A Great Big, Incredibly Huge Thank You!

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Sometimes, offering a “Thank You” does not seem like enough to express our deep, heartfelt gratitude when volunteers truly go above, beyond, and out of their way to help us!

 So, all at ABCCM and the Veterans Restoration Quarters want to send a great big, incredibly huge THANK YOU to all 388 people from Home Depot who came from all over the country – and even from Canada on Wednesday, October 24 for a Home Depot Service Day at the Veterans Restoration Quarters (VRQ).  Because of the generosity, sacrifices and hard work, the lobby of the VRQ has been renovated with new floors, furniture, ceiling tiles, and a make-over of the front desk.

  In addition, the Azalea Community Training Services (ACTS) Building is being re-commissioned.  This is huge!  Once the ACTS Building is back in service, we will once again be able to house life-skills and other vital classes to nearly 1000 veterans and civilians each year! 

 Home Depot volunteers also built gazebos, fences, benches and a walking trail that covers the perimeter of the VRQ campus.  These volunteers also erected a greenhouse in our garden, and gave us 5 storages sheds.  And the list literally goes on!  It is because of gracious people like our friends at Home Depot that we are able to help transform the lives of hundreds of people each year.  You are so special to all the Veterans who were truly touched by your generous gift.  The staff and volunteers will be singing your praises along with the Veterans for many years to come!  

 

 

One Mind - One Voice

Romans 15:1 We who are strong ought to bear with the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves.  Each of us should please our neighbors, for their good, to build them up.  For even Christ did not please Himself  v5) May God who gives endurance and courage give you the same attitude and mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 There is common ground at ABCCM when people in the community come together with our churches and people of faith with one mind and one voice to serve our neighbors with critical needs.  With so many voices calling for greater unity and civility, we want to invite you to a place that is accepting, caring and compassionate for those who want to serve by volunteering, just as we care for those coming through our doors that need hope and healing. 

 At the core of ABCCM’s founding and day-to-day service is gathering around a common table.  It may be to serve food through our daily meals, or it may be to offer boxes and bags of food so families can serve their children.  It may be spreading clothes out on a table to find just the right size and fit for a mom’s school children; or for the homeless who need fresh clothes; or for the student that has graduated and going for their job interview.

 It may be asking a patient to sit on an exam table where they are being served by doctors and nurses from sometimes competing practices, but now collaborating their skills to bring the best degree of healing.  It may be opening the Bible at a small table in the county detention center where people from different churches combine to bring light into a dark place, to illuminate greater meaning and purpose for these lives. 

 Although the news media may make us feel like the noise and shouting about issues and legitimate problems has us more divided than ever, ABCCM is a respectful and peaceful place where we come together with compassion and caring that transcends the noise and violence of the world to be a safe place for women and children who have already had to endure and survive abuse.   It is a safe place for Veterans to heal from their traumas and to discover their greater potential.

 In all these ways, ABCCM invites you to be a part of bringing your gifts and strengths to this common table in our community.  We have lots of tables to gather around, and hope that you will find a few hours in your life, in your month or in your week to come be a part of us.  You will discover hundreds who are thankful for such a place where their lives fulfill the call to care for the least of these – and experience the Christ.

Reverend Scott Rogers
Executive Director

From a Downtown Crisis Volunteer

ABCCM Crisis Ministry at 24 Cumberland Avenue is a unique and spirited place.  I had the opportunity to volunteer there this week and had an inspiring experience.  The moment I arrived, I stepped into a kind of happy chaos.  I was welcomed with enthusiasm and warmth and assigned to the kitchen, as that was where the need was most immediate that day. 

 There were many guests who came through the line and took notice of my newness, and their gracious, welcoming smiles helped make the whole experience deeply meaningful.  I felt like I was part of an established community that regularly converges to enjoy a sense of fellowship and fun.  It allowed me to transcend my own particular worries and preoccupations that day – my small world with its concerns – and enter into a larger space. 

 Providing hearty meals to people in need is a type of service work that dates back centuries and is still widely performed, in part because the benefits are so immediate.  In this area of ABCCM, though, not only is the basic need for sustenance amply met, but also the need for belonging, sharing and companionship.  I appreciate the physical action of preparing and serving someone a plate of hot food; it felt like a very kind act yet it was so simple. 

 But, the highlight of my day was spending the afternoon with some of my neighbors who call the streets and shelters of our beloved downtown Asheville home.  I thoroughly enjoyed the interesting guests we had that day.  They were appreciative, intelligent, and fun, with a couple of them even breaking out into a few bars of a song.  This greatly lifted the energy of the room for everyone. 

 One valuable lesson of volunteer service for me has to do with time management and perception

of time.  Often, we so are busy that we feel as if there is no time to accomplish the myriad of tasks before us.  Because of this, there is no room in our daily schedules for one more undertaking.  But, if that one undertaking involves volunteering for an afternoon, it changes one’s perspective.  While serving at ABCCM I realized that not only did I have the time, but the time I spent providing the service took on such value that it transformed the time I later spent on other activities.

B. Kirsten Walz 

A Measure of Peace

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Sitting in the hallway of Steadfast House was a nervous and anxious young lady who had just escaped an emotionally abusive situation.  To make matters worse, Hurricane Florence was threatening Wilmington, her hometown just when she left. She was grateful for shelter from both the abusive relationship and the storm while she told the volunteers her story, including her fears about her home potentially being underwater.

 Just like those who watch a storm, volunteers watched this young lady slowly adjusting to her new life at Steadfast House. She has bonded with some of the residents and has been slowly working toward renewing her trust, becoming stable and overcoming her struggles.

