Marisa’s Merry Christmas
How you are giving a precious child and her family the chance to rebuild their lives — and learn the real meaning of Christmas.
When I was younger, I thought Christmas was all about decorations, looking at Christmas lights, and getting presents,” says 12-year-old Marisa. “But it’s really about Jesus. I didn’t know that before I came to Hope Gardens. Now He’s my real dad.” That’s important to Marisa because her birth father was a raging alcoholic who emotionally and physically abused his family. He controlled their movements through intimidation and threats, often keeping them prisoner in their own home. And he’s now in jail for other child-related crimes. Marisa is just one of nearly 80 children who live with their moms at Union Rescue Mission’s Hope Gardens Family Center, a 77-acre sanctuary that offers transitional housing to families experiencing homelessness like Marisa’s. “She’s changed so much since we got here,” says Marisa’s mother, Jessica. “She’s beautiful, talented, and smart. I’m so proud of her.” Marisa came to Hope Gardens, along with her mother and younger brother, in February 2014, after struggling with homelessness for three years after the arrest of her father. Because of the abuse and trauma she experienced growing up, Marisa has trouble remembering much about her childhood. But she is opening up and thriving, thanks to the care she gets at Hope Gardens. “I like Hope Gardens,” she says. “I met my two best friends here.” She’s also very involved in the praise dance group, Bible studies, and other activities. “But the best thing about Hope Gardens,” she says, “is that my mom and I got to know each other better. Before, we were always stuck in bad situations. Now we’re safe and we get to spend more time talking about stuff.” She also enjoyed spending last Christmas at Hope Gardens. “We watched Christmas movies, made wreaths and stockings, and we even built a gingerbread house,” she recalls. “We also worshipped Jesus. And that’s important, because I know I’m a better person than I was before I met Him.” Like any child, Marisa still enjoys the excitement of opening presents on Christmas morning. But thanks to friends like you, Christmas means so much more now. And she can look forward to a real future when all is calm. And all is bright.
Celebrating 125 years of Transformed Lives
In 2016, Union Rescue Mission will celebrate 125 years of continuous service to people experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles. URM was founded in 1891, when we took to the streets in gospel wagons to offer food, clothing, and salvation to the less fortunate. Over the years URM has continued and expanded its efforts to feed both the body and the soul, helping individuals and families break the cycle of poverty and achieve self-sufficiency.
But really, for 125 years, the work of Union Rescue Mission has been YOURS — YOU are the Mission. Your faithfulness and generosity has transformed countless lives. Stay tuned over the coming weeks and months in 2016, as we celebrate YOU and God’s faithful care for precious men, women, and children.
Time’s Running Out
When you make a gift of any kind to Union Rescue Mission before December 31, not only will you make the New Year brighter for men and women experiencing homelessness, you will receive a charitable tax deduction on your 2015 tax return.
For more information, please call Armi Ramirez at
(213) 673-4825 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Asleep in Heavenly Peace — At Last
Marisa’s mother, Jessica, experiences Christmas happiness at Hope Gardens Family Center.
Christmas is probably my only good memory from childhood. My mom loved Christmas and went all out every year — decorations, lights, Christmas cookies, the big tree, everything. The problem was the rest of the year. Both my parents were addicts, and my father was also physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive. There was never much love in our home. Then I met my husband when I was 21. At first, I thought he was kind and just wanted me to stay home so he could take care of me. We had two children together — Marisa, who’s 12, and Jesse, who’s 9. We were married for 11 awful years. He drank every day, all day. He was so controlling, we could never leave the house. The kids weren’t allowed to have friends. We lived in constant fear. I tried to escape many times, but I just couldn’t make it on my own. We only got out after my husband went to jail. But we struggled with homelessness for three years before we finally came to Hope Gardens. We’ve been here for a year and a half now, and I can’t believe how blessed we are. It’s so beautiful here. My kids and I are safe, we have our own space with room to breathe, we can relax, and I feel like we’re getting to know each other for the first time without all the fear and trauma hanging over us. And there are so many other great mothers here who each make me stronger. The classes here have also helped me grow into a stronger, healthier, mature woman and mother. They taught me better financial management. We’ve all received Bibles, we’re going to church, and we’re growing in our faith. And now I’m preparing to go back to work. Last Christmas, here at Hope Gardens, was the best ever. In fact, I can say it was the first time in my life I was ever happy. My kids got to relax and be kids. We didn’t have any money, but thanks to Union Rescue Mission’s Christmas Store, I got to give presents to them. We celebrated the birth of Jesus together, because without him we have nothing. And we celebrated our new lives. This Christmas, I really will sleep in heavenly peace.
