Several years ago, I was a single mother, working hard to keep my head above water and provide for my daughter, and Dennis was emerging from a 28-year drug addiction and had encountered God in rehab. Our paths crossed when he was living in a transitional home, and we began pursuing a relationship with Christ and with each other.
After the joy of marriage and expecting our first child, Dennis felt called to go to Slidell, Louisiana, to help the Red Cross serve the community after hurricane Katrina. The time in Slidell was life-changing, and from that experience we knew God was calling our family to serve others. We began to seek opportunities to serve the homeless and those in crisis through our local shelter. It was rewarding, but our hearts were being pulled to opening our own center.
Caring for Runaways
In 2008 we moved to Kuwait, where we quickly got involved in an underground church. There, we learned about a large population of runaway maids who had been trafficked to Kuwait under the guise of gainful employment. The Salvation Army and the Ethiopian Embassy partnered to open a shelter for these ladies, and we were asked to help start the operation. Again, God seemed to be outlining the sketch of His plan for our lives.
We spent two years in Kuwait and housed 35 women, but it was time for us to return back to the United States. We trusted God would plant us where we were meant to be. After spending some time praying separately, Dennis and I came together and discovered God had placed the same message in our hearts.
We were moving to Alabama. We had no home there, no job, no extended family and no plan, but we knew that was where we were supposed to go. We shouldn’t have been surprised when God provided both a home and a job within days of our arrival.
Out From Under the Water
In 2012, I traveled with a missions group, e3 Partners, to Rwanda. Our mission there was to evangelize and plant a series of small churches and home groups. After one particularly long day spent walking the dusty paths and meeting with the sweet people of the villages on their dirt floors, we made our way back to the mission point. There, I entered the church, just to sit for a moment and get out of the sun.
As I walked into the dark, clay building, I noticed a wash basin and plastic pitcher on a humble handcrafted table. The most beautiful woman dressed in colorful African dress asked me to sit so she could wash my feet. WASH MY FEET!
“Beautiful are the feet that bring the good news,” she said. All I could do was weep. I was so unworthy.
I remember my spirit opening up at that very moment. I could see everything so clearly. That night I began to frantically write down all of the details He was giving me: “You will open a homeless shelter for women. It will be in your home. You will call it ‘Joy’s House.’ It will be fully operational in September 2014.”
I could hardly keep up as I scratched out the details, from the color scheme of the paint to the structure of the restoration program God wanted to design for the residents. I was excited and at peace with the plan, but I knew if it was going to be successful, I would need to have the support of my family.
When I returned from Rwanda and began to share God’s vision with Dennis, he was fully on board. We were in it together.
Immediately we began to take in women facing crisis, working to integrate them into our home and into our family. We began to care for their souls and listen to their stories. But before long, we found our hearts and our ministry outgrowing our small 1,600 square foot house. We needed to find a property that would suit Joy’s House and our future residents.
Little did we know God had already designed the perfect house, and He did it in 1943! It was a 4,800 square foot home on nearly three acres. The property was overflowing with fruit trees and had room to spread out, garden, play, relax and serve. The most astonishing feature of the property was the additional 900 square foot home that came with the purchase at no additional cost.
In December 2012, we moved in and went to work making the smaller home suitable for sleeping quarters.
It is astonishing to look back now and see how God had been grooming us all along for His purpose and for Joy’s House. From living in a transitional home to starting a shelter in a foreign country, all suited to prepare us for this mission.
For us, relying on God requires daily submission. Trusting that He is in control and that His plans will not be thwarted comforts us when funding seems to be low, supplies are running short or one of our residents walks away.
Residents come to Joy’s House for various lengths of time. We have loved them well and have been invited into their journeys of healing and restoration. There have been successes, and there have been failures — a wonderful mix of highs and lows. We are growing in community, and God is moving in Joy’s House.
We always look forward to partnering with God to put shattered pieces back together.
Launch and God’s Provision
To our future resident who may be reading this, I want you to know you are not hidden from God’s sight. Even now as you read this, He sees your heart, and He knows your struggle. He is gently nudging you to make the next right decision — for your future, for your children, for your life.
We at Joy’s House are praying for you, that you will have the courage and be fearless to make the change that is needed to set your life’s course on a new path. We believe in you, and while it will be hard work, it will be worth it.
We can’t wait to see your sweet face and help you discover all the JOY God has planned for you.