by Patti Hall Johnson
From Hopeless to a Home, Shining Light Homes exists to empower young mothers who are experiencing difficult times, i.e. financially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. We provide access to tools and local resources while each young mother works to improve their financial situation through spiritual support, education, training counseling, and goal setting. Our goal through time is to help these young mother’s to become independent, productive citizens with their own home, upward mobile employment, affordable childcare and reliable transportation. These resources provide what young mothers need to have a successful start raising healthy, happy children.
When I read our mission statement, I immediately give glory to God. Who would have known that through my life experience He would use a woman like me to make an impact on young mothers and babies? It reminds me that can God use my story to reach these women today. I would like to start off by saying that I give glory to God and thank Him for my life. I would have never imagined a God sized dream manifesting in and through me. I praise Him for sparing my life. I could have been killed or lost and unwanted due to an unfortunate situation forced upon my mother where I was conceived.
My life was forever changed when I discovered that I was pregnant at the early age of 16. In 1972, I discovered I was pregnant by my boyfriend who later became my husband. We were so young and I was very scared. In those days, if you became pregnant you had your baby. Roe vs Wade was not legalized at that time, so abortion facilities were scarce but available if you afford it and get there. If you decided to have the baby your only recourse was to quit school. I lived hidden from public and felt that society turned a shameful eye towards me. Through it all my husband’s parents were local church pastors who helped us make the wise decision to keep our baby and encouraged us to get married and offered to take care of me. We had a double wedding alongside a very close friend whom was also pregnant. I felt embarrassed and ashamed because my life plans were out of order. I endured the pregnancy and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who is my pride and joy.
Consequently, my marriage to my husband ended in divorced and I became a young single mother. At this time, I was 18 years old living in Florida at the time trying to make a way for myself and provide for my young daughter. After befriending a couple in Florida, they received job transfer orders that would have them move to Chesapeake, VA so my daughter and I traveled back to Virginia Beach with them. Now living in my parent’s house tensions rose as I was in the way. Sleeping in the living room and putting a wrench into their lives I quickly worked to receive my GED. From there I was able to land my first job working in the kitchen of the Family Fish House. Working day in the kitchen and nights as a waitress I was able to save enough to move out. As nervous as I was because my rent was $175 a month, I knew I couldn’t stay at my parents any longer. The Lord always seemed to make a way for me and gave the provisions that I needed just in time. He even laid it on the heart of my landlord to reduce my rent to $150 a month because I was a good tenant. At age 22, I received my driver’s license and went on to receive one of the most important blessings, my first car. The burden was lifted when I knew that I didn’t have to beg for rides back and forth to work. Continuing to work day and night, I pursued an education in computer programming at ECPI. It was a miracle work of God when I landed my first “real” job at the Virginian Pilot as an entry level computer operator. Through my life, I had accomplished many milestones in taking care of my small family with no child support or food stamps. It was years later as I grew older, I gained a deep burden for young pregnant mothers and their children. For 22 years giving to the United Way, I selected the “other” category – homes for single mothers and babies.
Several years ago, God’s vision was birthed while I was dreaming. He made his plan very clear to me. I had prayed to the Lord that all I wanted was a small home where these young mothers and their babies could to live; a home where they are loved and not condemned, where they are lent a helping hand. It was while I was dreaming that this small dream became a bigger dream the Lord would assign to me. It was so vivid that I can share it in detail. I was with an angel. Initially I thought it was God but I saw that it was an angel. The angel led me up and he parted the sky. We were looking down over the United States and I saw the eastern seaboard with numerous bright lights. These lights were in Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia. In addition, I saw lights in California. I knew immediately what I was looking at all of the Shining Light Homes.
The angel said, “look” and he put his arm out pointing and there were all the homes. The Lord planted a vision beyond what I was thinking and that is usually how he works in us. The angel said, “There are many homes, homes for single mothers and their babies.”
Shining Light Homes is a place for mothers going through difficult times. We share love and support to them in various ways. They live burdened and condemned. Through my experience, I can relate when I say that, “women can be hard on other women.” When I sought acceptance through the church, the eyes that were on me were harsh looks, negative words and attitudes. I needed love and compassion and I received the latter.
