She sat across the desk holding a silent conversation with an unseen friend.
Her story was like so many others: placed in foster care at the tender age of five, averaged three institutions per year until age fifteen when she ran away for good, molested, abused, neglected, abandoned, gang affiliations, a criminal with a violent record, a mother with many children all lost in a storm – a hurricane, a broken heart – hopeless and alone.
She came to my office due to a rule infraction - a disciplinary problem in the shelter.
“Do you know Jesus?” I asked.
“Have you ever heard the Gospel?”
“No, what’s that?”
I handed her a small booklet, The Four Spiritual Laws, and asked her to read it.
“Out loud?” She asked.
“Yes, if you want.”
She started with the first law about how God loves her and has a wonderful plan for her life.
“Do you believe that?”
“Yes,” she said somewhat hesitantly.
She read the next part about how sin separates us from God so we cannot know and experience God’s wonderful plan for our lives.
“Do you know what sin is? Have you sinned?”
She read the next part about how Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for sin – how He died in our place for our sins – paid our debt - so we could be reconciled to the Father. As she read, she began to weep.
That was when she began her dialog with the invisible Guest. As she wept, she nodded her head in agreement to some inaudible admonition. She shook her head as though saying "no," then nodded her head again. Tears flowed down her cheeks, and she wept and wept, and wept... Twenty minutes passed as we (staff) waited for her to finish her conversation. The flow of tears diminished, and she grew calm.
“Is God talking to you?”
She read the last part – the part about receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – opening the door of the heart and inviting Him to enter in.
“Would you like to give your heart to Christ today?”
She left with a smile on her face and Christ in her heart.
“So what can you tell me?”
“What do you mean?”
“What can you tell me?” She asked again, sitting across the desk with a look of shock, bewilderment, and resignation on her face.
“I need a little more information.”
She looked at me a moment then told her story:
“Ok,” taking a breath, “I had a good job, a beautiful home, a wonderful family, and a great car. Within the last few months I lost my job, home, family and car, and I came to this shelter a few days ago – in shock. Today I decided this is too much, so I tried to kill myself. I stood on the railroad tracks in front of a train, but the train stopped two feet in front of me. I can’t even kill myself! I came back in the mission, and your staff brought me to you. So, what can you tell me?”
Silent prayer for Godly wisdom...
“Well, I don’t know why all of this happened to you, but I do know the Star of Hope Mission is a crossroads in life – a place where God meets people on their journey of life to get their attention for one reason or another and convince them to change course. Do you know God?”
She shook her head.
“Have you ever heard the Gospel?”
She shook her head again.
I shared the Gospel with her. She listened intently, her features difficult to read.
“Do you believe this to be true?” I asked.
“Have you ever received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Do you have a personal relationship with Him?”
“Would you like to?”
“Yes,” she responded, and gave her heart to Christ.
A few months later I received a letter from her in the mail. It read something like this:
"Mr. Black, I wanted to update you on my situation. As you know, I lost everything and came to the mission where I met Jesus Christ. Since I left the mission, I got my job back, my family back, a nice house and a better car in just a few short months. However, the one thing I have now that I did not have before is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ! I am so glad for all that happened to me and for God’s grace in my life. Just as you said, the Star of Hope is a crossroads - where God encountered me! My life will never be the same."
Last week I was sitting with some of my girls during free time when I had to ask a group of them to quiet down. Immediately, they all pointed fingers at each other, trying to shift the blame on someone else other than themselves. I gave them a stern look and told them, "Now girls, you know we don't point fingers at each other". Immediately, another girl standing near me turned around and said, "That's right. Adam and Eve did that too, and God did NOT like it!"
I know this may just seem like a funny story to tell. But actually, for our children, this is a big success story! I had told these group of kids the story of Adam and Eve months ago, and it was huge to see them remember it and apply it to their everyday lives.
Keep praying for our kids! God is doing wonders in their young hearts!
It's Spring Break, and the children are having so much fun! We have had so many different activities this week: a game day, an afternoon of dancing and worshiping to Gospel rap, a movie night. Tomorrow, we are all heading over to Women and Family Emergency Shelter for a big festival--popcorn, and hot dogs, and snow cones included!
Today, the children and I went outside to enjoy the beautiful day God created for us. The sun was warm, and there was a nice breeze running through the courtyard at Star of Hope's Transitional Living Center. The children asked me if they could play with chalk, and they all expressed themselves in such beautiful ways with it! The Bible says that "out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." I think that this is very true. And if out of the overflow of the heart we also write and draw...well, look at the amazing things that are stored in our children's hearts!
