ELEGANTLY DRESSED young women seemed to float through the festive room as they served homemade lasagna. The colors and sounds inside reflected the blooms and butterflies outside on this early spring day. Guests gathered to celebrate the courageous women dedicated to the ambitious undertaking of rebuilding their lives at STCH Ministries’ Homes for Families (HFF) Appreciation Banquet. Located just outside of Goliad, TX, HFF on Marshall Ranch Campus is currently home to eleven mothers and thirty-one children. These families are linked by traumatic pasts and a determination to be the change that breaks the cycle of a lifetime of bad decisions.
Theresa Klacman, Program Director of HFF, explains the annual banquet. “The families at HFF receive the benefits of the generous nature of STCH Ministries and numerous volunteers in the community throughout the year. It’s important to me that the girls give back once a year and show their gratitude. This event allows the residents and the staff to see just how many people are involved in making this program a success. It’s a wonderful time for reflection and thanking
God for his church.”
In preparation for this event, the girls take a six-week public speaking and etiquette class. They learn how to set a table, how to serve their guests, and what to say while serving. “The whole process grounds us all to gratitude and allows us to say thank you with action to all the people who make this program a success,” Klacman said.
Testimonies from each woman was the highlight of the afternoon. Many of the speakers emphasized the difficulty of acting on their responsibility to be courageous in life.
Judy, a mother of six, spoke of weighing “the pain of change versus the pain of never changing,” In the end, she made her decision to join the program for her children. “I knew I needed to change. I wanted my kids to be – better. I didn’t want my kids to follow the footsteps I did.”
Young Gabrielle did not know how to cook, physically care for her child or even appropriately handle telephone conversations when she arrived at HFF. Her playful grin and spunky confidence accentuate the metamorphosis she is undergoing while living and learning on the ranch. “I could never imagine going back to my old ways,” she affirms. “I’ve learned to ‘throw down’ in the kitchen now. I have discovered things about myself that are new and I have restored old dreams.”
Angelica came determined to “get my life together to be able to raise my son no matter the cost.” A lifetime of betrayal at the hands of her own family left her cautious and judgmental with deep fears about whether this opportunity was too good to be true. Although she is in the early stages of the program, she has a beautiful understanding of the work God is beginning in her. “I would like to say my life is like a butterfly. I was born, hatched, into the world as a caterpillar eating the leaves of plants to survive. Eating and surviving off of the things of the broken world. Right now, I am in the cocoon at HFF. Right now, God is making me into a beautiful butterfly.”
Maria’s migration to Marshall Ranch came for the sake of her children also. She describes life after moving into Phase 2, the Equipping phase, from her daughters’ point of view. “The girls say that they love the new mom I am today. They are very thankful to me for choosing them instead of drugs and finding God. He has shown me how to love myself and others. He has given me peace and patience I never thought I could have.”
Forging a better life for their children may have been the catalyst which began the evolution, but God Himself is transforming these ladies into women genuinely seeking His heart each day. Brittany asserts, “My relationship with God is stronger than it has ever been. I am now a godly woman who can provide safety and stability for me and for my children as I keep God in the forefront of it all.”
Debbie struggled through Phase 1; in fact, she left the ranch to give life on her own another try. When she understood that she had exchanged the likelihood for a future merely to repeat the past, she returned to HFF. Now she is committed to true maturation and pursuing recovery with her whole heart. Her words reflect her decision to move forward. “The more I search, seek, listen and apply His wisdom I find hope and confidence to pass on to my children. They can walk in freedom. A life of forgiveness and restoration, healing from any hurts, abuse, or addiction is only found in Jesus Christ. I look forward to a bright future knowing that He holds my future in His hands.”
Tiffany has just begun studying early childhood education at Victoria Community College and is on the verge of readiness to stand on her own. Looking back, she is amazed to see in herself “the woman I always wanted but never truly believed I could be until now. I am blessed to be a testimony that Jesus can and will change our hearts when we humble ourselves and submit to His authority over our lives.” She continues to expound upon the difference HFF has made; “All the time you put into MY life – has taken me from a pit of hopelessness and led me to freedom and a new chance at life. I’ve tasted and seen that the Lord is good and His love endures forever.”
God is indeed helping butterflies emerge at the Marshall Ranch Campus. Each lady is discovering the beautiful vocation He is preparing them for. Judy plans to work with pregnant teens. Gabrielle writes rap music and desires to become an inspirational singer. Angelica plans to enter into ministry through an organization called “Eyes on Me” to help other young people in similar situations to thrive. Maria plans to become a teacher’s aide. Brittany wants to become a nurse. Debbie is an entrepreneur and plans to open her own cleaning business. Tiffany has been hired through the Head Start program in Victoria where she
will gain valuable experience as she continues her education.
HFF staff and residents optimistically hold fast to what God Himself promises through the Apostle Paul in Philippians 1:6, “I am sure that God who has begun a good work in me will carry it on until it is finished.”