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Recent News and Love Stories
Editor’s Note: The following story uses the pen name Karen in order to protect the privacy of our client.
Miracle is a word often used around Easter and in the spring when the earth erupts with new life and beauty. It’s also a word that could describe Karen’s life.
Karen was offered her first drink of alcohol at the age of 4 by her parents. When they hosted big parties for her father’s co-workers, they saw nothing wrong with including Karen and her brother in the festivities. At the age of 12, Karen’s mom decided to move with her children to Washington. But since most family members were addicts, the situation didn’t really improve.
Karen couldn’t stop drinking during high school and was finally kicked out her senior year. She had several run-ins with the law over the next decade. They included multiple DUIs, serious car accidents in which she was at fault, drug arrests and more. She spent several years in prison.
Finally, at the age of 30 after being released, Karen sought treatment to get over her addictions. It took several tries, but she eventually found success in the Milestones program after moving to Corvallis in 2006. That’s when she discovered God wanted to work a miracle in her life.
Karen describes taking a walk to get some ice cream when she saw a liquor store along the way. As she passed by, she told God she just couldn’t do “the addiction thing” anymore – she really wanted to stay sober. She said at that moment God delivered her from her addictions and now, she’s been sober for the past nine years.
Life’s still not been easy. Multiple health issues including bad knees and a sore back cause constant pain. She hasn’t been able to find steady work. But with the support she gets at local Alcohol Anonymous meetings and a number of friends and even strangers in the community who can relate as recovering addicts themselves, she’s making it. She’s got a home to live in, a car and is an active AA volunteer trying to help other people overcome their addictions.
Karen received help from Love INC shortly after arriving in Corvallis. She was given a bed, some appliances and a feeling of worth she desperately needed. “I found at Love INC a group of complete strangers who actually cared about me,” she said.
Her advice to people struggling the way she has in the past? Don’t give up. Be honest with yourself and admit you have a problem. Then get involved and go to the AA meetings, she said. “Look for the key people in your life who might be angels ready to help you.”
Karen also believes in prayer. “I don’t ask why I had to go through all I went through, but I do believe in God,” she said. “Miracles keep working if you have faith.”
The Love INC staff agrees, having watched Karen turn her life around. “We have come to love and appreciate her perseverance, courage and humor over the years.”
Allow us to share several love stories “in process” . . .
An older woman who now has adult children readily admits she didn’t live wisely as they were growing up. Since then she has come to know Jesus and is currently writing worship songs that she then shares with a Bible study group … singing and playing. She says, “My legacy to my kids is now going to be these worship songs. I have no money to leave, but this I can give.” A story of redemption and transformation! Pray for her adult children to see her in a “new light.”
Another story in process right now is that of a young parent who needed housing. She tried for two days to get a ride from Linn County over to Philomath. If she didn’t get this housing it was likely she would lose her housing voucher. We called our Church Ministry Liaison at First Baptist in Corvallis and she was able to find a volunteer who lives in Linn County but often is in the Corvallis area and was willing to bring this young lady. They made it happen! Now this young parent and child will not be homeless! Thank you, ladies for making this happen on very short notice. You are stellar!
We are working with a senior man with serious health issues. Thankfully we have had various volunteers from different churches able to assist him. Some brought him hot soup, another picked up prescriptions for him, a couple of others drop in and visit with him. A local pastor also visits him periodically and they discuss Jesus and what that could mean for this man. The client is articulate, humble, artistic and every volunteer is glad to interact with him. Pray for this man to experience God’s love and forgiveness.
A group of ladies at Grant Avenue Baptist Church recently put together snack boxes for an older teen who is often on his own. This teen chooses to stay after school and study as he has a goal to graduate soon. Now he has nourishment as he perseveres. This tangible expression of care is HUGE to a hungry teen.
A new client called and is in tears. Newly homeless now, today her car just stopped working. She is already afraid, never having experienced being homeless before. Now her car (her shelter and safety) won’t budge. What will she do? None of the options are very appealing. We pray … asking God to make a way for her.
Another younger client calls and is only in need of hygiene items. We have been working with her for a while and know she recently had a setback, making a poor choice. However, on this phone call she wants us to know she “is really doing well again and moving forward.” This is good news indeed! She’s been working hard for quite some time to change unhealthy habits. We rejoice with her.
A senior calls and reports she may not have enough money for groceries the rest of the month. We want to find out why. A volunteer plans to go and visit with her to see what is going on. The facts are that this very lonely lady was drawn into a scam and gave money she didn’t have. Of course, we will help her, as needed, with food. The deeper issue is how can we, the church, help her feel loved and cared about? In what ways can we help her get into more positive places? This volunteer persistently invites her to church. We believe she is close to going. Please pray she would have the courage to do so.
A college student wants to know how to interact better/more effectively with people who are dealing with being homeless. He comes to work in our office. He answers phones and chats with clients. He is learning. Now he’s going to bring a group of friends and we plan to talk about strategies and ways they can be more effective, as they go about handing out burritos. We love seeing God raise up people for ministry!
GOD is at work in all of these stories, in all of these lives. No one is ever lost to Him. Please pray for Love INC volunteers that choose to reach out and love people all over our valley. We are asking God for an outpouring of Holy Spirit power that moves into hearts and lives to interrupt old, sour ways and bring sweet new fruit and life into His Kingdom! Thanks for praying with us!
Recovering from a drug addiction is hard enough. Recovering from the loss of a child is even harder. But Mary Dumas is a testimony of how God and widespread community support can get you through really difficult times.
Mary moved to Corvallis from Albany about seven years ago. She was homeless and had three children to support including a 6 month baby. None of the shelters there would allow her to stay with kids, but she was able to move into the Community Outreach Inc. shelter in Corvallis.
