Every year, Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana shuts its doors, cancels its services and sends its congregation out to do service projects all over the city.  This year, World Next Door sent a team of volunteer journalists from Grace’s congregation to tell some of the stories from the weekend.

This is one of those stories.

To read all of the Weekend of Service articles from 2010, click here.

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Not What I Thought

Written by Whitney Vance

An abusive marriage.  A drug addiction.  A death of a loved one.  Chronic health problems.  A lost job.  We don’t plan for these things.  We look at other peoples’ lives and say, “That could never be me.” Until you fall in love with the wrong man, fall into the wrong crowd, or experience something unexpected, you find yourself saying, “This is not the life I had in mind for myself. This is not what MY life is supposed to look like.”

As I spent hours talking to the women and children at Wheeler Mission, no one specifically said this to me, but you could see it in their eyes and hear it in their stories, almost as if they were defending their own lives.  Many are not happy in their circumstances and you can almost hear them thinking, this is not the way it is supposed to be.

A Grace family painted these canvases for the children currently living at Wheeler to put their hands prints on.

Many different circumstances bring ladies to Wheeler Mission Women’s and Children’s Shelter.  Some stay in the transitional housing unit for 30 days, just to get themselves off the streets and back on their feet until they find another place to live.  Some women and children live in the apartments at Wheeler for a period of time.  Others are part of a larger, long term program, such as Higher Ground, a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, lasting one to three years.

No matter which program the woman is in, her story is rich with pain, knowledge, loss, renewal, and faith in ways that I would say my own story is lacking.  Most of these women have come from physically or sexually abusive and manipulative relationships that have left some with post-traumatic stress disorder or clinical depression.  Many have attempted suicide on at least one occasion.  Many have been in and out of jail with charges of possession and robbery.  Though I have had my share of “rough times,” I have never experienced the kind of pain and damage that comes from these types of circumstances.

Samaritan’s Feet came to Wheeler Mission on Saturday to host a foot washing and give free shoes.

On Saturday November 6, Kirsten Johnson and about forty volunteers from Grace Community Church hosted a program at Wheeler Mission Women’s and Children’s Center to show Christ’s love to these hurting women and children through meals and activities.  The day was divided into three shifts, with new activities for each shift.  Some of the activities were meant for the children, so they could play and have interaction with different people while their mothers had an opportunity to “relax”.

Other activities were meant to love on the women, such as the foot washing and pedicures.  The most important aspect of the day was to be open and willing to listen to the stories, show empathy, and meet them where they were, like Jesus did in the New Testament.  The purpose was to not instill new knowledge or change their circumstances in some radical way, but to be the ear that many of these women do not have to simply listen.  I learned more about God’s character and saw the face of Jesus by just being there with them and hearing them.

A young girl gets a pedicure after she received her foot washing and shoes.

Wheeler Mission Ministries’ goal is to do just that: meet the homeless, poor, and needy right where they are by providing housing, meals, clothes, programs, and opportunities for the guests to grow personally and spiritually.  One aspect that sets Wheeler Mission apart from other shelters in central Indiana is that they provide non-denominational, Christian support to all their guests through Bible studies, inspiring scriptures on their walls, and Christian ideas in their programs, such as relying on God and other people to successfully complete the program.  After completion of the program, Wheeler Mission has also provided jobs for some of their past guests as program mentors.

I talked with many of these ladies, and even though many of these women and children have undergone horrific things in their lives, they also have some of the most inspiring stories of God’s intervention, redemption, salvation, and love.  Every story of loss and suffering led to at least three more about how Christ worked in that situation, how God changed circumstances, built faith and shaped these women to be more dependent on Christ in every aspect of life.

Some of these women have literally been brought back from the dead.  One woman was blind for a year before her sight was returned to her.  Another was in a coma for months, had kidney failure, and lost the movement of the right side of her body.  You would never guess she went through that by just looking at her; she is fully functional and fully aware.

Volunteers of all ages were lending a helping hand at Wheeler.

In these circumstances the women say what is really on their hearts. “If God healed me like that, He must have given me these talents for a reason,” and even, “I’ve done life my way, I’ve done it through other programs, nothing has worked, now I’m doing it God’s way, and He’s changing everything.”  One of the ladies had been a hard drug addict for years.   She took a vow of sobriety when she walked into Wheeler (which was only six days before the program Grace hosted).   She told me, “…we really do serve an awesome God.”

A healed body.  A saved soul.  A new life.  Renewed hope.  Loving friends.  Selfless ministries.

After what these women have experienced and have done in their lives, they don’t expect anything from anyone.  No provision, no forgiveness, no mercy, no grace, no love.  Yet, Wheeler Mission Ministries and people who have a heart for service, such as Kirsten Johnson and the volunteers from Grace, know that these women are worth investing in.  Jesus loves them, and so should we.  These women see time and time again in their own lives that Christ provides, He forgives, and He shows mercy, grace, and love.  And I can almost hear them saying to themselves, “This is not what I thought my life would look like. I never thought I would be loved, forgiven, and saved like this.”

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Next Steps
    • If you would like the opportunity to serve and meet some of these incredible ladies, visit Wheeler’s website.
    • To volunteer in the kitchen at meal times at the Women’s and Children’s Shelter contact Cathy Rohrer, at 317.635.3575 or cathyrohrer@wmm.org.
    • If you would like to donate to support Wheeler Mission Ministries, click here.
    • If you have household items or clothing that you would like to donate, please click here.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Every year, Grace Community Church in Noblesville, Indiana shuts its doors, cancels its services and sends its congregation out to do service projects all over the city. This team of volunteer journalists from Grace’s congregation told some of the stories from the weekend.

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Comments

  1. Anica Yoder said... 

    Reply

    November 12th, 2010 at 8:36 am  

    Whitney – THANK YOU for capturing this day and these stories for us. Very powerful! And Yes!….“…we really do serve an awesome God.”

  2. Pam Orr said... 

    Reply

    November 13th, 2010 at 10:40 am  

    I loved this story! It is all so true what is said here. I have been to this shelter to serve and it is sad yet amazing to see God at work. I can relate to all of this, by taking out all the words “women” and putting in the word “men” as I serve at the mens Light House mission each week. These people are “people” and we must love them and serve them. We must be Christs hands and feet to help them through and show them they are loved! Well written Whitney! Thank You!

  3. Kirsten Johnson said... 

    Reply

    November 14th, 2010 at 3:46 pm  

    Awesome story Whitney!!! It was a true pleasure serving with you!

  4. Rick Meyer said... 

    Reply

    November 14th, 2010 at 9:28 pm  

    Wow! Great piece, Whitney, on how people of Grace were the hands, the feet and the heart of Jesus at the Wheeler Women & Children’s Center. Thanks for allowing God to work through you in telling the stories. We are all children of God, and may we all continue to allow God to work through us in loving on our sisters and brothers in Christ.

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