It wasn’t until my 40’s that I receive divine deliverance from God. I felt him reach down from heaven and remove the shame and condemnation in my spirit that I had buried for more than 30 years. It no longer mattered whether or not my life was out of order. It was God’s order that my experience would turn the hearts of many through single motherhood. I love to teach these women to learn to rely on God for their source. The word says in Philippians 4:19, “ And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” We teach them to know God is their husband.
I never want a single mother to feel unwelcome or out of place. Our desire is to see our mothers with adequate housing and a place to call home. Many of these pregnant women are living sporadically on couches of friends and relatives. These women are sometimes asked to leave and they have no choice but to turn to shelters. Many lack reliable transportation and income so they are dependent on everyone and this breaks my heart.
Now, where we are in today’s society these women need to be embraced with compassion and see that their children are loved and accepted regardless of their marital status. The love of the Lord directs us to love the least of these. I look forward to the times that we embrace and show more passion towards young mothers and their children. These women and children feel invisible and all alone but are not. God sees them and is with them.
This reminds me of the bible verse in Nehemiah 1:9-10, “ The people you rescued by your great power are strong and hand are your servants. O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please, grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.”
We serve these women’s with our hearts and with as many resources as we can. There are too many stories to share. However, we were able to impact Courtney a single mother whose employment ended and she was unable to replace her job quickly. She called Shining Light Homes and became a client she was encouraged to pursue her GED. We receive donation and assistance to help Courtney pay her rent and a portion of her electricity.
The donors that support us are amazing. Our ultimate goals are to work through these women and help them to become successful in the community and see they thrive in the workplace, at home and parenting their children. The finished vision is to see Shining Lights Homes in various areas around America.
We are determined to purchase our first transitional maternity home in Portsmouth, VA. This facility is a former boarding home for sale and is the perfect shell for a transitional home for single mothers and their children. This facility will give mothers a chance to be equipped for their transition into stability. The first house goal is to supply women with life class skills, such as budgeting household expenses, or learning to manage a checkbook. In addition, we would see to it they would have appropriate transportation to various appointments such as medical appointments. With the constant cycle of homelessness for these women they will be provided mentorships as an essentials to their success. We have a huge vision for our centers and we are moving forward to seek appropriate funding to purchase, renovate and prepare our homes for these mothers and their young children. Each facility will provide these mothers with a private room, furniture for her and the baby, laundry facilities, meals, transportation, and life class training classes.
I personally lived the life and I can speak to their situation and have compassion on where each stage that they maybe in. These women desire the help and assistance it takes to get their feet headed in the right direction. In most cases, it makes us joyful to know that these are courageous. They brave through their pregnancy and thereafter without the assistance of the fathers. In addition, they choose not to have an abortion. These women decided to choose life for their precious baby.
Shining Light Homes was created to become a haven for women and their babies. Matthew 6: 15 says, “Let your light shine so your father in heaven can see his glory. This ministry was birthed from my life and shown through a dream. One person cannot bare the weight of what it takes to make this vision come true. It takes many hands to make light work. We have work to do. This is a ministry has provided many miracles. The Lord will see to it that this vision will come true. Our leaders, staff and prayer partners are determined to see it come into full fruition this year.
I trust him in all the plans he has for the future of Shining Light Homes. May you look to the East and to the West and may you peer out to the North and South throughout our great nation. Our oceans deep and vast in strength produce wave after wave, strong winds that never cease to quit. Numerous Ships navigate these various oceans and sea thoroughfares with compasses, sonar, and maps. They need the assistance of a Lighthouse. These are the beacons of light that shine throughout the darkness or shines through low-lying clouds where ships can’t see the seashore. We look around our Virginia Military Naval Ports and see large cargo vessels coming to deliver supplies. Think of the Lighthouse and the characteristics of this massive structure. The Lighthouse is solid, strong and tall for all the captain and crew members to see. The Lighthouse is able to withstand massive waves. The waves continuously crash into its concrete structure. It can stand in the strongest hurricane force winds. Every time I look at a Lighthouse, I think of the significance of our mission. Lighthouses are made to be seen and help massive ships avoid the devastation of a lost or damage a ship by rocky seashores. Our vision signifies this image of the Lighthouse. It is the very reason we exist to bring courageous woman that may have seemed lost and nowhere to be found safely back to port and headed in the right direction.