Displaying items by tag: housing

Strategic Planning as Worship Work

by Sue BaumgartenStrategicPlanning

Thinking strategically is not one of my top strengths. By nature, I’m a connector and a communicator, an activator and a mentor. But with almost 3 decades of board service, (respectful of term limits and built-in breaks) and also serving as an Executive Director for a few years, I am no stranger to Strategic Planning. And, I currently serve on the National Maternity Housing Coalition (NMHC) leadership council and we’re in the middle of Strategic Planning as I write this.

Strategic planning is a mandatory exercise for ministries and is probably the most important organizational document to have outside of your mission/vision statements. Strategic planning helps your board and staff have a road map that looks out into the future – hopefully 3, 5 even 10 years and says, “This is where we’re hoping to go.” Your strategic plan then breaks that hope into manageable pieces and allows your organization to make forward motion toward your destination. Strategic plans are living documents that can be adjusted annually so don’t be afraid to have BHAG’s (Big Hope-filled Amazing Goals, using my verbiage)!

In light of Covid-19 in 2020, I’m sure ministries in the middle of year 3 of a 5-year plan will need to revisit their Strategic Plan and make some adjustments. Your Strategic Plan is not just an internal document. It can be shared out in your community as you and your board members meet with potential church partners, foundations and individuals.

Preparation for your strategic planning session(s) is critical. Here’s some basic steps to give the process structure and to seek the Lord throughout the process.

  1. Prepare deeply. Fast and pray for wisdom and clarity. Prioritize hearing from the Lord and His wisdom over the knowledge of men. Familiarize your group with tools for discernment – Mastering the Art of Presence Based Leadership by Keith Yoder and Pursuing God’s Will Together by Ruth Haley Barton are two that I like. Practice Listening Prayer.

  2. Gather the right people and supplies. Strategic planning should include key staff leaders and the board of directors. It should encompass every aspect of the ministry – staffing, program, finances, development. A third-party facilitator can also be very helpful to the process. Be sure those with talent in strategy are active and engaged participants. White board and dry erase markers, flip charts and markers, sticky pads and pens – give people the ability to write ideas and brainstorm!

  3. Create space for a rich conversation. Don’t rush! Consider your meeting time a time of worship, a moment of worship/work. Incorporate music into your meeting. Guard against “book-end praying” – just once at the beginning of your meeting and at the end. The Lord is always speaking through His Holy Spirit and His Word–allow space and time to hear from Him! Strategic planning deserves plenty of time to let members of the group discuss, pray, take breaks, brainstorm, review. It may require several meetings.

  4. Assess the current situation. Doing a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is a fast and easy tool. Reviewing your mission/vision statements are key. Is your organization walking out it’s mission? Mission Drift can happen so easily. Look deeply at what is happening within your organization.

  5. Go through a Goal Setting Process. At the end it should be clear: From What/To What/By When/By Whom. Be sure to know who’s bucket of responsibility the goal falls into – Executive Director, Program Director, Board Chair, etc. Another tool related to goal-setting is SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.

What a good and Godly work we have been called to! What a joy to seek the wisdom of God through strategic planning so that our work can continue to give a witness to life, redemption, and the very goodness of God! As you think about the future of your ministry, may you experience it with awe and reverence in a posture of worship. Heartbeat offers Strategic Planning resources and as an on-site consultation session. Click here for more about Strategic Planning.

Additional Resources:

Knowing Your Strengths

SMART Goal Setting

Vision Traction Organizer

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Traction – Get a Grip on your Business by Gino Wickman

Mission Drift by Peter Greer

Sue Baumgarten has served on the Board of Directors (as well as a variety of other roles) for LifeHouse of Houston since 1993. For more information about LifeHouse of Houston, click here: https://lifehousehouston.org/

3 Key Tips for Increasing Cultural Competency

by Ellen Foell, International Program Specialist, Heartbeat International and Faith Bohlin, Program Manager, Aid for WomenCulturalCompetence

In November 2020, Ellen Foell and Faith Bohlin engaged in an informal conversation on the topic of increasing cultural competency as part of the “Power Conversation” series. This article is a loose representation of that conversation, which is available in its entirety here

Be humble.

