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In December 2015, Karen made a commitment to God and to herself that she wouldn’t enter the Village of Hope program unless she was going to finish it.
On October 8, 2017, as she stood as valedictorian in front of her friends, family, and 22 fellow OCRM graduates, she knew she had done more than just finish the program.
Her story was deeply personal, so she began with a discussion of her name. “The name ‘Karen’ means ‘Pure’,” she explained. “And I was born on All Saints Day.” But, like all of us sinners, Karen did not consider herself pure or worthy of sainthood.
Her struggle with homelessness began with chaos in her home life. Karen was having an affair and in the middle of a divorce from her first husband. Her oldest daughter, a high schooler, kept getting into trouble with the law. Karen had recently watched her dad die in front of her and struggled to process the trauma and grief. She couldn’t think of a way out of her situation – so she turned to alcohol.
She describes herself as living “like a tornado,” taking whatever she needed and leaving wreckage behind. Finally, she reached a night when she had nothing. Sitting in the darkness of Aliso Creek Beach in her car, drinking wine and sobbing, Karen fully intended to drink until she died.
However, as she drank, her desire to kill herself faded. She went to the hospital and told them she had tried to kill herself. Asking for help, not just taking what she needed.
It was something the “tornado” had to learn.
From the hospital, she went to a crisis residential program, where she encountered a resident of the Rescue Mission. Within two weeks, she had also applied to the Rescue Mission’s Village of Hope and been accepted.
Transformation was finally happening, reflected in little signs like the beauty of hummingbirds and a reoccurring verse. As she completed the two-year transitional housing program, Karen was continually seeing hummingbirds, as if a reminder of her commitment to finishing the program. Meanwhile, Psalm 46:10 appeared over and again on bookmarks given to her, a plaque from an on-site woman’s conference, even in song lyrics on the radio while she headed to the graduation.
“Be still, and know that I am God.”
“Do you think God is telling me something?” Karen joked.
The program has helped her work through her pride, learn to trust, and practice humility. Through Trinity Law Clinic, Karen has been able to file for divorce, bankruptcy, and has had two charges expunged from her record. All free, thanks to the program.
“This was all God,” Karen said. “Just divine intervention. And the greatest gift I could ever ask for is that my family is here tonight.”
Thank you, Karen, for sharing your story. Praise God, who makes all things new for those committed to following His Word!
Please join us in celebrating all 24 of the October graduates. As Karen noted, “it’s a tough program,” and we congratulate them for putting in the work necessary to become self-sufficient!
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