On a particularly hard day working at Star of Hope's Women and Family Emergency Shelter a few years ago, I paused in my day and prayed to God, "Please, Lord, let me see these people as YOU see them." Later, as I sat at my desk and wrote this poem, I knew it was His answer to my prayer...
God spoke to me today, He said, "Give me shelter."
God spoke to me today, He said, "Clothe me."
God spoke to me today, He said, "Feed me."
God spoke to me today, He said, "Love me."
God speaks through all those around me--when they ask for something and I give it--I am giving it to my Lord.
Original Poetry by Erika Rae Wise
"The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for the least
of these brothers of mine, you did for me." -- Matthew 25:40
I Volunteer at the Women and Family Emergency Shelter on Wednesday evenings. I brought books to share a couple of months ago, and recommended one in particular to an elderly lady. Last week she told me how much she was enjoying the book, and I mentioned that if I ever saw it again I would buy it for my home library. She approached me last night with something in her hand....it was the book. She had wrapped it, using a toilet paper wrapper as gift wrap. She fashioned a rose out of toilet paper and affixed it to the package. She also gave me a card, which reads,
I would lke to "thank you mam" for letting me read "Shadow Divers", very much. I laughed and cried with the characters. It is a great book! Thanks from the bottom of me (sic) heart.
Needless to say this is a gift that I will cherish for a very long time. I will probably never take the wrapping paper off of the book.
Returning from vacation, I was greeted by a Manager who said, “Have you seen X? She’s changed!”
X is a guest who had come to the Shelter for 6 years off and on. She was always just at death’s door when she came to us – a result of a life in bondage to sin and degradation. Staff could not put her in a room due to both her physical condition and her violent disposition. Each time she came, they would put her in a special place, care for her and nurse her back to health. Once healthy, she would reward staff’s kindness by cursing them out and leaving to continue her life of bondage. Not having seen her for some time, the consensus among staff was that she was most likely dead.
“What’s changed?” I asked.
“I’ll let her tell you.”
Crossing the street at noon to get some lunch, I heard X call my name.
“Mr. Black, you heard I was back?” she said as she came to speak with me.
“Heard about how I changed?”
“Yes. What happened?”
Tears began to role down her cheeks, and she lost her voice. Her eyes were full as she pointed up at the sky and then to her heart.
“You met Jesus?”
She nodded, overcome by emotion and unable to speak. She didn’t have to speak, the smile on her face told it all.
For the first time, we were able to move her into a room and then into permanent housing. The last I heard, she was still clean and sober and living for the One who set her free and gave her a brand new life!
Last week I was able to attend our monthly graduation program here at Star of Hope’s Transitional Living Center, here in Houston. This program is for women and families who have encountered hard times and found themselves homeless.
Unfortunately, we have more single moms than dads. It is just hard, when life turns its back on you and nothing seems to go right for you or even worse, for you and your children!
At the Transitional Living Center we have 45 single women rooms and 66 one, two and three bedroom apartments for our families. They come here when they are ready to step up to life change. Star of Hope offers a good, safe, dry bed, meals, as they try to learn more about some of the skills they have missed along the way.
It is a miracle to attend a graduation service, where the ladies get dressed in caps and gowns, as they participate in a graduation. Their friends and family come to encourage them; after all, a few months previous, they had been homeless, maybe even a resident of the Star of Hope Women and Family Emergency Shelter.
Last week we watched as nine ladies were recognized for completing program segments. The smiles on their faces, the heartfelt joy that was evident, and finally, the testimonies that they offered reminded me that our Creator loves each of us with an everlasting love! Now as they are going through the program, they have that faith which is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1). Please say a prayer for the less fortunate right here in our community…May God richly bless you and your family.
Her body language was angry and defiant as she paced back and forth in the lobby. Her hand gestures punctuated her angry words. A staff member stood at a safe distance speaking gently and softly to her in Spanish.
“What is she saying?” I asked.
“Basically, she is cursing me, and I am blessing her.”
“Well, keep a safe distance just in case.”
“She is not in reality. She thinks I am a family member from her past.”
She stopped, cleaned out her bag, became compliant for only a few minutes, then returned to nervous pacing and defiance. Her behavior had reached the point where she was a danger to herself and others at the Shelter, and she rejected all attempts by staff to reach her. CIT officers came and transported her to the hospital for observation and possible stabilization on meds.
Like so many others, she was trapped in a troubled past – but unwilling to receive from those who loved her, the freedom she so desperately needed.