  • There is general cultural competency (e.g. like exercising humility and understanding that you don’t understand) as well as specific cultural competencies related to being knowledgeable about traditions, customs, and principles of specific ethnic groups. Start with general principles and then learn about the specific cultures that God has placed you in.
  • Have the humility to apologize when necessary and to seek forgiveness.
  • Ask permission -- Can I hug you? Can I touch your baby?  It is a signal of respect and humility.

Listen very deeply and ask good questions.

  • Things like volume of communication, hand gestures, pace of interaction vary significantly. Take your cues from the person you are interacting with.  As Ellen Foell described it, “Listen with your eyes. Mirror what you are seeing.”
  • Here are some sample questions for your consideration:
    • What would normally happen in your community / culture?
    • What is customary around ____ (pregnancy, birth, birthdays, etc.)?
    • Can you please explain _____ to me?
    • Is there a hidden consequence for moving into our program? For participating with our organization? Does it affect your family?
    • Teach me your favorite food or favorite _____.

Be aware of and celebrate differences.

  • Some cultures are based in honor/shame principles which affect everything from identity, family dynamics, how I present myself in my community, and more. Having an “punishment mentality” (i.e. if you do this, I will do this) with your organizational culture may have unintended consequences for those from a honor/shame based tradition.
  • “I like to use the language of ‘tribe’ (i.e. we are a tribe) for our homes. A tribe is composed of multiple family units, each with their own traditions and ways of doing things.  For me, that is a much more accurate description of what we are creating in our housing program,” described Faith Bohlin. Food is an easy way to explore those differences and celebrate them as a community activity.
  • One effective starting place would be to investigate the “culture of poverty.” As Faith described, “It encompasses all ethnic cultures and really is a culture all to its own that has a big impact of the vulnerable women we serve.”

ComptencyTable

Recommended Resources

Ruby Payne.  A Framework for Understanding Poverty and/or Bridges out of Poverty

Duane Elmer.  Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility

https://www.globalcognition.org/blog/

Celebrating Post-Residential Care

by Mary Peterson, LAS, Housing SpecialistAretha
Heartbeat International

Aretha arrived to Maggie's Place in March 2017, just eight weeks pregnant with her daughter Zoe. She arrived with over 20 years of drug and alcohol use and a history of prostitution. “I came from chaos and darkness and stepped into a sanctuary of peace,” she described. “It was the love and sacrifice that the staff gave me that made me feel like I was part of a family.”

During her time, she described running “home” – to the maternity home – when temptations for relapse were high. “I was given time to grow and heal, to be loved and encouraged” she said, “I loved just eating together and celebrating one another.” One special memory involves watching one of the staff members read to a baby. “I had never seen that,” Aretha remembered, “It made me start collecting books and now, I read to my daughter all the time.”

“For me, having the ongoing services after I moved out played a huge role in my sobriety,” Aretha spoke with conviction. After moving into a transitional apartment, she participated in parenting groups, ongoing therapy, Mommy & Me groups, and attachment groups, all offered as ongoing services for former residents. Aretha mentioned that the feeling of connection, the feeling of being a part of a family, was vital to her. The maternity home had become her family and leaving that home environment was tough. “I just decided to take advantage of anything they offered,” she joked. “I needed it. In fact, as we would drive up to the outreach center, Zoe would say, ‘we are home!’” 

“At a Christmas event, I remember looking at the staff handing out gifts, and I thought to myself, ‘I want that.’" In November 2020, that dream was realized when Aretha became a full-time member of the outreach staff associated with the post-residential program of Maggie’s Place. “It’s a dream come true,” she described, “I get to give and be a part of what they are doing here.”

