Thelma grew up in a family of 12. Her father was a very strict pastor, especially when it came to church. “He made us go to church two or three days a week, and we didn’t have a choice,” she recalls. “But I never really understood God. All I knew was that I hated going to church because I was made to go.”
Thelma says her father was controlling, angry, mean, and even physically abusive. “It reached a point where I had taken enough abuse, so I ran away.”
She was 13.
On the streets, Thelma says she initially felt free, “because I was able to do what I wanted to do. But I made a lot of bad choices.”
Those choices included alcohol, cigarettes, barbiturates, and, later, harder drugs, such as PCP and crack cocaine — and she had three children along the way. When Thelma became addicted to crack, she lost custody of her kids.
“I couldn’t hold on to a job or an apartment,” she says. “I started living out of abandoned houses. Men beat and abused me. I started hustling and stealing — even from my own family. I got high to live, and lived to get high. It was a sad, hard life. Next thing I know, 25 years of my life went by.”
Through it all, she blamed God, believing He was punishing her, and that He didn’t care. But when she was busted for drug possession in 1998, Thelma hit rock bottom while sitting in a jail cell. Tired and scared, she cried out to God.
“God heard me,” she recalls. “In jail, I got saved. God filled me with peace and turned my life around. That’s when I found out that with God, all things are possible.”
Soon Thelma reconciled with her entire family, including her children. But God had even more for her. Part of her transformation also took place at Union Rescue Mission. When Thelma applied for a job at URM in 2001, she found a home. She has been working with men, women, and children experiencing homelessness ever since. Today she is URM’s Supervisor of Hospitality and Guest Services.
“I feel so blessed,” she says. “This is right where I need to be, helping people. God has shown me so much love, kindness, and compassion. That’s what I want to show our guests here at the Mission. I want them to know someone cares.”
When temperatures rise on Skid Row, the harshness of these streets turns even crueler for people experiencing homelessness. Right now, people are suffering from life-threatening, heat-related illnesses on the sidewalks outside our doors. And we desperately need your help.
Every summer, donations drop way off. Worse, right now we’re facing a serious and dramatic financial shortfall that’s threatening our ability to meet the needs of precious souls who need our help this summer.
Your Gift Offers Hope to Hot, Thirsty People on Skid Row
Your kindness will make a huge difference. Your gift today will provide not just water, but also cool shelter, nutritious meals, and another day of hope — in Jesus’ name — to these precious people who need your help the most this summer. So please send the most generous gift you can today. Thank you!
Grit and Grace
I hope you read Thelma’s story in this issue of The Mission. She’s one special lady. After spending so many years struggling with drugs and homelessness herself, she offers extraordinary understanding and compassion to our guests. She has a big heart and refuses to give up on anyone. At the same time, she’s also wise and tough as nails, when she has to be. But in Thelma, it’s all love, all the time.
And when you’re working with people who are coming in off these streets of Skid Row, that combination of compassion and tough love is essential. These streets make people tough or they die. And we have to match their toughness with equal amounts of grit and grace.
But we do it because we truly believe that the gospel of Jesus Christ can transform lives, no matter how damaged they are. The power of that gospel transformed Thelma’s life. And it’s transforming the lives of countless numbers of people at URM.
With your caring support, we live out that gospel whenever we offer hurting people food, shelter, counseling, medical and dental care, and more. That’s what makes Thelma special. And thanks to you, it’s what makes Union Rescue Mission special.