 It wasn’t too long after her arrival when a volunteer noticed that she had settled in completely as part of the family of Steadfast House.  After lunch was served and all was cleared, the volunteer observed cook team members and residents still in the dining room.  They had all joined hands; they were praying and singing. The young lady who had fled a tumultuous storm and relationship was finally experiencing the peace she needed.  Thankfully, the grace of God – along with the love and commitment of our regular volunteers had brought that measure of peace to her.  

Maia Price
Steadfast House, Volunteer Coordinator

New Hours for the Medical Ministry

Beginning November 1st, the clinic will reduce its hours by eliminating services on Thursdays.  The Medical Ministry will now be open Monday and Tuesday from 8:30am to 8:30pm and Wednesday from to 8:30am to 2:30pm.  Only one clinic session per week (Thursday evening) will end, so that we will have five sessions on Monday and Tuesday mornings and evenings; and also on Wednesday morning.  We believe we can increase the number of patients seen during those sessions to maintain our capacity.  These reduced hours will allow our staff to retain their benefits.

 The dental clinic services will also be cut in half to only offer extractions on Monday night, eliminating services on Thursday.  If the need continues to overwhelm us, and if there is enough support from our churches, volunteers, individuals, and others in the community, we could consider adding dental services on Tuesday.

Marie

Marie grew up in church. Her mother made sure she never missed a service. She even went to a Christian school. She knew about God and His love for her. At the age of 17 she walked away from it all. She left her home, her church, dropped out of school, left everything she knew and followed after a man. She loved to party and drink. She loved to be the center of attention. Slowly her world began to spiral out of control.

            Marie’s lifestyle centered around drugs and alcohol.  She found herself in places she never would have dreamed, doing things unimaginable. She lived this lifestyle for quite a few years getting in deeper and deeper. In 2009, she was arrested along with several others in her circle. She was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison.

            That was just the beginning of her story.  During the months leading up to her arrest, Marie had been praying, asking God to help her get out of the pit she was in. Now she had the opportunity. She re-committed her life to Christ and rebuilt her relationship with Him. She was able to accomplish many things while in prison. She received her GED, enrolled in drug rehab program, received her certificate to train service dogs, and was given countless other educational opportunities.  Marie remained faithful to God. She started Bible studies wherever she went and was an encouragement to many people.

            Through a process of events, Marie’s sentence was cut to 54 months. She has been home since 2013. Her walk with God is stronger than ever. During her prison stay, she found that God meant what He said – “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” She found that God was full of love, compassion and forgiveness. And now she is seeing that God is the great Restorer. Everything she thought she lost, God is rebuilding and restoring. She is the office manager for a company who does not hire felons. (God gave her favor!) She has a new car that she bought and paid for with money she earned. She will soon marry her high school sweetheart, who unknowingly waited for her! Our God is a good God!

            Marie is also one of our jail volunteers. When she was arrested she was placed in Buncombe County Detention Center. Now she hosts weekly Bible study programs there, telling the ladies first hand who God is, and how He will help them. She knows where they are, and where they came from. She is a great example of what God can do in their lives if they will just let Him. “For I know the plans I have for you, saith God, plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future.” Jerm. 29:11 NIV

From Our Volunteers

Jesus models for us, and teaches us that as Christ-followers we participate in the Kingdom of God not just with our words, but also through our loving actions.  He offers a powerful example, found in the Gospel of Matthew (Chapter 25), where a king addresses his servants about serving the most vulnerable living among us.  This is Jesus’ reminder that when we serve those in need, we serve Him.  At ABCCM, we create opportunities to fulfill Jesus’ call to serve our neighbors, and for volunteers, as their church’s missionaries, grow, mature, and express their faith.  We do this together as the body of Christ, and we serve others without expectation of getting anything in return.  But, quite often, volunteers are the ones who are impacted and transformed. 

 Every day at our four Crisis Ministry sites, we help keep people from falling through the cracks when a sudden and unexpected challenge comes their way – whether through an illness, loss of job, or extreme life transition.  And it is volunteers who greet people with warmth and dignity.  They are a friendly listening ear.  And they help meet immediate needs as well as help craft long-term solutions.  In the midst of supplying critical needs, here is what our volunteers say about the impact this has on their lives:

  • I was blessed beyond measure when I helped a young mother who left an abusive marriage

  • I enjoy meeting with people from all walks of life and putting together services that meet their needs

  • I see God’s mercy in action – from the many volunteers and others

  • I see people not as charity cases, but as human beings in need of love

  • There is a great bond between the volunteers, staff, and those we serve

 These are just a few of the numerous stories of impact from our volunteers.  For all those who currently volunteer with us – thank you!  Your service impacts those in need.    For those of you who want to volunteer, but are not certain as to what to do – we can help!  Contact us at volunteer@abccm.org or call 828.398.6743.  We will be glad to get you connected in ways that engages your faith, positively impacts the lives of our neighbors, and helps to usher in the Kingdom of God – right here, right now. 

Transitional Housing

What is it really like to volunteer at an ABCCM Transitional Housing facility?  Well, the first thing to keep in mind is that it is not a homeless shelter.  The folks at our facilities are not asked to leave during the day after spending the night with us.  They live with us until they are able to successfully transition into their own housing.  ABCCM has 2 Transitional Housing facilities: Steadfast House, for women and children, and the Veterans Restoration Quarters, for male veterans.  Volunteers  are a vital part of transforming someone’s life – helping someone move from homelessness to self-sufficiency.   Volunteers are the key ingredient in helping a person not merely survive, but thrive once they are back on their feet. 

 Whether teaching a life-skills class, organizing and maintaining our Points Rooms, being a member of a Cook Team, or offering administrative assistance, each volunteer provides a crucial piece of transformational impact on our residents’ lives in areas such as stability, safety, and community engagement.  And though volunteers selflessly offer their time and efforts to help change someone else’s life, oftentimes it is the life of the volunteers which are changed.   