“I know how important it was for me to feel celebrated; I loved watching my daughter be genuinely loved.” Aretha noted, “Now, I mimic what I learned. I celebrate other women and encourage them to stay connected.”  She works with women that have reunification cases and helps as an administrative assistant for the outreach program. Aretha closed with this thought, “When the women are in a hard place, there is comfort that comes from someone that has lived and can acknowledge a piece of their story, their journey.”

The National Maternity Housing Coalition recently released a new White Paper on post-residential programming, Loving Beyond the Home.  It features case studies from Our Lady’s Inn and Mary’s Mantle and outlines programmatic considerations for those exploring the expansion of a formal program to follow residential services.  To download the White Paper and read more about the impact of post-residential programming, click here.

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Emotional Intelligence: Responding with Purpose

by Mary Peterson, Housing Specialistbrain heart brain icon emotiona
Heartbeat International

Many housing programs are exploring the topic of emotional intelligence, or "EQ", helping the mothers to identify and name their emotions. "So many of our residents are emotionally raw," Kathleen Miller of Living Grace Home described, "they don't realize that their emotional responses may be keeping them in a bad cycle." One of the principles of EQ is that emotions show up in our heart, head, and body. To experience healing in those areas, emotions have to be recognized and addressed. "The residents know sad, mad, angry, happy," Beckie Perez of 29:Eleven Maternity Home expressed, "but, when they have more descriptive words for their feelings, they can see them more clearly." She continued, "As the saying goes, 'name it to tame it'. We want the moms to respond with purpose and control rather than impulsively."

One such teaching resource comes from Angie May, the trainer and coach of Kairos Koaching. She has developed a presenter's guide, worksheets, and informational cards as a tool for homes to use to introduce the practical skills associated with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. "It's a practical model that gives usable tools for organizations and can be a game changer in meeting the real needs of women," she described. The model focuses on four key areas: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal skills.

"Not all programs can have a therapist on staff," she reflected. "This program allows clients to build life skills based on the therapeutic model of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy but using the existing staff." Lynnette Carter from Living Hope Centers agrees, "We were struggling to help our residents learn these skills without a professional counselor on staff. This content helped us figure out a critical piece that we were missing."  

An example of one skill that May teaches is strengthening "wisemind" in residents. May summed up the concept saying, "Wisemind is combining the emotional mind and the reasonable mind in the present moment for good decision-making." It involves an emphasis on staying in the moment, the place where healing happens. Many of the tools she advocates for are related to identifying strategies in advance -- for example, having a distraction plan when overwhelming emotion hits or having an idea on how to handle distressing situations.

Angie May did a webinar outlining the content for Heartbeat.  If you are interested in learning more about her approach, check out the recording of her webinar (remember to log in for your affiliate discount!) or connect with Angie at KairosKoaching.com.  To jumpstart a conversation on Emotional Intelligence, join the National Maternity Housing Coalition Facebook group.

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Celebrating Anne Pierson

imagejpeg 1Anne Pierson is a memorable soul – A pioneer. A founder. An author. A mentor. A mother & friend. Surrounded by housing peers, this noteworthy woman was awarded a Lifetime Legacy award on October 28 from the National Maternity Housing Coalition. “Anne has always been one of my role models since the moment I met her,” Peggy Hartshorn, Board President of Heartbeat International described, “I admire her both as an individual and as an example of ministry as a couple.”

Anne loves singing, puzzles, and striking up conversations wherever she goes. Her love takes the form of being able to focus deeply on the individual in front of her and speak to their heart. She gives “words” as a spiritual ministry to encourage and direct. She has lived a rich life of relationship, having touched many lives with her expertise and genuine love.

