The past can be a difficult thing to leave behind. After a lifetime of struggles, tragedy, disappointment, heartbreak, bad choices and other baggage, it can take a miracle to overcome—a miracle realized by the women and children right here in the New Life Ministry at Shepherd’s Door.
For the women and children at Shepherd’s Door, Christmastime, in particular, is a very special time of year. It’s a time when the past can be put behind them, and amid the hard work of the recovery process, they can rest knowing they’ll be taken care of in amazing ways by compassionate donors, generous volunteers and a loving staff that cares deeply for their healing. It’s an incredibly restorative time, and it’s one that through your kindness has been made possible through your support of Portland Rescue Mission and Project Christmas Care (which as of last week was fully-funded).
For Sherri, one of the residents at Shepherd’s Door, this Christmas is “probably going to be my best Christmas ever. There’s no trauma of childhood. There are no problems with men, and husbands, and all the things that went along with that for me.
“I have God back in my life. I’m watching the generosity of the volunteers, which is absolutely amazing, and I expect it to be beautiful as a result—especially with Christ at the center of it.”
Just one year ago, Sherri’s life came crashing down all around her. Trapped in a relationship for four years with an alcoholic, and helping raise his child, Sherri finally had to split up with him because he couldn’t stay sober. She ended up on the streets and the child had to go to the authorities. Shortly thereafter, the nightmare took an even more tragic turn, Sherri’s dad committed suicide at the beginning of December.
“It was a very dark and lonely time,” she explained. “I wasn’t at a point in my life where I had God back in my life. It was such a hopeless feeling.
“When your dad commits suicide, your whole foundation is gone. And when that’s gone … it knocks everything down and takes all your compasses away.”
And yet, where there was once nothing but dread and despair, is also a void that is now being filled up with joy from a new reality that Sherri is experiencing every single day.
“The generosity of the people that donate to Shepherd’s Door is unbelievable. Everything we wear, everything we eat, everything we do is donated, and it brings the women to a point of feeling like they have great values,” Sherri said. “It lifts us up and makes us know we can keep on going. It’s a beautiful thing.
“If we didn’t have donors, we wouldn’t have healing women and children.”
Kat remembers back to a time she spent Christmas in jail.
“The very last Christmas I had before I came to Shepherd’s Door was detoxing in jail, and it was not a very good experience,” she explained. “I spent a lot of holidays in jail, and it was the worst. … Being away from your kids is the most difficult part.”
Kat recalled one Christmas Eve, in particular, where she got arrested right in front of her kids. It wasn’t for about two years after that when she was able to see them again.
Since then, Kat has not only transformed her life completely, but she’s just a month away from graduating from New Life Ministries. She hopes to stay on at Shepherd’s Door for a year of Service, which is an optional second year of vocational training and leadership development at the facility. This will be Kat’s second Christmas at Shepherd’s Door.
“It’s amazing to me how many people give so freely of their time and of their money—especially for people they don’t even know,” she described. “You would have to work pretty hard to feel isolated here during the holidays. There is so much love and joy around here.
“Last year, I moved through Christmas way too fast, I just wanted it over. But now, I’m in such a different place. I just want to soak in each moment.”
“I felt so abandoned. Abandoned by my parents and my grandparents,” said Raquel.
Thinking back on Christmases past, that’s how Raquel described one of her worst holiday experiences. At only 17 years old, and with a newborn baby boy, Raquel’s parents got divorced. It was the first Christmas she and her two sisters didn’t get to spend with their family altogether, and it was one of the hardest things she’s ever had to go through.
“I remember dealing with my baby sister’s feelings, and trying to explain to her the best way I could that neither mom nor dad was around,” Raquel explained. “I used drugs, that’s how I dealt with it. So I didn’t really deal with it at all, I just stuffed it all down.”
That was seven years ago. Today, because of your help, Raquel and her boys are here at Shepherd’s Door, and this Christmas looks completely different.
“We’re not alone anymore,” she said. “Every good gift really does come from the Lord, and these strangers that have never even met us just pour out their love on us. It’s crazy. … It makes me cry.
Raquel continued, “It gives me hope. It shows how much people care. When you’re in your addiction, you’re so lonely, selfish and solitary. You forget there are good people out there. Just being here really opens your eyes to see that … You become more than just a junkie. You become a human being.”
Thank you for helping women like Sherri, Kat and Raquel make new Christmas memories this year, both through Project Christmas Care and otherwise. It’s because of you that they’ve been able to gain new perspective during what should be the most wonderful time of the year. They’re working hard toward a new life, and you’re working hard to make that possible for them.