Notes from Andy
125 Years of Mission
In just a few weeks, Christians will celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, when Jesus brought healing and hope to a world filled with fear, cruelty, darkness, physical and spiritual hunger, and hopelessness.
Beginning in January 2016, we’ll also celebrate another birth of healing and hope — the 125th anniversary of Union Rescue Mission’s birth on Skid Row. That’s 125 years of bringing the hope and transforming power of Jesus to precious human beings struggling to survive on these mean, cruel streets.
In many ways, Skid Row is worse than ever. But there’s still hope, especially inside Union Rescue Mission, where Christ’s Light still shines, where peace dwells, and where lives are transformed for eternity. It’s our mission. But it’s not really our Mission. It’s yours. For 125 years, thousands and thousands of lives have been saved on Skid Row, because thousands and thousands of generous, caring people like you have partnered with Jesus, and with us, to bring His hope and healing into the dark world.
So in 2016, we plan to celebrate — to celebrate 125 years of Jesus’ presence on Skid Row, and to celebrate YOU. Because YOU make it all possible.
To read Andy’s blog, please visit revandysblog.com
URM’s 25th Annual Christmas Store
Give Kids Experiencing Homelessness Joy at Christmas
Thanksgiving and Christmas can be difficult for families experiencing homelessness. But for 25 years, Union Rescue Mission’s Christmas Store has brought joy into their lives when they needed it most.
This year, thousands of precious children at Union Rescue Mission, Hope Gardens Family Center, and other agencies serving underprivileged kids throughout the greater Los Angeles area, will receive brand-new gifts because of the 25th annual Christmas Store.
On December 10, more than 700 moms and dads with little or no income will enjoy the dignity of being able to provide their children with gifts they select themselves (for free) and give to their children personally.
All year-round, Union Rescue Mission embraces people experiencing homelessness with the compassion of Christ, and offers healing and hope to help them find their way home. And thanks to the Christmas Store — and generous friends like you — hundreds of families will find that new hope this holiday season.
For information about donating toys to the Christmas Store this year, please contact Victor Ortiz at (213) 316-2779.
Give Hurting People Something Meaningful — Hope
For most of us, the holiday season is a magical time of excitement and anticipation, gifts, good food, and time spent with loved ones. But for men, women, and children on Skid Row, Christmas is often a painful time without presents, food, a home — or even hope.
At Union Rescue Mission and Hope Gardens Family Center, however, men, women, and children experiencing homelessness will wake up with Christmas joy — and the hope for a new life — thanks to generous people like you.
This holiday season, your generous gift of $25, $35, or more will help provide special holiday meals, clothing, and shelter — and, yes, hope — to hurting individuals and families at Union Rescue Mission and Hope Gardens. Please send the most generous gift you can today. Thank you!
For more information or to put your gift to work even faster, go to urm.org/ChristmasHope
Sign Up for Rev. Andy’s Advent Email Devotionals
The season of Advent leading up to Christmas is a wonderful time for thoughtful reflection and joyful anticipation as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.
This holiday season, please sign up to receive Rev. Andy’s Advent series of daily devotional emails. Each day from now until December 25, you’ll receive scripture and messages focused on the Joy of the Season. To sign up for these special email devotionals, please visit urm.org/AdventDevotionals
Because of you: Kenneth’s Story
After my parents got divorced when I was in high school, I ended up living with friends, in group homes, and in foster care while my parents battled over custody. When my dad finally got custody, however, we didn’t have adequate housing, so we came to Union Rescue Mission in December 2008. Union Rescue Mission gave us a roof over our heads and gave me the stability I needed.
We left Union Rescue Mission in March 2010. Today, I’m a graduate of Loyola Marymount University and now I’m planning to go to law school. One day
I hope to go into politics and run for office so I can make an everlasting difference in the areas of homelessness, foster care, and elder treatment.
My goal is to one day be mayor of Los Angeles, and eventually governor