As an only child, Anne longed for the large extended families she saw in her childhood neighborhood. Her husband Jimmy had a deep yearning to be a father even as a youth. Both of these desires were realized in the unique extended family they created together. They wed when Anne was 18 years old and together, they had two daughters, Holly and Shelly. As youth ministers early in their marriage, Anne and Jimmy encountered a young woman who was pregnant due to rape. This encounter began a lifetime journey of service to women and children.

Anne and Jimmy welcomed over 200 pregnant women into the context of their personal home, opening their doors to women in need of support. The family life that was shared together is the source of many of Anne’s great stories and insights and Anne has stayed in touch with many of these families for years and years. Their personal efforts became formalized in the founding of a nonprofit, House of His Creation, in 1972. Following many years of direct service, the Pierson’s were publicly recognized in a speech made by President Reagan. This prompted other individuals and ministries needing help to reach out and eventually, led to the development of a new ministry.

Praying Over Anne

Anne began writing materials and in 1984, founded Loving & Caring, an international ministry to provide resources, materials, and practical tools for those in the pregnancy help movement. The My Baby and Me workbook series remains a valuable tool in the pro-life movement, especially in supporting the exploration of adoption. Anne played a key role in the establishment of the National Christian Housing Conference.

As a speaker, she has brought the pro-life message to a variety of settings including conferences, churches, and retreats. A natural storyteller, Anne brings a spark of humor and light-heartedness, illustrating her teachings with tales from her life. She is passionate about the impact of fatherlessness, the beauty of adoption, and the model of family.

“Anne’s years and years of service have shaped the maternity housing community in profound ways,” Mary Peterson, facilitator of the National Maternity Housing Coalition, noted. “She introduced and gave shape to a new model of ministry which inspired many to take up the work. Her work continues in the leaders she has formed who continue to serve with great conviction and passion.”

Over the course of their service, Jim and Anne received Heartbeat’s inaugural Servant Leader Award in 1996. Years later, they also received a 2011 Legacy Award, part of a very small community of those who have been honored with both. Following Jim’s passing in 2012, Heartbeat established a scholarship in his name to support a housing organization in attending the conference.

In recent months, Pierson has announced that the next season of her ministry will be closer to home. A resident of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Anne is involved with ministries and churches in that community. She has a rich family life including 3 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Speaking with conviction, Hartshorn summed up Anne’s legacy in this way, “Anne is an incredibly wise woman – versed in human nature, able to see what women really need, and willing to pour herself out with genuine love.”

As the Lifetime Legacy award noted, Anne Pierson has indeed “fought the good fight and finished the race.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

Designing a Home

by Mary Peterson, Housing Specialistjob success
Heartbeat International

I recently downloaded a game on my phone for interior design. You are given a shell of a room and have to choose the perfect sofa, rug, and accent tables to meet the design briefing. There is a weird satisfaction for me in finding the find combination of color and balance and scale for a room – even though my own home is FAR from an interior design masterpiece! But, the game came to mind as an analogy. There are design elements to consider when creating a maternity housing program, all of which require balance and attention.

Here’s my take on the “fresh” key program design elements to consider in your maternity home:

  • A lived Christian experience. What better way to make the Gospel relevant than to be immersed in an environment of genuine Christian love? So many of the principles of our Christian life are now the basis of “research-based practices” – meaning, compassion, whole-person thinking, balancing autonomy with community, and more. Christ’s message continues to be for the flourishing and healing of our human nature – and social science is discovering that! Our homes create a safe place for “church” to be experienced by women who may have dismissed Christianity.
  • Resiliency skills. When you research “resiliency skills”, there isn’t a set list but some general themes emerge. These include spirituality, managing strong emotions, movement/exercise, breaking down a big goal into smaller tasks, social support, playfulness, and more. The research shows it is these types of activities and proficiencies that help hurting people overcome. It would be an interesting exercise to think deeply about being hyper-intentional about building these skills into your program – either explicitly (via a class, activity or curriculum) or implicitly (via your culture, policies and dynamic).
  • Trauma-aware approaches. There is undoubtedly a trend toward understanding the impact that prolonged toxic stress, especially during formative years, has on the well-being of clients over time. New knowledge of brain science is impacting how we think about the policies and practices of our work. As maternity homes are exposed to the ideas related to trauma informed care, we are seeing a variety of shifts in language, approach, and policies of programs.
  • Faster Intakes. As maternity housing programs grow in their knowledge of trauma-informed care, programs are exploring a simplified intake process. Instead of an in-depth exploration of her life’s journey, programs have begun experimenting with asking a limited number of questions, primarily focused on issues of safety. Additionally, there is a shift toward “opt-in” thinking with programs asking “Will this woman benefit from our program?” rather than “Does she fit our criteria?”
  • Longer Services. Often healing work takes time, relationship, and stability. We know that intuitively and the research backs it up. We’ve seen the trend toward longer stays at maternity homes for many years and now, there seems to be a high amount of interest in post-residential programming for ongoing support once the mothers leave the maternity home. In addition, homes are feeling the vacuum of fewer transitional housing programs due to shifts in federal funding priorities and there is significant exploration by maternity housing programs to provide apartment-style units.

There is no “perfect living room” in the design app I’ve been playing—it’s a matter of one’s own personal style with the limitations of available resources plus some principles of design. Similarly, there is no “perfect model” of maternity home. But the elements mentioned above provide some principles of design worthy of consideration as you create a beautiful maternity housing program.

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Slip, Trip, and Fall - Five Safety Tips for Maternity Homes

by Mary Peterson, Housing SpecialistIntheWakeNY
Heartbeat International

Fall is here! With this great season, we think about football, pumpkin spice, and…..baby safety?!?! Yep, in addition to being the time of shifting weather and changing leaves, September is recognized as Baby Safety Month.

In the spirit of recognizing the role of having a safe environment, here are a few safety tips that impact a group living environment, especially with newborns:

  1. Use products according to directions and the child’s age, weight, and developmental needs. That’s the big one given by the promoters of Baby Safety Month, and it should be! At maternity homes, we are pretty good at “making do” – but when it comes to things related to the well-being of our little ones, I like the motto, “when in doubt, throw it out.”
  1. Be attentive to sleep safety! It’s a tough one to convince sleep-deprived mamas on and near impossible to regulate, I know! But having safe practices around sleep will give peace of mind – and hopefully, better sleep! – to everyone involved. Maybe we could share creative ways to talk about safe sleeping in our Facebook group.
  1. Hand-washing. When you read about promoting health, especially in group environments, handwashing is ALWAYS mentioned as the key starting place. Whether it’s singing silly songs, giving the stink eye, or side-by-side modeling the behavior, figure out a way to create a culture of clean hands. (Note: Stink eye, while a technique used by moms everywhere, should be used only in special circumstances.) If pretty-smelling soap promotes the disinfection of germs, it’s worth the investment!
  1. Being attentive. Watching the moms engage deeply with their child(ren) is one of the joys of maternity home life. Whether engaging playfully, meeting the baby’s needs, or watching for safety hazards, homes should be a source of encouragement for the mother’s active participation in the life of her child. The habit of managing distractions – especially with gadgets constantly at our fingertips – is a great life lesson!
  1. Slips, trips, and falls. These everyday hazards are a common threat to the kiddos – and adults! – of the house. Pregnant women may not easily see what underfoot and falling objects can be dangerous to infants on the ground or in cribs. Be aware of cords, ice, and other hazards. Teach the adults of the house (staff, volunteers, and residents) to turn on “risk assessment” eyes as they observe the environment!

Let’s raise a pumpkin spice latte to the safety of our homes! May they be places of well-being and protection!

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And Then There Were Two

by Mary Peterson, Heartbeat Housing SpecialistLiving Room

Since 2015, the program was called Esther Home. But, when God presented an opportunity for growth, Amber Hornsby, Co-Founder and Executive Director, jumped at the chance to become Esther Homes. After a long season of feeling the Lord prepare the organization for increase, the dream was fulfilled when their second home opened in July 2018.