Only Jesus can truly heal a troubled past, and He will if we will let Him. He came to set prisoners free and to proclaim freedom for captives. This freedom, however, is a gift that must be received by grace through faith in the person of Jesus Christ. Not everyone wants it, or values it, but those who find Christ find freedom unlike anything this world has to offer – freedom of the soul.
Star of Hope -- you are a lifesaver! Last year, when I was stranded in Houston (no car, no money, no roof over my head), you took me in -- fed me, sheltered me, provided a temporary home base. I took your Bible Study class and loved it.
Finally, when a member of my family came to get me (I live in Los Angeles), you greeted my driver and guided us home.
I'll never forget Star of Hope, and I hope that you serve as a model for emergency shelters worldwide. Hope I can pay you back somehow, in some meaningful way.
All the best to all of you!
• There are 13,500 homeless right here in Houston.
• Star of Hope, a local homeless shelter prepared and fed over 620,000 meals during the 2011.
• The number of homeless families in our city increased by 25% from 2010.
The economy is really impacting our lives!
The high point in the evening is always the testimonies from those who has been homeless in our city and have been able to experience “life change.” One such testimony was offered by a 17 year old high school student, Courtney. His mom had been taken ill and with a long term illness, she ultimately lost her job, and they were evicted. They came to Star of Hope and after a time were able to regain their stability, individually and as a family.
Through a community service volunteer group who came to Star of Hope, Courtney was able to visit the University of Houston campus, met with several top level administrators, and he was able to get a scholarship offer (he wants to be an aeronautical engineer)!
He has a ways to go (he is just now completing high school, but he looked so special as he stood there in front of 2,300 attendees and told his (and his family’s) story. It was so special to see young man in his ROTC uniform to stand and talk about the “life change” that he has experienced and the blessing that Star of Hope, a local homeless shelter in Houston, has offered to he and his family.
Star of Hope is not just a men’s shelter or an emergency family shelter but we also have a longer term program for homeless who need assistance. I hope that possibly you were able to attend the annual banquet, but if not…please be sure that you don’t miss it next year!
The first pic is from many years ago and the second is more current! The parallels touched my heart in that, while years have passed, there are still the less fortunate in our city, who really need our help. Every day, Star of Hope helps over 1,000 persons, about 1/3 are children. The more I work in this homeless Christian Ministry in Houston, the more I am concerned for the children, the next generation. Last night the Star of Hope Women and Family Emergency Shelter on Dowling had 63 persons sleep on a pallet on the floor because the 74 rooms were filled! Please pray for these persons, that they will find their way in our world! If you can help, you can donate today. Also, you can find out how you can volunteer, and learn more about homelessness in our city!
Thanks for your prayers. They become the catalyst for life change! God bless.
BTW, don’t miss our annual banquet, February 2nd, at the Hilton Americas. It will be a great night to learn more about Houston’s homeless! Make reservations now and bring a friend or neighbor, or both!
May God richly bless you and your family during this Season of Thankfulness!
Discover ways to give and help Houston's homeless with Star of Hope Mission.
Visit Donation Opportunities Houston.
There are only a few weeks now until Thanksgiving and whatever plans we are making, they most certainly will include a gathering event focused on food! Fortunately for most of us, we’ve never really had to wonder where our next meal, or our Thanksgiving meal, was coming from.
Recently, a mother and her three teenage children staying at our Women and Family Emergency Shelter expressed deep gratitude for the meals provided by our generous supporters. She was moved to tears when talking about the compassionate care they were receiving at our Shelter.
She told us that before coming to Star of Hope, they were literally starving. One night, her three children shared one can of tuna fish, while she had to go without food. They decided to come for help, and she was so grateful to have good food for her kids and herself!
This Thanksgiving…when you pray the Lord’s Prayer and ask God to give you your daily bread, why not also include a prayer for families who you are helping feed during this holiday season? You can make a tremendous difference in the lives of families like this mom and her three teens, by giving what you can to provide meals to them.
Every year at this time, we are amazed and humbled to see how God uses so many of us in our community to come together to feed and care for our neighbors in need. Join us now, by making a gift and include them in your hearts and prayers during the Thanksgiving holidays.
Blessings to you and yours this Thanksgiving!
Visit Food Donation Houston.
Thanksgiving is a time we all count our blessings, and I want you to know that hundreds of Star of Hope’s residents and graduates are thanking God for you!
