“I’m Lisa Pettus, and I go to Central United Methodist. I grew up in this great city of Asheville; but when my husband and I married, we moved away in 1975. We settled in the eastern part of the state for all of our career and child raising years, but my husband, who’s not originally from Asheville, always promised to bring me back to the mountains. And he was true to his promise.
We’ve lived a pretty blessed life, but not without sufferings. We’ve had our share: cancer, addiction, dementia with both our moms, lost our parents. You know, none of us are immune to suffering; we may not be homeless, but we all have our sufferings. By the time we were in our mid-thirties, God had picked us up and put us back together. We knew that He had called us to take those sufferings and those gifts and use them to help others.
At the time, though, we were trapped. We had our careers, we were raising our kids, and we were busy, but that calling remained. On every vacation we went on mission trips, we worked at our churches, and did whatever we could to share God’s love with others. It’s like the nineteenth-century missionary to China said about sufferings; ‘To abide in Christ is to allow God to use our unavoidable suffering to make us humble and draw us closer to Him.’ That’s what it did for us. I had this overwhelming spring of love that I just wanted to share. It’s like the Living Bible says in Isaiah 58: ‘Feed the hungry, help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be bright as day. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy you with all good things, and keep you healthy too. And you will be like a well-watered garden, like an overflowing stream.’ That’s what I long to be.
In 2011, praise God, I retired and George brought me back to the mountains. I sat on my porch in Weaverville and said, ‘What am I going do with my life?’ But instead of writing that page out, I said, ‘God, you write it. Take this pen and write it.’ You’ll be surprised if you pray those prayers!
Our daughter was the volunteer coordinator at Urban Ministries in Raleigh at the time. I went to visit her for a week and I was going to toddle around the malls when I got this phone call from her. She said, ‘Mom! Our receptionist didn’t come in! You’ve got to come and fill in for her!’ And I was like, ‘Okay!’ It’s definitely a role reversal when your kids are your teachers! I had the best time of my life volunteering – the most fulfilling day I think I’ve ever had!
When I got back to Buncombe County, I googled ‘Crisis Ministries Asheville.’ See, I left Asheville before ABCCM was here, so I had no idea about it. Being raised in a small town east of Raleigh, we had no crisis ministries. I had no idea, so that’s how I found my way to Sheryl Olsen and 24 Cumberland Avenue where I’ve been for the past six years, volunteering as the receptionist at the front desk.
I have to tell you that God has put me where I need to be – right on the front lines! I mean, I don’t have to deal with computers, I don’t have to talk about policies or business plans – I can just be love to others. People come in and they’re angry, they’re hungry, they’re cold, they’re scared. You can reach across the counter with just an encouraging word, a smile, some dignity, and it goes a long way.
It becomes like a family with ABCCM too, because the staff are so fun to work with. I know they get tired of supervising us yahoos that come in and out and don’t know what we’re doing, but they love us and we love them. All of the volunteers are on a mission together, and the clients are like family too…
My husband and I drive downtown and we see our friends on the streets. We’re burdened because they’re there, but we’re happy to see that they’re okay! …We know that ABCCM is there for them…and it’s just like a big family.
Sometimes I wonder, ‘What would these people do if ABCCM wasn’t here?’ What about those families with five kids that are at poverty level? They can’t feed their children and keep their homes warm if not for ABCCM, their staff, and the money that the churches give.
ABCCM has a wonderful mission, and I know that Jesus is proud because in 1 Peter it says, ‘Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others faithfully, administering God’s grace in its various forms.’ That’s what ABCCM does. Jesus said to feed the hungry, care for those widows, and visit the people that are in prison. Praise to God that this ministry is here, not only for those who are in need but – I love being there. I would pay to go and volunteer.”