Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Little Bit About Cheryl

Hi, my name is Cheryl Thornsbrough .  For as long as I can remember I have had two "heart visions" for my life.  The first was at the age 24. I was a volunteer at a Baptist church in Iowa.  My responsibilities included  overseeing the Nursery and the writing of special articles for the church newsletter.  It was during this time God placed it on my heart that "someday" I would be "on staff" at a church working for Him.  The second was in 1994.  Again, God came close and placed on my heart a burden and a vision to minister to those who are displaced  & homeless.  To the "forgotten or Invisible" people we pass by each day without seeing their true need.

In May of 2013 I met with Chelsea Wagner and Ashton Greer.  Now , I'm going to date myself here, but there is a classic movie, "Ann of Green Gables". (a must see for any woman). In the movie  Ann speaks to her friend and says these four words, "We are kindred spirits."  I knew that day in May I had met "kindred spirits." Our passion and heart desire was the same,  to serve God and to follow His leading wherever it takes us.  You see I didn't know these two women of God until they walked into my office on that Thursday afternoon. I didn't know their vision but God did.  I didn't know God had placed on their hearts to  minister to homeless pregnant women, to provide them shelter and to love them with the transforming power of  Jesus.  Okay now, hang on this will blow your mind, it did mine.  What Chelsea and Ashton didn't know  is early in 2012 I was made aware of a  house and property that was to be given away.  The vision at that time was a transitional shelter to minister to women pregnant and homeless. I know! Isn't GOD AWESOME! 

28 years after my first  "heart vision," God placed  me in a position at  CrossRoads Christian Church in Danville, IL.  and for 19 years He has been quietly working behind the scenes developing His plan for my life to minister to the homeless.  All along this journey He has placed me in positions to developed new skills,  allowed me to walk through trails that only He could have pulled me through and shown His Power and Glory in my life in miraculous ways that at times are indescribable.

As I sit here writing this for the blog, my heart is bursting with love for my God .  At times it's very hard for me to contain my excitement as this "New God Adventure" begins with Her House.  I serve a God that spoke and this world was created.   I know He is speaking now, building Her House.  My prayer is He will  always find me with child like faith,  trusting in Him.  To God be the glory.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Update: Praises and Prayer Requests

Things with Her House have been moving along kind of slow, but we are always reminded that God's timing is the best and only time and that doors will open and close as needed to keep us going in the right direction. We have been prayerfully considering many options that have been presented to us, and a few times now doors have closed for us. We are thankful for the times when we have clarity and know that we should not move forward in specific directions. It just means that God has another, better plan.

Here are just a few of the many things that we have to be thankful for:

A few weeks ago we were told of an opportunity to have a second location because there was another home in Danville that a woman was hoping to donate to a non profit. It was arranged for us to see it, and although it needed so much work, it was in a central location and it had a great layout. Chelsea and I loved it very quickly and could envision another shelter for families called "His House" or even a second location for Her House in the future. However, we were still unsure as to if we should accept the home or not due to the large amount of work that we already have to do on the first home and we really wanted Cheryl to see it before making any sort of decision about the house. Before Cheryl could find time to see the home, another non-profit spoke for it and we became second on the list for the house. God closed a door for us in that moment, and we felt a lot of peace. He could open it back up, who knows?! But for now, a door is shut and we are thankful for the answer. Praise God for giving us clarity!

A pre-established non-profit organization in Chicago showed a great deal of interest in what we are doing due to the amount of families they are responsible for sending to Danville. They felt as if they should be held responsible for helping pregnant teens find shelter since they have sent so many of those families away from their homes. They offered to make us a division of themselves. This was such an exciting thing because it provided us with legitimacy, support, grant-writers, resources, financial guidance, and so much more, but after meeting with them we realized that there would be so many restrictions placed on us as Christians to do the work that we believe matters most. Speaking openly about our faith and praying with the young women became a very sticky area and we gradually understood that the core values and beliefs of this non-profit did not line up with ours. Although this seemed to be a financial haven, it was also a barrier to sharing the gospel with the young women we so greatly hoped to reach out to. We have with certainty and peace decided to go our own way, and continue the path to establishing H.O.P.E. Ministries as an independent non-profit. Her House is one of the many divisions to come of H.O.P.E Ministries. Praise God for directing us in that decision and for not letting us get caught up in the temptation of security that would have led us astray.