 Consider what the leader of one of the Cook Teams at the Veterans Restoration Quarters (VRQ) says about his experience:

 Of all of the wonderful things I have seen in my seven years of rewarding service at the VRQ, I would have to say that it is my fellow volunteers that move me the most.  I find myself lucky and proud to serve with people who are driven to take care of the men at the VRQ.  I watch these dedicated people drive long distance to the VRQ, work diligently when in the kitchen, give of their money to provide special meals, and do all of this with a pride and pleasure I find inspiring.  Not only that, but they do it three times a month, every month without complaint or expectation of their own.  Volunteering at the VRQ has made me appreciate, respect, and enjoy my fellow cook team members in a way I would have never imagined.  I would recommend being a volunteer at the VRQ as it’s rewarding in many ways, some of which you might never expect.

 At both of our transitional housing sites, volunteers do more than serve; they help build intentional missional communities.   Volunteers…like Ginger and Frank, who volunteer at Steadfast House as mentors in our Steadfast Partners program.  As part of one of our member churches, they engage their faith as they regularly meet with one or more of the children who live at Steadfast House.  They offer Christ’s love as supportive, caring, encouraging, patient, safe, and consistent partners with the moms and kids each week.  Ginger and Frank have grandchildren who are not geographically close to them at the moment, so they pour their hearts into the children at Steadfast House as their “stand-in grandparents.”  Their compassionate and understanding approach builds trusting bonds that will stay with the children – both now, and long after they move into stable housing. 

 Jesus calls us to serve those who are hungry, thirsty, sick, in need of clothes, and in prison.  At ABCCM, we provide opportunities to serve one another in the name of Christ.  And, as you volunteer, don’t be surprised if the life transformed…is yours! 

 

 

Common Ground

: opinions or interests shared by each of two or more parties

: an agreed on basis

: a foundation for mutual understanding

: something that people can agree about, especially when they disagree about other things

It is no coincidence that the ABCCM Medical Ministry has a keen interest in all the meanings of “common ground”. The Medical Clinic, Dental and Pharmacy services exist on the premise that our community believes in and has found common ground in a place to serve. The not-so-small miracle is that this kind of common ground circumvents the barriers that are often found in the way that patients have to seek care.  To date, those living in Buncombe County who are uninsured, and earn less than 200% of Federal Poverty Level (FPL) can approach the clinic for evaluation and receive treatment free of charge.

 Now add a verb: “reach”

The clinic reaches common ground with many community partners.  They see and understand that every patient who is helped by a volunteer or staff member in the clinic, is a patient who avoids a costly, uncovered emergency visit or an advancement of illness that requires admission without insurance coverage. Our primary care partners, WNCCHS/Minnie Jones FHC and MAHEC FHC, reach common ground when we are able to refer patients, who will remain in our county, for long-term/ongoing healthcare.

 Now add another verb: “achieve”

When we all look at our commonalities and our differences, we see a newer path. It is not the path that we use to “reach” common ground. It is a harder, uphill path.  We all use our strengths, money and skills to take this path. We work hard to climb this hill, each from a different direction. When we reach the same spot at the end of the climb, then we have “achieved” common ground.  The safety net is an example of how this concept of achieving common ground works in our community.  Our “same spot” is an outcome- based collaboration among partners who care for those who are uninsured.

 Recently, members of the westernmost free clinics spent some time looking at our critical “commonalities”.  These traits apply to our community agencies also:

-we see uninsured patients

-we have similar mission statements

-we have similar starts, moving from small to larger

-we are all part of a healthcare system now

-we have goals for high quality care

-we have financial sources that change and have an ebb and flow

-we are all leveraging our resources

The last thing on our list was that we all used volunteers to staff our services. This is not true of all of our community partners.  In some settings, there is just no way to make a volunteer experience happen.  The Medical Ministry works hard to achieve this common ground in a medical practice.  Our volunteers work hard to achieve this common ground for patients.  For instance, a Buncombe County resident who had been out of state for treatment and had lived in a sheltered situation, was sent back to his home town of Asheville because he was no longer eligible for care at their facility. His family called to ask for help in his care because they were at a loss for knowing where to begin.  This patient had ridden the bus back to town, got off the bus and promptly fell hitting his head and sustaining injury requiring an emergency department visit.  He made it to the clinic with his discharge papers and was placed in a room for a visit. The physician came out of his visit and just stated “this patient cannot see anything”.  He really could not see to go down the hallway. Within an hour, Asheville Eye Associates had him a new patient appointment, and he was driven there from the clinic. In that same hour, Services for the Blind had an intake from his family and was on the way to approving care at Asheville Eye.  He has since had surgery with his vision improving.  Common ground was truly “achieved”.

 In every season of thankfulness and giving, the Medical Ministry feels a huge amount of pride in this achievement of common ground for our community.  If you share this same commitment to use any of your uphill skills in volunteering, find us on the web at ABCCM.org or call us at 828-259-5339.

Beth Reeves, MSN FNP-BC
Clinic Coordinator

Growing Together in Faith

II Peter 1: 5-8 

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith, goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive…”   (NIV)

 Romans 5: 3-5 

“ Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”   (NIV)

 Every day, a person walks through one of our doors who is in the middle of a crisis.  A volunteer sits down to first listen, then compassionately engage and offer some wisdom that has come out of their own struggles, their own time of suffering.  Alcoholics know how to talk about recovery, because recovery is hard and to overcome addictions requires knowledge about it, along with self-control, a great deal of perseverance, and reliance on God’s strength every day. 

