Every Christmas, Olivia’s father tried to make Christmas special for his seven children. Olivia always loved the presents she got—but what she really wanted was a home she would never have to leave.
When Olivia smiles, you’d never know the difficulties this 15-year-old has faced in her young life, including hunger, homelessness, and growing up without a mother.
“It was always hard for my dad to find a job,” she says. “So we had to move around a lot. It wasn’t easy for my dad. There were seven of us kids, and he did everything he could to make sure we had food to eat—but sometimes we went hungry.”
Despite the hardships, however, Olivia was determined to stay focused. “I don’t think I ever paid much attention to it,” she says. “I just wanted to focus on school.”
Olivia’s father, Joel, struggled to find adequate housing he could afford for seven children. Over the years, Olivia and her family lived with various family members, but eventually they were turned away because there were too many kids. After that, Olivia and her family lived in a public storage unit, occasionally a hotel room, and even their small car. In 2018, however, Joel ran out of options and brought his kids to Union Rescue Mission.
Joel worked hard to build a new foundation for his family, and he was a true asset in the Downtown Los Angeles facilities while they were here.
Olivia says, “I went to the Worthy of Love Birthday Celebration event on the roof where we danced and got to see amazing animals—dogs, horses, llamas, rabbits, snakes, parrots—and I even traveled on a jet for the first time in my life, when we got to go to a Los Angeles Clippers game in Sacramento!”
Olivia remembers that her first Christmas at URM was especially fun—with so many festive events and even presents to open. Yet she wished for one thing more: “I wanted all of us to live together in a new home that we would never have to leave.”
“I love our new home,” Olivia says. “We have so much space, and I can’t wait to spend Christmas here!”
It took time, but Olivia’s Christmas wish finally came true when the family moved into a new four-bedroom apartment in March 2019. “I love our new home,” she says. “We have so much space, and I can’t wait to spend Christmas here!”
She will never, however, forget her experience at Union Rescue Mission. “It’s such a welcoming place, and I hope they never change anything about it.”
Show men, women, children, and families devastated by homelessness the way to hope, healing, and practical solutions!
You’re Providing Gifts and Hope for Our Kids!
URM’s 30th Annual Christmas Store
“Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’” —Luke 9:58
The holiday season is often a painful time for families devastated by homelessness. For 30 years, however, Union Rescue Mission’s Christmas Store has brought joy into their lives when they needed it most.
This year, 500-700 children at Union Rescue Mission and Hope Gardens Family Center will receive brand-new gifts because of the 30th annual Christmas Store. On Wednesday, December 16, more than 200 moms and dads with little or no income will enjoy the dignity of personally shopping for gifts—free of charge, and all while practicing social distancing!—which they will give to their children on Christmas morning.
Thanks to the Christmas Store—and generous friends like you—hundreds of families will find that new hope and a way home this holiday season.
Union Rescue Mission is accepting unwrapped toy donations for the Christmas Store through December 16.
Jaime, age 12
I would like for my cousin and uncle to be okay. My cousin has Lupus, and my uncle got surgery for a bladder infection.
Justin, age 14 I want my little brothers to be reunited with us for Christmas.
Bella, age 7 I want a new home for Christmas.
Sign Up for Rev. Andy’s Advent Email Devotionals
The season of Advent and days leading up to Christmas are 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 November 29 to December 24, 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
The Thanksgiving Dinner Event is coming soon! Find out how you can give hope and bless people this Thanksgiving by visiting urm.org/thanks2020 today.
Please give hope to men, women, and children this Christmas!
2020 has been devastating for many of our neighbors in Los Angeles—and families have been the hardest hit. But you can help. This Christmas, we anticipate nearly 150 families, including almost 350 children, will spend the holidays at URM and Hope Gardens Family Center. Like the baby Jesus so many years ago, they face this Christmas without a home.
$4,920,000 needed by Christmas
Times are especially hard right now. To care for everyone who needs help this Christmas, $4,920,000 is needed by December 25. 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 children and their families here at Union Rescue Mission. Please send the most generous gift you can today. Thank you!
Olivia, from this issue of The Mission, is a lot of things: enthusiastic, grateful, passionate, beautiful, vivacious—but mostly, she’s indomitable. This is one young lady who will let nothing stop her, not even her experience of homelessness.
As we head into the Christmas season, I think about all the other children like her here at Union Rescue Mission and Hope Gardens. Over the weeks ahead, we will point them to a Christ child born into homelessness, just like them. A Christ child who tells them: “Look to Me for hope. Set your eyes on Me. Don’t let anything keep you from Me, because I will always be here for you. Whatever you go through in life, I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
At the same time, our kids now know you won’t forsake them, either. This entire year, you’ve gone over and beyond for them. Your support has made this difficult part of their lives the best it could possibly be—and in many cases, just like Olivia, you made it possible for them to find their permanent homes.
This Christmas, I pray that God comforts you with hope and peace in these challenging times. God bless you!