"We are renting from a church," Hornsby described, "and grateful for the opportunity to come along side of families together to serve them and meet their needs." Esther Homes welcomes pregnant and parenting women, often with young children, for up to two years to "do life together".

Hornsby noted several challenges related to growth, "The biggest fear in saying 'yes' to expansion is the money aspect. We are doubling our current budget and that means our leadership has to spend more time planning and fundraising."

She also described a process of going back to the drawing board on the program, examining what works and what doesn't. "In some ways, we went back to the dirt in order to refine ourselves. We wanted the second home to carry the heart of who we are so we needed to be able to articulate how we want things done." She summed up the process by noting that the backbone of the two programs is the same but differences arise because each location has unique people, layouts, and neighborhoods that they are within. "The programs are even in different counties," Hornsby quipped. "We had to figure out the implications of that."

When asked to give advice to homes considering expansion, the millennial leader let out a deep breath and said, "Be okay with change and accept that things might shift." She continued, "The work load doubles but time doesn't." Hornby described the importance of training new staff and allowing them to do thier thing while remaining available and encouraging. "You need a team to share the load!"

"You can plan a lot but then you get into it, and there are a lot of unknowns that surface," Hornsby reflected. "I just need to stay positive, take a deep breath, and get creative about coming up with solutions." The leader noted that the commitment of the Board of Directors has grown beyond coming to meetings to include greater availability for discussion, more planning for the future, and more administrative support.

"There is a lot of hype about expansion and a season of time where you feel like 'I don't know what I am doing,'” Hornsby summed up. "But ultimately, it’s about the families we are serving and now, we have a greater ability to meet their needs."

For more information about Esther Homes, please visit their website at: http://estherhome.org/

Like Esther Homes, Ruth Harbor Ministries had been actively exploring expansion and had several disappointments along the way. Trusting God through the process, their second location, a 7,200 square foot home outside of Des Moines, anticipates welcoming women later this month. "There are so many God stories in how this came about," Mark McDougal shared with joy.

The second property will serve as the mother and child aspect of the program, welcoming women from their maternity program as well as women with children. The property has an interesting history having served as the family home of the McCaughey septuplets. "The couple, having become empty-nesters, wanted the home to go to a ministry and continue the legacy of family," McDougal recalled.

McDougal shared story after story of God's provision on the expansion, "A very large church in Iowa rallied behind the project. They were able to bless us by purchasing and furnishing the home as a Lenten project. Truly incredible!"

Part of the process of growth was to think in a more standardized way. "We wanted to be able to duplicate what we were doing and we wanted to be able to talk more clearly about the impact that we are having on women's lives," McDougal shared. That desire led the organization to adopt the Evaluation Tool developed by the National Maternity Housing Coalition and integrate it into programming.

When asked what advice he would give to others considering growth, McDougal responded with, "Obviously, seek God's face and don't get discouraged!" But, he continued, "Preparing staff, Board members, and supporters that the process takes time is super important."

"When organizations grow, leaders have to grow," McDougal reflected. He described the homework and planning that goes into expansion and the need to let go of things that he used to be hands-on about. Having served as the Executive Director for 16 years, McDougal was quick to share, "It’s nothing that I'm doing—this is what God wants and I'm just trying to keep up."

For more information about Ruth Harbor, please visit their website at: http://www.ruthharbor.org/

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10 Ideas on Creating an Organization Built to Last

by Mary Peterson, Heartbeat Housing SpecialistFoundation

When studying organizational development, you learn that the shift between stages is a very challenging season. Moving from founding and early decision making into a stage of sustaining and stability demands different skills and leadership strategies. Below are a few thoughts on things you can do to help ease that transition.