 One thing that makes ABCCM unique is our reliance on volunteers and our insistence on having volunteers lead each step in each Ministry.  We might say it is because of the different gifts in the body of Christ…and we would be right…but at a deeper level it so the Holy Spirit can connect those who have endured similar sufferings and trials with those who are facing them now.  There is something so powerful when a person we look up to says, “I’ve been through what you are going through now and my healing began when I realized I could not do it alone…”  On many occasions, I have heard people say, “I didn’t go through all this just for me, others have to know and know they can overcome too.”   So often our faith grows in the midst of trials or suffering and that inspires a great gift which is to give back to others. What we have learned.

 Peter’s statement ends with “..and to mutual affection, love. “  Paul’s statement ends with, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”  The process always ends with us needing each other more, realizing that we all have something precious to share out of our own life experiences.  Our churches give back every day at ABCCM through their volunteer missionaries.

 I will never forget a reporter going up to a well-dressed volunteer at the ABCCM Shelter on Coxe Ave and asking to interview her.  She agreed, only to have the reporter ask, “What is someone so well healed as you are doing here with the homeless?”  I was appalled at the crassness of the reporter and held my breath for the response.  Without missing a beat, she said, “Lady, you have no idea what I have experienced in my life, or what I have had to overcome – but I know ABCCM is here to help them overcome whatever they face and that’s why I am here.” 

 Past all the clothes, past all the appearances, we are frail humans who need each other, who need God, who need to know that we are not alone – that God cares and loves us.  Isn’t that the genius in Christ’s statement, “Whenever you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.”  Once I heard a poor person give witness to a volunteer about how they trust God every day, and He provides.  The volunteer said:  but we gave you the food.  The client said, “No .. God worked through you, to provide what I needed today…just like He is for all these other folks here.”  The humbled volunteer came to me and said, “Boy, I need faith like that.”  

 ABCCM is a place that makes it possible for us to share our faith with neighbors we don’t know, which means to share our trials, our suffering, our struggles; then grow both in love for one another and in our Love and Reliance on God.  If you’re a Veteran, then some of the most vulnerable Veterans are at ABCCM.  If you experienced recovery, then come help someone recover.  If you are a survivor, then come help someone survive.  If you have been poor, then come help the poor.  If you have been sick, then come offer healing to the sick.  Your neighbor needs you.  God needs you to connect with your neighbor. 
Call us at 259-5300 or through volunteer@abccm.org.

Reverend Scott Rogers

Executive Director

 

 

Hope For a Better Tommorow

Out of resources and savings, she sold everything she could to get her family by since losing her job last winter. Stretching her disability check as far as it would go, it still wasn’t enough for the young mother of four to make rent for the month. Doing the most she could with what she had, the young mother lacked $300 for her August rent. She quietly insisted to the Crisis Ministry volunteer counselor that whatever assistance she could receive would be for this one time only. The stress and frustration of this young mother was exacerbated by the metastatic cancer ravaging her body. Without any support or family, she carried her family’s financial burden alone, leaving her drained from any energy to focus on her healing.

The young mother’s story is one that breaks your heart, easily taking you down the path of hopelessness for her situation. But her story reminds me that of my friend Jen, who will tell anyone that ABCCM’s medical clinic, saved her life.  Jen’s story is much like the young mother’s; she was without family and caring for a six month old baby when the medical clinic diagnosed her cancer. Without any form of insurance she didn’t know how she was going to handle her treatments. But before her panic could set in, a volunteer nurse, along with network resources, had arranged for Jen to receive treatments at no cost.  The nurse and volunteer counselors working with Jen did more than offer her a list of resources and medical care -  they gave her hope. She attributes her healing to the clinic’s early detection of her cancer and the counselors who helped her navigate an otherwise frightening ordeal. 

We don’t know how she was able to parent four children alone while going through exhausting treatments. We can’t imagine the pain and fatigue she has to push through to be there for her family. However, we can imagine the hope that will replace the desperation she had for ‘this one time’ assistance. We imagine her relief when the counselor looked beyond her immediate need and addressed the long-term. For the young mother of four, she will receive more than she hoped for, connected to various resources and a church community so she doesn’t have to go it alone. By the grace of God, she will receive hope beyond tomorrow and the opportunity to place attention on her healing. We imagine, we hope and we pray that she received her answered prayer for a better tomorrow.

LaKisha Blount, Executive Assistant

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When we show kindness to the poor, we lend to the Lord

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 19:21

The joke in our family is that no matter how well we plan, or make our list, we can never go to the store just once.  A recent example in fixing up my son’s apartment happened when we needed to install some trim board.  I went to a home improvement store and purchased the exact design.  When I got back home, it was the wrong thickness.  I went back to the store and got the right thickness.  The first cut I made was too long.  The second cut was too short.  I went back to the store and got another piece.

Proverbs 19 is chock full of other important sayings like … Listen to advice (my wife would say: don’t grab the first thing you see and my son would say: measure twice and cut once).  

Our Crisis Ministry volunteers hear stories from our neighbors whose plans were derailed by life circumstances and now they are turning to the churches – and God – for answers.  We hear from moms that their kids are eating more, and they need help with food.  We need our churches to help with food.  Our downtown Crisis Ministry has seen as many as 70 families in one day coming in for food – on top of 120 homeless persons coming in for lunch.  You can imagine how many thousands of pounds of food go out of our door in one day.  

There are many groups collecting schools supplies but our families are also looking for clothes and underwear for their growing children starting school.  ABCCM also needs your church’s financial support because in July, we have had 8 families who were going to be evicted.  It is much cheaper to keep a family in the home or apartment they have – and can afford, than to have them go through eviction, the cost of moving and having to set up all the utility deposits again.  