The first step we took toward becoming independent and established has been completed! Praise God for the help we received as we filled out our business license application and were assigned an employer identification number! We are officially a business that is recognized by the federal government! This was such an exciting step for us.

Money has been coming in for Her House in little bursts through donations and fundraisers. We know this is just the beginning of God's provision. The thirty-one fundraiser that most of you heard about was a success, raising nearly $400 for the cause! Praise God for meeting and exceeding our current financial needs!

We had a meeting last week with the woman who has donated the home in Tilton to us, and we are officially now ready to begin working on the house. So many of you have asked how you can give your time to volunteer. We have our first big project coming up on September 14th from 8 AM to 5 PM. Lunch and water will be provided, and if you can't come for the whole day that's okay! We will be sorting through the items in the home, selling some, throwing others away, and saving some back for the family who donated the house. The hope is to have the home cleared out at the end of the day and ready to begin construction. Praise God for helping us move forward and for giving us and all of you the opportunity to do something that feels like progress. This is such an encouragement to us.

We have met with so many amazing people who are on board with Her House! You wouldn't believe me if I told you how many different women across the community have had this very thing laid on their hearts for years for Danville. The support we have received and the encouragement has been just what we need to keep going, persevering, and waiting on the Lord. Praise God for all of the hearts he has been preparing to be a part of something so big and bold and beautiful!

 As you can see, God has been on the move. He's been moving and changing me through all of this as well. It's amazing to me because as you read before, I feel like things have been going slowly, but I am realizing now that I just contradicted myself with this large list of praises! To me it feels they are moving slowly because I have not had to force anything or really put forth a huge amount of effort. I don't find myself struggling to do thing after thing for this ministry. God has made the path and we have just walked in it in His timing. I am learning to have faith and not to rush things. Chelsea is in the same place. Our timing is not what Her House needs. The perfect timing is in God's time, and really he has made the path pretty smooth. We believe that He will continue to do so.

Here are a few things that you can pray for with us, and wait on with us:

The non-profit paperwork seems so intimidating to Cheryl, Chelsea, and I. We have some help coming our way in the next couple of weeks though and I think we will have the application filed by the end of September. Pray that this whole process goes smoothly and that someone with the knowledge of the legal side of things will come alongside us and help us through every step of the way. Pray that our application will come through and we will officially become non-profit so that we can write tax receipts and begin fundraising on a larger scale.

We need another committed individual to join our trio. We are finding that not one of us has the gift of managing the financial side of the business. Right now we're on a very small scale as far as donations coming in and receipts to keep, but we know that the small scale is going to get larger and larger as all of this progresses! We need someone with knowledge and skill who is good with numbers, and taxes, and being organized. We are praying for a willing individual with time and the right heart to become a part of our team. We know that this will happen in God's timing!

We've been down a few different paths trying to hire someone to write a business plan with us, and help us set up some sort of budget so that we know a general idea of what we need, and so that when we do seek out financial help we can present a business plan along with our requests. So far, we have had no luck in getting this accomplished. Pray that the perfect person will come along to help us in this venture.

Once the home is cleared out, we have some big decisions to make as we begin the process of restoring it. Pray that God would make that path clear and that the resources will be made available. Pray that we would know some sort of timeline to having this finished.

Lastly, pray for all of us who are making decisions for this future ministry. Pray that we would be rooted in scripture, seeking God day after day. Pray that we would not be distracted by the toils and troubles of daily life, but that we would find rest in Him. Pray that we do not grow weary of doing good and that we would be patient always. Pray that every decision we make is made prayerfully and out of solid relationship with Christ.

"Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God." Philippians 4:6

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Let the Fundraising Begin

Most of you probably know that for the last 6 weeks or so we have been gearing up for our first official fundraiser for Her House. It all started out with a small pile of stuff in my basement that needed a home and ended up becoming the biggest rummage sale I've ever been to, and believe me, I go to a lot of rummage sales. After weeks of preparation, spreading the word, and collecting donations we had more things than we knew what to do with. We spent hours in the warehouse sorting and pricing.

