at school, hard at recovery, hard at 2 jobs, and hard to regain full custody of her daughter.  We walked alongside her in the joys and the challenging days, giving her hope and encouragement that she could get through both. Soon, Esperanza became the source of encouragement and the you-can-do-it-even-when-it’s-super-hard attitude for the other mothers living at The House.

Barely a year later, she had completed half her GED, significantly reduced her debt and improved her credit score, had regained custody of her daughter, was still sober, and moved into her own 2-bedroom apartment.  She had accomplished and grown so much that it was hard to see her leave, even though we were extremely proud of her, and so happy for her to continue her journey.

Give to Trinity New Hope: https://www.avenuesforhope.org/organizations/trinity-new-hope

Give to The House Next Door: https://www.avenuesforhope.org/organizations/the-house-next-door

 

 

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Youth Recap of Houston

Reflections about the ELCA Youth Gathering shared in worship at Trinity Lutheran, Nampa July 8, 2018
Day 1
I honestly didn’t know what to expect in Houston I was so exited. After we got to houston from our 34 hour drive we all wanted to take showers and relax for the rest of the day. But when we got there we had 30 minutes to get ourselves situated and moving.
No one told me that we had a youth gathering at this part of the day. The youth gathering was like a concert with all sorts of differant things going on but it was mostly a bunch of people explaining how god affected their lives with lots of awsome music and preformences. The youth gathering lasted about 3-4 hours and we didn’t get home until 11-1 at night.
Day 2
Today was synod day today we had to meet up with our senete and wear bright green shirts. We were with the Washington, Idaho synod. I had lots of fun today.
Day 3
Today was community service day. Today we had to wear our orange shirts. For community service we cleaned out flower beds. I had lots of fun. I thought it was a good idea to get teenagers outside and away from their phones.
Day 4
Today we had to wear our blue shirts. We went to a celebration. There was lots of fun things to do like dancing, volleyball, yoga, puzzles and plenty more. It was fun. When we got back from that we waited outside to get inside the youth gathering building. It felt like it lasted forever because of all the heat and humidity. It was like this every time we went to the youth gathering but this one felt like the longest. Also today we got to get on the floor and watch it up close. It had alot of emotional speakers like the girl that was transgender and created a community of people just like her to help the world become a better place.
Day 5
Today is when we go home. I had loads of fun that week and I have learned plenty of things.
Also I have felt God everywhere this week.
Shelby Lageson, Entering 9th Grade
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Youth Reflections on Houston

HOUSTON TRIP

I was really excited about the trip to Houston because I love exploring new places. Even the 34 hours on the bus was fun at times. We played games and got to know one another. Houston was so different from Boise. People walked everywhere. You don’t see that much here. There were some really tall buildings. I experienced the subway/train system for the first time. The residents of Houston were really understanding about all of the kids packing the trains. Passengers asked us questions about where we were from and why we came to Houston. We were able to tell them about the ELCA Youth Gathering.

It was amazing to be with thirty thousand other kids who believed what I believe. At school I usually don’t talk about religion because my friends and I are not the same religion. In Houston everyone could understand my faith. The worship services were very meaningful. One evening we sat on the floor and we could hear the speakers much better and walk right up to the performers. The speaker’s stories were about overcoming fear and becoming a better person. Jesus made a big difference in their lives.

They reminded us that Jesus is with us, too.

The service learning day was my favorite day. Our group went to help at a community garden. I don’t know that much about gardening but was happy to help pull weeds. The thing I liked about being there was hearing the story about how the hurricane affected the people who lived there. It must have been really scary. The women told us about the violent winds and pouring rain that damaged homes and property and even the garden we were working in. It was nice to hear how the community helped them out, rebuilding.

I am happy that I am one of the kids that gets to attend the Youth Gathering as a freshman and again when I am a senior in high school.

Mwajuma Dusabe, Trinity Lutheran Church member, entering 9th grade

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God’s LOVE Changes Everything

caseykcross

A reflection from Colter Sprague, 10th grade.

Thanks to Hope’s generosity, I was able to attend the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering in Houston, Texas. This was my first time to attend a youth gathering. During this week, I saw God’s love emerge in many different ways.  When we first arrived, we joined 31,000 Lutheran youth and I witnessed their compassion and support of each other even though we were complete strangers. One of the things we did in our congregation was to help weed a garden and do landscape maintenance of community members needing help. The Treasure Valley youth all cooperated and showed love towards these people we barely knew. We ate with them and talked with them and became friends in a very short time. In my opinion, I thought that was amazing that our congregation helped these people in God’s name.

serve

On Sunday of our visit to Houston…

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God’s HOPE Changes Everything

caseykcross

A reflection from Ben Miller, 10th grade.

Hope. What a fascinating concept. Desmond Tutu said, “Hope is being able to see the light despite all the darkness.” Being able to see the light in the dark. During the youth gathering I listened as half a dozen people stood in front of 30,000 high school students and told us about the most embarrassing mistakes and how they fought through them using hope. Even when they lost it for the longest times. Even when they couldn’t see God. God was there to let them see the light in the dark. Whether it was physical like drug or pill abuse, mental like starving yourself because you think you will never be good enough, or emotional like letting yourself fall because of what people say. God was there to let them lean on a stable arm. To hold out the light of hope for…

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7 Encounters at the Youth Gathering

Leah Schade’s article in Patheos paints a beautiful portrait of what the ELCA Gathering was this year for people coming from places (such as her home, Kentucky, and my home, Idaho) where ELCA Lutherans are not the majority. My colleague Casey Cross did a great job in her Gathering Roundup of describing the experience the youth and adults from Hope, Trinity, Redeemer, Faith, and St. Paul had. I commend their articles to you. My Gathering 2018 wrap-up is going to introduce you to seven specific people/memories/moments.