The ABCCM Pharmacy at 356 Biltmore Ave. is purchasing meds to help bridge the gap in medications for those in crisis.  We work closely with other mental health providers in town like RHA, Family Preservation, October Road, All Souls Counseling Center and others to provide these medicines.  You may want to consider having a medicine bottle drive.  Ask everyone in the church to bring one of their medicine bottles – filled with quarters (possibly dollars) to help provide hope and healing for our working uninsured.  

Our homeless ministries continue to serve those on the streets.  We have had such a high influx in transient folks this year that we are also running out of basic hygiene items such as shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, razors, and other hygiene items.  You may want to consider putting some of these personal kits of hope; or our women may want to put together ‘handbags of hope’ for homeless women and moms.  We have a number of school-age children at Steadfast House and it is always helpful to provide some backpacks and school supplies.  While we have a number of agencies providing them for our schools, we appreciate the thoughtfulness of offering these to our families in need.  School supplies are a need throughout the school year.

Proverbs 19:14 says, “When we show kindness to the poor, we lend to the LORD.” When we go the extra mile while shopping for our own children or grandchildren’s school supplies; or shopping at the grocery store; or passing on great clothes and shoes that have hardly been worn, then we are doing more in caring for our neighbor – we are also serving God and His calling.  There is a strength and peace that comes from that kind of loving our neighbor that does not come from any other place.  As you read the other articles in this newsletter, we hope you might be inspired to volunteer and share a few hours or throw a little extra in your shopping basket to help our neighbors in need.  

 

Reverend Scott Rogers

Executive Director

“Without You There’s No Us” continued

 Ricky and Julie

Ricky and Julie

With wife Julie hand-in-hand with Ricky Johnson, I led the couple across an arched wooden bridge in the lush Botanical Gardens near UNCA.  We all sat together on a rough-hewn stone bench aside a creek to unfold how the two of them crossed a bridge from a life of darkness and uncertainty and into a life where the hope for change became real.  Julie’s life journey as a child in Southern Missouri was amazing in terms of how God put them together both individually in spirit and as a married couple.  “I prayed God would drop someone into my life who understood me.”  Julie knew Ricky was the one God had sent into her life.  However, initially meeting Ricky in the rehab program in which she was a counselor, she was puzzled by God’s answer, “What in the world was I doing?  This is crazy.”  While in the program, they kept apart, with Ricky seeing other counselors.  However, upon Ricky’s program completion, and the more they both prayed, Julie realized this was it.  Ricky then reiterated, “Like I said, she saved my life, but I knew I needed to make serous changes to make this work.”  Though Ricky is a man who exudes determination, in our conversation in the early evening amidst the flowers at the Botanical Gardens, Julie is his match.  She’s like “quiet dynamite.”  Throughout their courtship and even into their marriage today, they share scripture, their hearts, and their plan for the future.  That reliance on God and each other led them to work through the next stages of Ricky’s recovery, marry, and eventually move to Ricky’s home state of North Carolina.

Ricky Johnson successfully worked out of rehab and into a halfway house he affectionately called “The Mission.”  Their relationship continued to grow, the intensity of living at The Mission with others men in varied stages of recovery and relapse was an indication to Ricky that he needed to accelerate moving through this stage of life.  He recalled, “It was an important step to live there, but I got sick of it, and I couldn’t stop thinking of her [Julie].”  They did find ways to talk on the phone and share their mutual love for the Lord, the values and plans for a future, and their love for working out.  Ricky also helped Julie find her voice and, “…stand up for herself,” while Julie helped Ricky find serenity and peace and break away from the excitement of a chaotic life.  God’s peace was made real when they were together.

After they married, Ricky like many people with criminal records, though making tangible progress with great drive and skills, was turned down from several jobs.  Mr. Johnson avoided self-pity and instead used his gifts and talents to spur others into recovery through YouTube videos, one-on-one talks with guys at the gym, and working for whomever would give him a chance.  Julie Johnson discovered a counseling-type job in Asheville at a medically assisted opioid addiction treatment center.  Both Ricky and Julie knew God was moving them to the next place to flourish for Him.

Weeks after arrival, Ricky Johnson attended a Marine Corp League meeting, met ABCCM’s Director of Veterans Services of the Carolinas (VSC), Brandon Johnson.  Ricky’s passion for recovery, determination, and talent as a communicator led to Brandon connect Mr. Johnson to North Carolina Peer Support Training and eventually to employment at ABCCM. 

Ricky Johnson is ABCCM’s first “America Serves” Peer Navigator for our Veterans seeking and maintaining living-wage careers, housing, and community connection.  Earlier in the same day of this interview, Ricky worked with his first ABCCM client, an elderly Marine with landlord issues.  But Ricky Johnson knew this man needed more.  He needed someone to hear him out, not feel weak for seeking help, and connection to the brother-hood of hope offered through VSC and ABCCM.  Ricky was equally excited to meet the next and then the next Veteran on his caseload, and be God’s living hope to Veterans who have lost hope.  Ricky sees his work at ABCCM as more than a career, “I see a lot of potential working with VSC…God placed me here where…iron sharpens iron.  Here I can motivate others to learn that they have potential and be accountable and compassionate in their own lives.”  The three of us left the Botanical Gardens by crossing that same arched bridge back to our cars.  It reminded me of the bridge Brandon crossed out of chaos and prison to a wife and a career with ABCCM.  It’s now Ricky, Julie, and all of our turn to hold some hands of those in need and through ABCCM together cross a bridge into a new their life.

 

 Brad Owen, Special Events Director

God Loves You

 

God loves you!  He wants the very best for you. If you have had a vacation or the chance to reflect on His many blessings in the mountains or a beach or your home, then your response to worship and thank Him naturally wells up within us. Psalm 84 starts out with this joy of longing for His courts and celebrating him through worship.  Then the Psalmist changes gears in verse 5 and says, “Blessed are those whose strength is in You, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.”  NIV  

This “pilgrimage” builds springs for others, and pools to collect water so that everyone in the community is nourished.  