Initially a few of the common phrases around the warehouse were:
"This is amazing!"
"Look how many donations we have!"
"God provides!"
"Keep them coming!"

After a few days of organizing and pricing:
"This is overwhelming."
"I think we have to only sleep, eat, and be at the warehouse from now until Saturday."
"More donations?" *sigh*
"What is this thing?"
"There is something alive in that box."

Day before the sale:
"Seriously, more donations?"
"Lets just not price the linens. There's too many."
"I know we were planning on getting here at 6 am, but I think we should get started at 5."
"I'm so tired."

As you can see, the labor was beginning to take a toll on us and on our attitudes. Of course, we were still so grateful and excited for the event to happen (I actually couldn't sleep on Friday because of excitement and all I dreamt of was shopping at rummage sales), but we were beginning to feel the expected tiredness that comes after a hard week of work at an overwhelming task. A couple of days before the rummage sale someone prayed for our ministry and for us specifically that we would not grow weary of doing good. This really struck me. I recognized that I was indeed growing weary of doing good. It seemed odd to me that doing good things can make a person weary, but it was the truth in my life. Since then, it has been my prayer that God would continue to restore us and all who are involved in this ministry so that we can press on in our efforts to do good. I also am continually praying that God would move and make it clear to us that we are taking the right steps and we are on His path.

Today was simply amazing. From before we opened until after we closed we had people at our sale. There was not a single moment without a shopper. It was raining throughout the day in different parts of Danville, but we were never rained on. A huge amount of items sold and only a small amount remained. Enough money was raised to pay all of the legal fees that come with establishing a non-profit business, and then some! God greatly blessed Her House today. He has greatly blessed all of us who are involved in this ministry because we have chosen to be a part of His work. Thank you! Thank you for praying, giving, and being a part of this ministry.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Her House, Not Ours

Where did this all start, you ask? Well, it's kind of hard to pinpoint an exact space in time where this vision began in our hearts. The visions came separately to each of us, but also in complete unison with each detail lining up perfectly. We have two hearts, two very different personalities, but we have the same God with the same plan. If I had to try to explain it, this is what I would tell you:

About four years ago Chelsea and I took an adventure to Quito, Ecuador where we both did internships with Inca Link. For Chelsea, the experience was wonderful, full of new and exciting things, and life-changing. For me, it was life-changing as well, but it was far from wonderful, and it may have been the hardest thing I had ever done at that point in my life. I actually left a whole month early from my trip after many sleepless nights and tears, and I came home disappointed and wondering why I felt God leading me there only to get there and feel lonely and misplaced. Someone wise told me after my return home that eventually my questions and doubt would be answered and God would reveal time after time why He had me there and what the purpose was. I think that Chelsea would agree with me when I say that four or more years later, God is still confirming doubts and filling in the spaces, and as time passes I see more clearly why we were there, and why we were there together.

We worked with multiple ministries in Ecuador including an orphanage, a soup kitchen, and a women's prison, but the ministry that grabbed my attention the most was one that had not even been opened. Inca Link was in the process of establishing a home for young, pregnant mothers in Ecuador who were abandoned when they revealed to their families and friends that they were pregnant. I remember feeling so amazed at the idea of being able to offer hospitality and security to young women in such a vulnerable place. I thought to myself, now this is what the church should be doing. Rather than shutting doors and turning cheeks we should be opening our homes and hearts and arms to the broken. This is the seed that God planted in my heart, and in Chelsea's heart while we were in Quito. Chelsea and I did not share with one another our hopes to open a similar home in Danville, but in both of us the dream had begun.

Years passed after returning home, and the time we spent there became gently faded, but God continued to grow in me a love for all things pregnancy and childbirth, and for all hurting and invisible women. I became pregnant myself, delivered a child, and became more and more passionate about caring for women during such a vulnerable time in life. What may be exciting and joyous for one woman can be a scary and devastating time for others. I felt more and more like I needed to come alongside those who were scared, abused, neglected, alone, stuck, invisible, and beaten down during a time when it is so important that they rest, let go of worries, and have nourishment physically, spiritually, and emotionally.

