Normally a “testimonial” would include not only the good, but how we have overcome the bad experiences. When Mandi asked me to write about my experience with Hope of Glory Ministries, I was dumbfounded. What do I include? How do I share all the wonderful things that The Co-op Program has brought into my life? What can I say to encourage others to get involved? Well, I’m going to take a stab at it!
God Doesn’t Make Mistakes
One day about 3 years ago, I walked into the Hope of Glory Outlet (better known as a Thrift Store around here) just to poke around and see what they had. It was REALLY IMPRESSIVE. Carpet! I was shocked! Air conditioning & heat! I was amazed! It gushed friendly faces of all races! My kind of place! Neatly organized, clean, with lots of great bargains! A hidden gem. Wow! Gotta come back here! I had recently left a volunteer position with another Christian organization and was looking for a new way to give back to my community. You see, I am permanently disabled. I have Multiple Sclerosis. I don’t hide that from anyone, but you can’t really see that from looking at me. If you saw me on a good day, you’d think “just another Grandmotherly type”… Ha! I still have a lot to give! On a bad day, I just look a little tired, and if you look really closely, my hands shake a little – not much, just a little. The hardest part for me is being tired all the time – just part of the disease, unfortunately. I can’t even remember what I purchased, but when I was checking out, I asked the really nice person if they were interested in volunteers & if I could apply. She said YES! She took my name, and a few months later, Mandi called. My husband & I signed up IMMEDIATELY! God doesn’t make mistakes.
Lots of hugs…hugs all around!
I was now a Mentor! Me? I wasn’t sure I could handle it, but I would do my best! Within weeks I was placed with three families, all three immigrant families. All three have their hurdles, and all three have wonderful gifts! God doesn’t make mistakes. First of all, let me say that I have EXTENSIVE experience negotiating medical bills & medical payments. I had to learn that early - I was diagnosed with MS in 2001. MS is the single most expensive chronic illness that I have ever dealt with. The cost to a family of someone with MS AVERAGES about $65,000 per year! I had to learn early on to set up payment plans with all physicians, clinics, testing locales & hospitals. Two of my families have a family member who will have ongoing medical needs. Maybe I can help them with that? God doesn’t make mistakes.
From the first meeting with them, they were willing to do what was needed, for the most part. It wasn’t an easy process. None of them knew what they were spending money on – so we started with the basics - collecting receipts, making a log, writing it down. Sometimes seeing it in black & white on paper is really hard, but necessary. It was a difficult, and sometimes painful process, but within about 6 months all three were working toward their goals! During this process, I met with each of them individually at first, then as a group, all together. The real changes started when we met as a team! They shared stories, locations for savings, how to do things within their family units! I was amazed at the way they grew! Their laughter is contagious. Often, staff members would come in & hug us all, too! Oh, did I mention the hugs? LOTS OF HUGS! HUGS ALL AROUND! God doesn’t make mistakes.
My “girls” were running the show! We discussed what they had learned in their classes (Finance & Nutrition,) and how they had applied this new information at home. We talked about issues they were CONQUERING at home, their needs, and how we needed to pray with them. God doesn’t make mistakes.
Being a mentor isn’t just about teaching…
It’s been over two years now and one member of my team is about to graduate from the program, and she is ready! She has used the tools, incorporated them into her family dynamic (her older son & daughter are using the tools, too), and she is working hard to make things work for their family! She was the hardest to convince that the program, with real commitment, would pay off – but she went with it & it has! Her family has a nice emergency fund & they work together to save for other big ticket items and events. Because her husband’s work is somewhat seasonal, they work hard to build savings during his working months so that they can live comfortably through the winter without having to dip into their emergency fund. In addition, they were able to take a family vacation last summer for the first time!
For each family it was a little different. After seeing how much “in the red” they had been living, one stopped spending and started asking, “Do I WANT this, or do I NEED this?”, which led to a great deal of change in attitude which continues today. Her family has benefited by moving from an apartment into a house that they were able to purchase. They are targeted to be completely out of debt within a year and have enjoyed renovating their new home, saving for special items they need, and building up their emergency fund! My third family has learned the lessons, but their hurdles have been more personal. It has also been a lesson in learning for me, and I hope an opportunity for her to find others she can lean on. Sometimes, being a mentor is not just teaching the lessons, but being an ear, a shoulder or an encouraging partner in the lives of others. Through Hope of Glory they were able to pay off vehicles, pay off their home and begin to pay off some of the overwhelming medical bills that have weighed heavy on them. I am so proud of each of them! They are doing the work! They are asking questions and working through bumps in the road, together with their families, working as a team, too! Hope of Glory will be there for them, but now they have the reins, they are making good decisions, they are passing along their lessons to their children and their children are now saving, too! God doesn’t make mistakes.
God’s in Control
My goal has always been to bring what I can to the families who need it. I don’t know that I have met their needs, but I know I have always tried. What I can tell you is that what they have brought to me is ten times what I could have EVER provided them! Their love is genuine. Their acceptance of me and their willingness to learn is genuine. I pray for peace, joy and strength for all of them. God doesn’t make mistakes. The process for the mentors has changed somewhat (it is more streamlined now). We have gone through some changes and grown. I look forward to being with my girls every month, as my commitment to the program and these families will continue.
The day I walked into Hope of Glory Ministries to “just look around”, my life changed. I KNOW GOD DOESN’T MAKE MISTAKES!
Member since July 2016, Saved $1,268 in 1st quarter
“Hello, my name is Veronica, I want to talk a little about my experience with the co-op program. For me and my family it has been a great help. The program helps me get ahead of debt, save for emergencies, buy things that we need and reduce expenses. I have learned to keep track of our household expenses. A special thanks to Jane my mentor! Without her, I would not have achieved all my goals. Now my family and I have learned how to lead a better life! Thanks to the co-op staff. Overall, it is a great program for all low income people. I am very grateful.”
Mandi Stewart is in her sixth year as Executive Director at Hope of Glory Ministries which empowers families towards spiritual and financial freedom in Christ. She loves living life with her all so patient husband Jeremy, first born Josiah, and daughter Faith. One day she hopes to be a professional golfer, but is surrendered to the call of wife, mother and leader in this world as she awaits that glorious day when Christ returns.