Is your pilgrimage ready to nourish and be a spring of fresh water to someone in need?  Summer, more than any other time is when I reflect on where we have come from and where God is taking us.  Every chance I get, I tell our homeless residents, our clinic patients, our families in the Crisis Ministry or inmates at the jail:  the churches love you and our volunteers love you.  They have experienced the grace of God, His forgiveness, and His strength and want to share with you.  

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Our churches, volunteers, donors and others at ABCCM want our neighbors, our Veterans, our workers, our disabled to be strengthened.  They want them to have needed food and clothes.  They want them to reach fuller potential by offering new strategies, skills, education and jobs.  ABCCM is equipping men, women and families with these new skills and jobs, along with access to medical, dental, and medicine that result in stronger lives, healthier families as well as stronger members in our churches who volunteer.  

In community terms, ABCCM is improving the social determinants of health.  We are working with a host of churches and other community organizations to build a healthier community by improving food/nutrition, transitional and permanent supportive housing, access to health care, along with assisting with electric and water bills, while preventing evictions.  But we are also connecting our participants with social networks, education and training that result in better jobs and stable housing.  

ABCCM soon knows if that one in four homeless person needs only the basic necessities, a safe place and some coping skills to move on in 45 days (or less).  We know that two out of four need some education and training to give them skills to embrace a new future, a second chance to be stable and successful in 180 days (or less).  We know that the last one out of four homeless persons needs more intensive services.  If we provide peer support service, trauma informed care, job training and education to build a social network of community and church, then they exit with a new home, stable income and friends/family.   

ABCCM is embracing the best practices and offering our best through the strength of our churches, volunteers and supporters.  If you are hearing a call in your pilgrimage, or a nudge from the Spirit, or an overflow of your blessings to impact someone’s life – please visit us, take a tour, join another ABCCM volunteer from your congregation and be part of strengthening a family, a Veteran, a hard worker, an Hispanic family, someone fleeing abuse – by just giving a second chance.  By giving of yourself in this way, you will find your own heart has been strengthened.  

 

Reverend Scott Rogers
Executive Director

Community Restaurants Serving our Veterans

O'Charley's

  As general manager of the Asheville O’Charley’s restaurant, Alex McDonald was considering local organizations as a community impact project for the restaurant.   He remembered one of his regular customers, a former employee of the VRQ.  Alex had met this customer years before while he was still a server at the restaurant, and the two had formed a friendship. The customer had even recommended a former resident of the VRQ for a position at O’Charley’s who was hired and still a great part of Alex’s team. Along with these two men, Alex also remembered the many Veterans who loyally eat at the restaurant. He decided to give back to local Veterans and chose the VRQ for their community impact project. He and some of his employees bought flowers and planted them on the VRQ property, and even donated the tools they used in the process of planting so that the Veterans could use them in the VRQ garden. “It was a lot of fun,” said Alex. “Gardening is a peaceful thing, and it’s a beautiful project they have going on at the VRQ.” Alex’s restaurant also donated $300 worth of O’Charley’s gift cards to be given to the residents. “In this process, I thought, ‘What place does Asheville have where we can reach out?’” said Alex. “We can reach out to help the Veterans.” Alex felt a duty to serve the Veterans at the VRQ through this project, and through his restaurant’s generosity, there is colorful, new life in the VRQ gardens, as well as many fun opportunities for the Veterans to eat out in Asheville. Alex also plans to bring his employees back for more service projects in the future.
     Through thoughtful acts of service, the residents of the VRQ are blessed. In the same way, your generosity and volunteerism is a blessing to all of ABCCM’s ministries. Thank you!

Buxton Hall Barbecue    

                                         Culinary Commandos at Buxton Hall

                                        Culinary Commandos at Buxton Hall

     In the process of learning, sometimes hands-on experience can change the course of a student’s life. This is what Chef Elliot Moss, one of the founders of Buxton Hall Barbecue Restaurant in downtown Asheville, hopes for the Culinary Commandos who took a field trip to Buxton Hall in earlier this year. Veterans in the program have been to Buxton Hall a few times before, but this was the first time that Chef Moss was able to be there to meet them. The Veterans met Ashley, the Buxton Hall pastry chef, who showed them the process of creating Buxton Hall’s legendary pies. They also observed the process of putting a whole pig on to roast and, subsequently, making barbeque. “After completing their training, if one of the Veterans is inspired enough by this field trip to come work at Buxton Hall someday, I would definitely look into that possibility,” said Chef Moss. “It’s important for them to get their foot in the door in the restaurant world.” He mentioned that he spent years working in fast food restaurants before he “made it” in the fast-paced, competitive restaurant world – and now, Chef Moss is the owner of multiple restaurants and a nominee for Best Chef in the Southeast by the James Beard Foundation.  Chef Moss knows the importance of hands-on training, and he is equipping the VRQ Culinary Commandos to do great things once they graduate. His willingness to open his kitchen is a testament to his respect for these Veterans and fellow chefs.
     Thanks to community members like Chef Moss – and congregations like yours – residents at ABCCM’s VRQ and Steadfast House have a chance to find new opportunities as their lives are rebuilt. Thank you!

Without You There's No Us

I was wide open to whomever God would bring as I asked my ABCCM colleagues whom I should interview that epitomized this month’s newsletter theme, “Strengthen”.   Veteran Services of the Carolinas (VSC) Director and US Marine, Brandon Wilson looked me dead in the eyes and said one name, Ricky Johnson.  When a Marine talks, I listen.  Brandon just hired Mr. Johnson to be the newest NC Peer Support Specialist on his Veterans Services of the Carolinas team that directly case manages and ignites the recovery hope of the hundreds of US military veterans personally served by ABCCM.  