After her baby was born, Mary realized she had to stay clean and sober beyond her pregnancy in order to take care of her children. “I just gave it to God and asked him to help me,” she said. She didn’t want her kids to be taken away from her but she knew that was a possibility if she didn’t change her life permanently.
She was accepted into the Milestones Recovery program where she first met LaCheri Carlson, the Call Center manager at Love INC, and Wilma VanSchelven, Love INC’s former executive director.
“I called Love INC and was honest about my past,” Mary explained. Love INC volunteers delivered bikes to her children and she admits, at first she was a little suspicious.
“But then I got to know what Love INC is all about and they helped me with my spiritual growth and with groceries and they helped me move into a house of my own after graduating from Milestones in 2010,” Mary said. She had applied for HUD housing and a local property owner with ties to the recovery program helped her get into a large house with plenty of room for three children.
Love INC provided some furniture, dishes and other items to help the family get settled. In turn, Mary agreed to let Love INC store a lot of the donations for the annual Christmas Store in the basement of the house. “I wanted to try to give back to them and to the other organizations in town that had helped me along the way. I realized there’s a whole community here willing to help me as long as I do the right things,” she said.
Each volunteer who met Mary was drawn to her honesty and to her dependence and submission to God. She is a very “brave, courageous and persevering” woman, LaCheri says.
In December 2012, Mary’s youngest son was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder and they began to spend a lot of time at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland. Love INC continued to minister to the family. They took groceries to their home where Mary’s sister cared for the other two children and LaCheri called often to pray with Mary over the phone.
When her son died just six months after he became sick, Mary said many people thought she would probably relapse into her old habits and addiction. “But I told them I have an awesome God and the community-at-large kept me going.”
Mary’s son was born on Mother’s Day and as she considered the possibility of losing him, Mary said she realized he was a “gift from God” and that she needed to give him back to God. He had been the reason she had become clean and sober and straightened her life out.
“I just gave the whole situation to God, and even though I still grieve over the loss of my son because he’s not here with me physically, I know he’s my angel. God sent him to be an angel to his older brother and sister and to make me be a better mom,” she said.
At her little boy’s funeral, Mary asked people to bring Hot Wheels cars – her son’s favorite toy – instead of flowers. Then she gave all the toys away to local charities to share with other kids so they could enjoy them as much as her son did.
Mary continues to try to give back to the community that’s helped her by volunteering with Vina Moses, the Marys River Gleaners and Love INC. She says LaCheri is still one of her biggest support persons.
“I want to help others because I’ve been in their situations before and I want them to know there is still hope even after going through difficult times. You still have to believe in Christ and stand strong, even when life gets tough,” Mary said.
Maggie is an independent senior living on a fixed income. We first met her in 2010 when she was caring for a grandchild and her water heater failed. She is not a person who asks for help, but this cost was beyond her ability. Love INC was able to help connect her with an agency that provided a water heater for her, and a friend was able to help install it. What a blessing to see prayers answered!
Two years later, Maggie again encountered difficulty beyond her ability in the form of a leaky roof. Rain was coming into her home and leaking down the walls. Love INC was able to introduce her to Habitat for Humanity’s new home repair program and they fixed her roof to keep her safe and dry. The local newspaper interviewed her about this story, but her 150 pound tortoise stole the show!
The process of repairing her roof offered the opportunity to develop our relationship with Maggie. We referred her to a local church looking for people to “adopt” for Christmas gifts. The group at Northwest Hills wrapped and delivered a warm flannel shirt and a shiny new waffle iron. She was ecstatic! She repeatedly told us how much it meant to her, and this small kindness enabled us to deepen our relationship.
Because of the developing relationship, when Maggie had a bad fall she immediately reached out to Love INC. This strong, independent woman would simply not be able to do necessary daily things during recovery. Thankfully a new Church Ministry Liaison (CML) at Life Community Church was able to reach out and help with some basic needs. Kathie helped with dishes, vacuuming and weedingand the two became friends. Maggie was touched by Kathie’s kindness when she came by each week to make the bed or when she just called to say, “Just checking in with you . . . can I do anything for you?”
Kindness matters! This is a fine example of how Love In the Name of Christ works. A volunteer begins to care for a client, develops a relationship with them and Christ’s love speaks in their lives!
Today Maggie thrives on the emotional and moral support of Love INC and her local community. “Without you people calling me and caring and offering prayer, I would be in the toilet,” she says. She lives alone now with very little family involvement and, when interviewed for this letter, she said, “I really mean it. This has meant everything to me knowing people care about whether I live or die. I absolutely count on you for this needed moral and emotional support. You must tell people that is the most important thing.”
Moving forward, the Life Community Church will be hosting a barbecue in Maggie’s neighborhood. Pastor Dale was asking God how to minister and reach out to the local community and was reminded of the relationship with Maggie. Instead of telling folks how we can help them, he decided that food and fellowship provided the perfect opportunity to listen and get to know folks.
The barbecue is planned for this month — please join us in praying for this event. Thank you, Life Community Church, for loving the members of your community! Maggie is delighted about people coming to be friendly and share food, not just “shove” Jesus at them. She is all about being real.
Thank you to everyone involved in this story for listening to discover ways to help and for going “above and beyond” in opportunities of servitude. Love and kindness are truly impacting this client’s life in profoundly positive ways. All of this was put in motion when a feisty lady called Love INC to ask for help she really did not want to ask for. Now she calls for encouragement and prayer. Now she has volunteers in her life who are also caring and praying. Now she feels loved In the Name of Christ.