In our special Thanksgiving edition of The Light, we’ve included some heartfelt thank-yous from three ladies whose lives were completely transformed by the food, shelter, spiritual support and long-term care you help provide . . . like Michelle.
Michelle arrived at Star of Hope in deep grief after the loss of her mother. For a while, she’d tried to “medicate” that grief with addiction, but she knew that could only lead to more heartbreak, so she humbly asked for help at our Women & Family Emergency Shelter downtown.
With homelessness on the rise among Houston families, we didn’t have a room for her right away, but Michelle was grateful just to sleep on a clean “overflow” mat for a few days. She knew it was the first step to stability. You won’t want to miss her inspiring words about her journey . . . or the other stories and photos of lives you’ve changed.
Thank you for being part of stories like Michelle’s through your ongoing support and prayers. These are difficult days for many in our city, and your help really matters!
Discover ways to give with Star of Hope Mission.
Visit Donating to Charitable Organizations Houston.
One night at dinner time, Faith shared with her counselor that she had been struggling with the idea of taking her life. When her dad died, she had tried to jump in front of a car, but it swerved just in time to spare her young life. Faith has felt so alone. Her mom abandoned her as a baby, her brother disconnected from the family, and her high school age sister has moved away.
As she shared her deep scars that night, a whole new world opened up for Faith, as our staff shared with her the truth of God’s love for her, through His Son, Jesus Christ. Faith placed her trust and hope in Christ that evening, and began a new journey. Today she is learning from God’s Word and about God’s Plan for her life…the future and the hope He has for her!
We thank God for his infinite wisdom and perfect timing. We also thank so many of you who provided financial resources for Faith, and over 100 other homeless children and teens who attended Summer Camp this year!
Faith and Hope are very much alive, this summer, through the Children’s Ministries of the Star of Hope Mission.
This exciting plan is set to the backdrop of ever growing homelessness in Houston. We are now experiencing as a community our 3rd year of record, serious overflow at our Women & Family Emergency Shelter at 419 Dowling, and something must be done! Our city, state, federal budgets are strapped and doing all they can, and we already work closely with over 100 health, housing, recovery, education, job training, and independent living partners in our city. VISION 2015 will take us to the next step.
It’s important to remember WHY we should serve those who have lost their way. God’s Word, in Jesus’ own words, teaches us in Matthew 25:31-40 that it is our duty and calling to love, feed, clothe and care for those in need, and in so doing, we are serving Christ himself. In our service, He changes lives! Watch this video of how a family has been restored; I know you’ll be as moved as I was:
And thanks to Bryan Bullington of the Pearland Chick-fil-A for hosting a donations drive and outdoor event at his store earlier this month.
If you want to serve on a long term basis, there is no better way than making a Legacy Gift to the Star of Hope. We all need to plan for our financial futures, and as you do, we want to invite you to consider including the Star of Hope in your estate plans. In this way, you can leave a lasting "Legacy of Hope" Gift to help accomplish the work Christ commanded us to do, for years to come.
If you’re interested in learning more, we have a new website with a WILLS PLANNER for your use. Visit sohlegacy.org. Review the various topics there, and click: “Plan Your Will” to get started. Also, we are having our 2nd Annual Planned Giving Advisory Council Luncheon coming up September 13th. Get more information and register today for this complimentary and informative luncheon. We hope to see you there!
Best Buy recently had a Splash Party at Star of Hope's Women & Family Emergency Shelter with slip-n-slides as well as a HUGE blow-up water slide! Every kid had a smile on their face that made their whole little demeanor glow. They were so happy – they were so childish --- and so perfect, exactly how God made them! Take a look at the following picture and you will totally see joy, silliness, and adventure! God is so good!
Visit Star of Hope Mission - Charity Houston
When I answered the phone Friday morning, I noticed the out-of-state area code. I was uncertain who would be on the other end of the call when I picked up the call.
"I know someone who is at your shelter," the caller began, "and, I looked up Star of Hope on the Internet and that's where I got your name."
I immediately began the "rote" answer in my head "I'm sorry, we cannot give out information on client who may or may not be in our program. You can leave a message and IF he/she is a client, the message will be left." But, the words never left my mouth.
That is not what this caller wanted. *Julie just wanted to know more about Star of Hope. The story unfolded...
*Gina, was in Julie's youth group at a church in Tennessee MANY years ago. As a 17-year old, Gina was involved in programs at the church and became close to Julie and her family. Now, eleven years have passed...Gina's family has disowned her; three failed marriages behind her; drug and alcohol abuse; seeking love in all the wrong places...and, the police brought Gina to the doors of Star of Hope's Women & Family Emergency Shelter.