Brandon introduced us at the perfect first-day-on-the-job for a US Marine veteran like Ricky, ABCCM’s 4th of July Veterans’ Celebration with the Asheville Tourists at McCormick Field.  I also met his equally wonderful wife, Julie.  As Ricky Johnson walked up and shook my hand, his physical strength was evident.  He’s a walking Gold’s Gym poster.  However, his greater strength was evident as I watched him engage many veterans shuffling by the ABCCM table at this sold out crowd.  Ricky poured out inner compassion, camaraderie, respect, and even humor with men and women who stopped by due to his compelling efforts.  During the event, Ricky and I exchanged thanks and contact information for our upcoming interview.  He humbly submitted to  me a two-part short documentary as context for our interview about his life.  After watching his life story I realized why it warranted a two-part video.  The externally and internally strong Ricky Johnson we saw on July 4th, 2018 marred a past rife with turmoil is a walking, breathing testimony of God’s power to heal and strengthen.

                         Ricky Johnson, Peer Support Specialist

                        Ricky Johnson, Peer Support Specialist

The two-part series entitled, “The Redemption of Ricky Johnson” project was spearheaded by Cape Girardeau, Missouri’s KFVS 12’s award-winning legal and investigative reporter and news anchor, Kathy Sweeney.  I was so moved and amazed by the strength of journalism and compassion of the piece, I emailed Ms. Sweeny who replied, “Thank you Brad, for the kind words about our report.  My photographer/editor Bill Allen and I were touched by Ricky’s story, his honesty and the number of friends and strangers he’s impacted…, but after 29 years in this business, sharing a story like his is the reason why Bill and I stay in local news.”  I encourage readers to view Kathy Sweeny’s two-part story at KFVS12.com.  

Across from each other in a VSC conference room, Ricky Johnson looked forward to seeing his first veteran with whom he would case manage.  Ricky reflected on his duties as a professional with lived recovery experience, that in North Carolina we call a Peer Support Specialist. Mr. Johnson further received a new veteran peer support designation though his service as a US Marine.  Ricky is one of over 2000 men and women certified as of peer support specialists in North Carolina working in hospitals, outpatient clinics, government task force committees, non-profits, managed care organizations, and more.

“I met Brandon Wilson at a Marine Corp League meeting.  He asked me what I was doing.  I just moved to the area [was looking for work] when my wife Julie got a job as a counselor…he connected me with peer support training, and later hired me.”  Ricky recalled, “I was nineteen-years-old, small son, new marriage, and no direction in life.  I’m an extreme guy, always giving 110%,” and did so in the Marines.  Ricky Johnson cherishes his service, stating, “Once a Marine always a Marine.”  However, his desire to be home and the uneven path of recovery clouded his dream for a military career.  His life spiraled, fueled by drug habits, crime, and interpersonal chaos.  The key during the well documented self-destruction turning around for the good was Ricky’s stepfather.  “My stepfather, he is my father as my real father died…He stood by me, and also held the line with me.  He really loved me well back then and now.”  Wanting to support but not enable Mr. Johnson, his (step) father and key friends met him at the bottom of his life. 

But God was already there, and showed Ricky Johnson a new strength, His truly eternal 110% love that made recovery a daily “tough delight”.

 

Brad Owen
ABCCM Special Events Director

 

Equipping You with Everything Good for Doing His Will

The writer of Hebrews closed out his benediction in final greetings to his readers with these words: Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead, our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him through Jesus Christ to whom be glory forever and ever.   Amen                           Hebrews 13: 20-21

How many of us realize that we really do have the tools and are equipped to handle the challenges of life?  Some challenges require that we turn to others in the body of Christ and in our community to teach us how to be better servants, to be servant leaders, to embrace what it means to love others as ourselves.  Accepting the grace of God is easy, but following the love of God is hard work.  

At Steadfast House, it is easy to welcome in a homeless mom and her children.  The joy and satisfaction of getting them off the street and in to a safe place is one that evokes some of God’s deep peace.  The hard work begins the next morning when we learn what she is fleeing from and what she is overcoming.  The stories are as graphic as any that are portrayed on television; and some call to mind the phrase: ‘You cannot make this stuff up.’  Right now, half of our residents are also Veterans.  We don’t often associate Veterans with women, but we have some of the bravest and most courageous female Veterans we have ever met.  

To deal with trauma is an acquired skill.  I am honored to tell you that Angela Catania is leading Steadfast with the same courage and compassion that anyone would want for our Veterans and survivors of violence.  She has engaged not only her team in being trained in trauma informed care, but  has negotiated an arrangement that will train all of our professional staff and case managers in how to help persons cope and be properly nurtured in our transitional housing facilities.  Angela also works closely with Tim McElyea to continue adding skills like motivational interviewing, peer support specialists, and reintegration skills for our staff and our residents.  If you would like to be a part of about 75 different ways to impact the life of a Veteran or a homeless survivor, please be in touch with me or one of these fine directors or volunteer coordinators who would welcome the opportunity to give you a tour and introduce you to the many opportunities to impact their lives.  You will find during orientation and training that we equip our volunteers as impactful as the lives we serve.  

Our Medical Ministry continues its great job of transitioning patients into primary care.  Offering the kind of training and education that helps individuals take more responsibility for their chronic diseases and health care is what our wonderful volunteers make possible.  Specialists in endocrinology like Dr. Weinrib help tackle some of the most difficult diabetic and thyroid cases.  We have podiatry that literally washes the feet of others to bring healing.  Dermatologists offer help with rashes and skin disease issues that bring true relief.  Our eye doctors provide valuable testing for glasses and contacts, but also to prevent blindness for diabetics.  We have a sports medicine specialist who helps us address critical issues requiring x-rays and radiology that not only helps with broken bones, but identifies serious cancers and other challenges.  We are honored to have the internist residents and other physician residencies from MAHEC who apply their skills while learning about the variety of ills that the uninsured have in our community.  Many working physicians are there to provide the urgent care for the uninsured after a long day at the office.  Our retired physicians invest the hundreds of thousands of dollars in their training to keep bringing hope and healing to the lives of those who could not afford care anywhere else.  