Chelsea and I have remained close friends and we have weathered the storm that friendship brings. There was an evening about a year ago when Chelsea and I carpooled to a bridal shower in Bloomington, IL and on the ride back we got into a conversation that led us to share with each other our visions. I had heard Chelsea talking about how she wanted to serve women with her life in the past, and she had known me to say the same, but we had never shared the dreams that we kept locked away in our hearts of opening a shelter. We were shocked to hear that our hearts lined up. Perfectly. We started talking about what it would take to open up the shelter. We began to ask if we were crazy. Could we really do it?  We both started dreaming and hoping and inside the car was completely silent for a minute or two when a bright and beautiful shooting star flew right across the sky directly in front of our windshield. It may sound silly to you, but God was speaking to us in a very clear way in that moment. God gave us an answer, and we knew that we needed to be in prayer about when to take action.

Some months later I was working for a period as a community-based doula. During my time in the position my eyes were opened wider to the need for the women's shelter. I saw the abusive relationships, the domestic violence, the pregnant teens, and the hurt and daily struggle in the lives of women that live right down the street. I witnessed wandering, homeless pregnant teens who just couldn't go home. They would bounce from house to house until their friends mom kicked them out or live with an abusive boyfriend because in their world, there really was no other option. The one women's shelter in the city was full. I would find myself during working hours browsing the web for grants to open shelters, shelter webpages, domestic violence statistics, fundraising ideas. One day when I was at my desk God spoke clearly to me. What are you waiting for? The time is now. Right now. I am with you.

I texted Chelsea immediately and she came over that week and we were giddy and giggly bouncing girls when we decided that God was telling us to move. Chelsea shared with me about a journal entry she found from when she was in Quito that said "I finally know what I want to do with my life. I will open a home for pregnant teens." Confirmation! Shortly after, I quit my job. I began pursuing the vision God had placed in my heart many years ago. Chelsea and I began with prayer, and then lists of ideas and brainstorming, and then decided that we needed to share our hope and our plan with other Christ-followers. So we did just that, and after hearing some encouragement along with some realistic barriers that we would face, we left with a better idea of what it might take. We were directed to a woman by the name of Cheryl who works at Crossroads church and who has had a vision to establish a non for profit organization called H.O.P.E. ministry for many years. Under the Hope Ministry umbrella she hoped to have homes for the homeless along with a clothing ministry, and whatever other ministries God spoke there to be. She has a heart full of love for the homeless, and she had been praying for confirmation from God that it was time to move on it. She prayed for 19 years before Chelsea and I walked into her office and told her that we also have the same vision in our hearts. Chelsea and I had only been pursuing the opportunity for a couple of months at this point and we had already began to doubt with our foolish and swaying, human hearts.

Ten minutes into our meeting with Cheryl we could tell she was so excited to see us. She had tears in her eyes as we spoke, and she praised God for sending us to her after years of waiting.  We were then given a house to use for our ministry. Free. Completely and totally free. A woman who attends Crossroads had just donated the house and many of the leaders in the church had been praying about how it should be used. Separately many people were told from God that it should be a shelter for pregnant women. The same week, Chelsea and I contacted Cheryl. I was in shock, then ecstatic, then saddened. I closed my eyes and apologized to God for having such tiny faith in Him. This is so much bigger than myself. It is so much bigger than Chelsea. This is not our house. It's hers. It's from Him to her. We are only the vessels. That is why we are calling the refuge "Her House".

Her House is a 4 bedroom home with 1 and 1/2 baths with a three car garage. It is a nice house, but it needs some work. We have just began the first stages of establishing a non-for-profit status. We are fundraising to prepare the house for the young women and to pay the legal fees to establish the business. We have a home inspection scheduled for this coming Thursday along with an estimate of the costs for repairs. God has been so faithful in this whole journey. Looking back through my life and my path I can see His hand guiding me, but there is still so much that I cannot see. I am sure that blessing after blessing is lined up and ready to come our way. We do not want to take credit for this home. We want to stay humble in this journey. Without God this would not be.

"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." (Proverbs 19:21). Chelsea and I have plans. We have opinions. We have decorating preferences. So does Cheryl, for that matter. None of this matters. The Lord's purpose will prevail. We hope that you will join us in this journey. Join us in prayer. Join us in praising God from whom all blessings flow. Join us in pouring out Christ's love to those who need it most.

"Nothing is impossible with God." (Luke 1:37)