  1. Get things written down. 
    Capture big decisions on paper—board policies, staff approaches, programmatic structures. Even if it is as simple as having a place to capture notes, when it is time to draft something like a board orientation or staff handbook, starting with a bunch of notes is a much easier starting place than a blank sheet of paper.  
  2. Create systems. 
    You may know how to generate payroll or the staffing schedule or handle an intake interview. But, often that is all "in your head." Think of forms, checklists, habits, communication tools, and things like them as ways to build a training program that can transfer knowledge and responsibility to other people.
  3. Take time for the big picture. 
    Trainings, retreats, and other opportunities allow you to step back from the day-to-day tasks and think about your work in a new way. It also gives you an opportunity to re-engerize during challenging seasons.
  4. Make room for planning work. 
    When it feels like you are just putting out fires all the time, taking time to think about the long-term can feel like a huge burden. But, having segments of time to think deeply allows you do infrastructure building work and create strong foundations.
  5. Invest in staff. 
    Cross-train your staff. Send staff to trainings. Take time for supervision meetings. Delegate to them. By developing leadership in your staff members, you help secure the stability of the organization and can spark an impact that reaches far beyond your organization.
  6. Put some money into savings.
    During difficult seasons, having a small savings account might be necessary to weather the storm. Make a habit of saving, even if it is a small amount.
  7. Stay nimble. 
    Predictability, structures, and plans are great for sustainability. But, change happens all the time—staff members change, laws change, financial realities change. Create an organizational culture that doesn't panic when it has to adapt.
  8. Build traditions and tell your story. 
    Organizations can create a rich identity by taking time to celebrate key moments via traditions. Create opportunities to reflect on organizational experiences and memories.
  9. Talk and pray about the future. 
    The future includes the staff who will follow, programs that will change, and volunteers and donors who will be called to the work. Set a tone and expectation that a bright future exists that involves new people and new ideas.
  10. Build an organizational identity that isn't dependent on one person. 
    Anchor people to the mission of the organization, not to a charismatic personality. Having key supporters in relationship with multiple people eases the burden on the leader and maintains continuity when transitions happen.

Spring in the Desert

by Mary Peterson, Heartbeat Housing SpecialistSpringDesert

I live in the midst of the desert - it's easy to look on the landscape of cactus and sand and just see brown, barren land. But, even here, it is spring. The mesquites have sprung out with tiny leaves; the jackrabbits seem to be everywhere, and a hint of green can be seen on the mountainside. I saw a family of baby quail hiding in a plant the other day and couldn't resist cooing in delight.

In the work of maternity housing, we encounter the nitty-grittiness of life on a daily basis.  Some of those situations are fairly typical of the human experience - supporting women who are dealing with the discomfort of pregnancy, facing a difficult decision, or trying to develop new skills.

Other aspects of our everyday reality are extremely challenging - serving adult women struggling with basic hygiene, traumatic experiences, addiction, or abuse in their relationships. Women choosing to remain in patterns of behavior that appear selfish or self-destructive. We have to deal with the reality of asking women to leave our homes, a sometimes brutal transition from a place of safety to a challenging and uncertain future. We get accused of being a much worse and a much better person than we really are.

This reality - of maternity housing - can be very heavy, and at times of exhaustion or overwhelmedness, it can seem bleak or depressing.

But, like spring in the desert, there are signs and indications everywhere of a different reality.  

  • A genuine conversation.
  • A positive interaction.
  • A loving gesture.
  • A sacrificing mom.
  • An act of forgiving.
  • A goal achieved.

When we attune our eyes, there are indications of growth, new life, and goodness emerging.

In the video below, Chris Bell of Good Counsel, shares a difficult scenario that he encountered and transitions into some thoughts on remaining encouraged in the work. May we all remain steadfast in our committment to resist despair and to seek indications of God's goodness at work.

National Maternity Housing Coalition - Chris Bell from Heartbeat International on Vimeo.

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