Our Crisis Ministries are exploring a new model called Crisis Time Intervention.  We are being equipped with our new database of information and referral that helps not only report outcomes better, but gives credit to all the agencies that help.  After all, we do not care who gets the credit but want to see the lives of individuals and families with children have the food and clothes they need, along with the stability that comes from paying a light bill or preventing an eviction.  Sometimes the best thing we can do for a family is help them stay intact and in their own homes.  

Thanks for equipping ABCCM with the resources and the people to meet these needs.  If God is tugging at your heart to join this great crowd of servant leaders, then please be in touch with us and engage with us soon because as I look outside my office, there is another family, another person coming through our doors needing help and you might just be the one that they need.  

In His service,

Reverend Scott Rogers
Executive Director
 

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Honoring Our Founders

         James Paul Raby

May 24, 1930 - June 5, 2018

Paul Raby passed away June 5th.  He and his wife Katherine had no children, but he was there at the birth of ABCCM and adopted us as his own.  Paul was a faithful member at Abernethy United Methodist Church and supported our founding leader, Reverend John Christy in making this new concept of equipping church members to be missionaries in their own community by serving one another in the name of Christ. 

Paul was unique as one of ABCCM’s founders because he spent his entire retirement years as a volunteer working four hours, once a week on Wednesday afternoon in our Crisis Ministry.  He sometimes served with his church on cook teams at both shelters and was a member on the ABCCM Board of Directors several times over the years.  Paul had a quiet, soft-spoken way that endeared him to everyone.  He also had a dry wit that was disarming.  This combination made him very effective in helping people look at a crisis and not only have a greater sense of calm about it, but then to listen to his wisdom, straight out of the Scriptures and the hard knocks of life, to teach others how to better cope and overcome their situation.  He invested his life in many people each day and hundreds each year which meant he impacted thousands beyond what we can count.  Paul invested in people’s lives and always took on special cases in which he would go the extra mile.  He would use ABCCM’s resources to fill the gaps and then quietly be involved in ways to help them build bridges out of poverty and into more stable lives.

At his funeral, Paul was eulogized by Reverend Karen Christy Kurtz, pastor of Montmorenci United Methodist Church and the daughter of ABCCM's founding President, Reverend John Christy.  Pastor Karen echoed how he loved ABCCM.  She highlighted how he was Cub Scout master for 22 years and held every position in the Methodist Church in support of that congregation.  Her fond memories were of him helping their family move into the parsonage, and of giving them coke and chips. This was characteristic of how Paul and  his wife, Katherine were invested in the lives of others – especially all the youth.  It reminded me of the ten days I spent with Paul when we went to Israel and walked in the footsteps of Jesus and learned about our rich heritage through the Scriptures. 

We have already missed Paul being in the Crisis Ministry the last couple of years due to his failing health.  He always asked about ABCCM and kept up his faithful support.  He also kept current about the progress of Transformation Village because of his love and concern for children at the Steadfast House.  His legacy will live on because of his commitment to helping ABCCM grow.  He believed in our mission and he supported it through the sacrifice of his time and talents.  We honor one of our founding heroes, J. Paul Raby.

A Budding Physician

What a blessing to spend time with those that serve at the Medical Ministry.  It was a family reunion of sorts because I had spent 16 months there on staff.  From the first greeter signing in patients, to medical professionals and pharmacy staff, I had observed first-hand, how volunteers and staff give their best to all the low-income patients that have no health insurance.  Since I was filling in for someone on vacation, I could jump right back into the action.  Before and after clinic hours, I asked staff and volunteers to tell me a good story for the newsletter.   Four different people, a nurse, front office staff and a volunteer told the same story about an interaction between two young men.

The young volunteer, in his early 20s has his CNA and is on the path to be a physician.   He volunteers at least once a week helping with the routine patient check-in, then with preliminary screenings like weight and blood pressure.  One nurse said, “He is very interactive with patients and does anything we ask.” 

One cold, rainy night, the last patient was a disheveled, young homeless guy in his late teens or early 20s.   He was covered with dirt, his shoes were so tattered and torn you could see feet through the bottom of them.  While our volunteer checked his vitals, he learned the patient was too old for foster care and was now on his own.  No wonder he looked so hopeless.  Staff members were gathering supplies they always keep on hand – food, snacks, toiletries -- some water.  During the conversation, one young man said to the other, “What size shoe do you wear?  Would you like these shoes?”   His patient protested that he could not take someone’s shoes.  The volunteer said, “It’s only shoes.  I have another pair in my car.”  Of course, they ‘happened’ to be the right size. 

The storytellers said the shoes were a name brand and that everyone was in tears.  They have never seen the young man again but that faithful volunteer still shows up every week.

 

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Inspired to Serve: A Gift to Steadfast House

The Steadfast House murals by Scott Smith of Gigantic! are complete! Watch the last installment of our video journey to see how this gift is impacting the ladies and their children at Steadfast House.

To use your gifts to serve our neighbors in need, visit www.abccm.org/serve.

Thank you, Jason Garris, pastor of Highland Christian Church, for creating this incredible video series! If you haven't seen the earlier installments, check them out at the links below:

Video 1: https://youtu.be/FpP1VjT5k2s

Video 2: https://youtu.be/snxVRuZwe54