"She's there," Julie told me. "She called me from there last night and there was someone there praying for her. I think a staff member. And, we have been texting this morning. Can you please help her?"
I explained to Julie that Gina was in a safe place. I told Julie that our staff are loving and care for each person who walks through the doors. I told her our mission statement and that we are a "Christ-centered" community. Julie was glad to hear that...she had been thinking of sending Gina a bus ticket to come back to Tennessee, but felt confident in Star of Hope's ability to care for her friend. "She's lucky to have someone like you, who cares about her, even if you are far away right now," I told Julie.
"She's hit rock bottom," Julie shared.
"That is where God takes us sometimes," I reminded Julie. "Sometimes He puts us in a place in life where all we can do is look to Him and the grace and mercy he supplies."
Julie was comforted that her friend would received God's love through the staff at the Women and Family Shelter.
When I hung up the phone, I called the staff at the Women & Family Emergency Shelter and asked if they would follow up with Gina. They did...and, she is excited about a future that will include a stay at our Transitional Living Center's New Hope program for drug recovery; finding a job and earning her own money; and, long term housing with the New Horizons program.
Gina has never really lived on her own...she is frightened, but comforted that Jesus said, "I will never leave you, or forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).
She is able to only see a few steps ahead, but knows that she is on a pathway leading to the Lord, and that is enough!
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
The only place for them was on the floor on a mat, but they were grateful and came anyway. Thirty five families with their 55 children and 51 single women all came needing safety from the city streets and the heat. Can you imagine if the best thing in your day is finding a mat on the floor in a homeless shelter?
Well, they came to the right place! They are safe, loved, fed nutritious meals, had a bath and received new clothes (if they needed them)… even a toy or a book for their children. And today they will find a listening ear and a welcoming staff who will help them stabilize from their trauma, receive medical attention through the on-site Harris County Hospital Clinic… and as a private room opens up, a modest room for them and for their family.
Most importantly, we will help them to look UP and to hear once again something they haven’t heard or believed in many years… the truth that God loves them and has a very special plan for their lives. Only He can forgive their past, heal their heart’s wounds and bring light and joy back into their lives!
A former guest of Star of Hope posted on our Facebook Wall last week: “I am so grateful not to be sleeping on that floor tonight, but I am also so grateful that floor was there for me to sleep on at the beginning of my journey to recovery.” Watch this video from KHOU News 11 to see what inspired this comment.
Within the next few days of their stay with us each adult will be helped to evaluate their situation, develop a plan for this week… then next week, then for the month to come. They will be counseled for personal needs, their children will have a safe place to play and receive love and encouragement, and help with their own needs in the midst of family homelessness.
Star of Hope’s Women & Family Shelter is the largest emergency facility in Houston serving families and single women in our five county area who have become homeless. We try not to ever turn anyone away. For two years now, the shelter has functioned at near capacity every night, and has experienced significant winter and summer peak overflow needs. Last night was the highest night of need on record. We are working on broader solutions to the growing issue of homelessness in our city, and our vision is to grow from serving 1,000 homeless people per day as we do now, to serving 2,000 per day, by 2015.
Want to help? You’ll be glad you did!
Give today at Supporting Houston Homeless Shelters
While we work with the parents to help them recover and plan their re-entry into everyday life, the workforce, and independent living, we take good care of the kids. Age appropriate activities and learning opportunities, and lots of fun, are all a part of summer at Star of Hope for those 18 and under. I know you agree that a good dose of "normal kids stuff" in a loving supportive environment while simultaneously teaching the young victims of homelessness about all that God has planned for them -- is a big help to the children of these disintegrated families.
Did you know, Star of Hope is one of the few providers in Houston where families can stay together when they become homeless? Unlike many other facilities, our Women & Family Emergency Shelter has small but adequate private rooms for families. Parents are so relieved that their children don’t have to be removed from them by CPS...making their homeless situation even more traumatic because of lack of shelter and program facilities that serve intact families.
We’re BUSY as ever this summer, with more people on our Houston streets than any time in recent documented history….up 25% in just the past year alone. You can make an investment into healing and uplifting one of these families this summer, by checking out the Ways to Give to “Summer of Hope”: Visit SummerOfHopeHouston.org.
P.S….in case you’re wondering: "THE BLOB" is a large inflatable tube that kids jump onto and bounce off of in a lake…it’s a lot of fun…and all a part of giving these kids an OPPORTUNITY to begin a new life!