  1. The DJ at the Mass Gatherings – I cannot find his name anywhere but this guy was amazing and so well prepared. Thanks to the television show Glee and the multitude of parents who have introduced their youth to earlier music, we were all, multiple generations, belting out classics like Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing and Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. We also sang This is Me from the film The Greatest Showman. What a gift to share this singing with the youth. It truly energized us. Thanks DJ.
  2. The amazing night desk manager, SooJin Han, at The Whitehall Hotel- I regret not taking a photo of this woman. I asked her for a few places we could go for brunch, with a group of 16, and have an authentic Houston experience. She sent us to the District 7 Diner one morning and Harry’s Restaurant another morning. Both meals were delicious. We supported local establishments. We did not have to wait long. Then I came to her asking about where we could purchase souvenirs and she suggested we go to the Houston Zoo gift shop, one of the stops on the Metro between our hotel and NRG Park.

    The Whitehall

    District 7 Diner

  3. Ms. Johnson – One of the things I loved about our Service Learning Day was meeting the people who coordinate and volunteer regularly in the Harry Holmes Healthy Harvest Community Garden. Long-time volunteer Ms. Johnson was asked how long she had lived in Houston and she clarified that she lives in Sunnyside, a neighborhood south of downtown.

    With groups from Idaho, California, Pennsylvania, and New York.

  4. A Servant Leader – None of our previous posts have talked about how transportation home at night was sometimes challenging. The first night, the Houston Metro simply was not prepared for the number of people heading back downtown. Night two was super smooth because the Gathering staff and city fixed the problems. Then, the next day, a semi-truck hurt part of the track so it could not run at a high capacity. On one of the evenings we were standing in a long line of participants, we saw ELCA Youth Gathering Director Molly Beck Dean. This was the high stress-point of the Gathering at that moment and here was the leader supporting her volunteers, showing them that she had their back and was working with them to find solutions. As someone who has volunteered at four Gatherings, this made a big impression on me.
  5. The woman in the car – After brunch at Harry’s Restaurant, we headed to the closest Metro stop. We were wearing our turquoise Treasure Valley Cluster matching shirts and I was the last person to cross the street, sweeping the group. A driver leaned out of her car and asked me, “Is this the Gathering?” I answered a quick yes and she said, “That’s wonderful.” This was Saturday morning and I knew the Gathering had been featured at least once on a local news station and in the local newspaper. It was fun hearing a Houstonian make the connection between our bright colored matching shirts and the positive press.

    In our turquoise shirts at Harry’s Restaurant.

  6. Vestments Photo Booth – Speaking of photos. I have a soft spot for the interaction center because my parents coordinated it for many Gatherings. It was in fine form at this Gathering and what epitomized it for me this year was the Vestment Photo Booth organized by the Worship Team of the ELCA. I ran into a pastor who moved away from our synod and he could not wait to show me photos of the youth from his church dressed up as pastor. How brilliant! The Interactive Learning Center is supposed to be a place for youth to experiment, learn, ask questions, and play. Well done ELCA Worship Team! I also heard great things about People on the Move: A migrant and refugee experience (put on by AMMPARO), conversations Lutheran Outdoor Ministries volunteers had with youth and adults about camps, and the ELCA World Hunger booth. On the bus ride home I listened to some of the podcasts recorded in the Interactive Learning Center by To hell with the hotdish

    Claire, pictured here, will be a sophomore at UW-Madison. She’s been told she will be going to seminary one day soon. 

  7. The Final 15 – It does not matter how exhausted I am. I love the Final 15, the time each day when Casey, Ken, and I asked the youth and one another to reflect aloud on the day. Sometimes we used the questions offered by the Gathering and sometimes we simply asked people to share what they appreciated and what was challenging. I have been a camp counselor, taken youth to four ELCA Youth Gatherings, talk often about how we never give kids and young adults enough credit for what they are absorbing in any given situation. I may no longer be astonished but I am always gladdened by what they say in that holy time of sharing. Their gratitude for the hospitality shown by the people of Houston and the Gathering volunteers, their delight in things like air conditioning and flavorful food, and their insights into what the evening speakers were communicating all brought me the deepest joy.
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The History of the Youth Gathering

Network is a Verb

StadiumThe ELCA Youth Gathering has a long history, and an even longer lineage, going back to 1902.  Do you think that the Youth Gathering will be coming to Minneapolis in 2021 for the first time?  Think again.  This will be the 14th time that this event will be held in the City of Lakes.

Thanks to John Hulden, who sent us this information.  Thanks to David Halaas for requesting the information from the ELCA Archivist.  And thanks to Joel Thoreson, the ELCA’s Archivist for Management, Reference, and Technology for keeping track of this great information!

Here’s the history of the Gathering in the ELCA and its predecessor church bodies, including the themes (when available) and any special, notable facts:

ELCA Youth Gatherings (1988-Present)

  • 1988 – San Antonio, Texas – “Rejoice in the Lord Always”
  • 1991 – Dallas, Texas – “Called to Freedom”
  • 1994 – Atlanta, Ga. – “2 Be Alive”
  • 1997 –…

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