— Erica F., Gilgal Resident
HOPE is an inner knowing that can ignite the conviction that all is not lost, that things can be different, and that dreams really do come true. It’s a mystery how such a simple belief can hold the power to transform even the bleakest situations.
And in our present world when daily uncertainties bring more questions than answers, it’s comforting to know that hope still exists. In fact, God’s Word tells us in Romans 5:5, that “hope does not disappoint.”
This is certainly true for Gilgal resident Erica F., who entered our program a few days before Christmas. Born and raised in Atlanta, Erica’s childhood was bittersweet. She was the oldest of four children in a home where alcohol and drugs were the norm. She remembers hearing about God from her grandmother, who was unable to read or write, but made education a priority for Erica and her siblings.
At age 16, however, Erica got pregnant with her first daughter and dropped out of school to secure a job. When her daughter was two, she was tragically killed. It was then, at age 18, that Erica turned to alcohol. For years, she drank excessively to drown out the pain. At age 20, she got pregnant with her second daughter. By now, however, her unresolved grief and alcohol abuse had become a destructive way of life.
For the next 18 years, she consistently found herself waking up in jail with drunken disorderly charges. Her most recent arrest included an assault that landed her in the Fulton county jail.
“People think jail is bad,” says Erica, “but actually jail was my way up. I kept asking God to help me out of this destructive cycle. That’s when I was forced to sit for 15 months. It was the best thing that could ever happen to me. In jail, I started praying and reading the Bible, and I was hearing God speak personally to me. I believe it was my set-up for Gilgal.”
“I won’t lie,” Erica states. “I was disappointed when the judge recommended an inpatient program. After all, I had already been locked down for over a year, so doing another year somewhere else was not what I wanted. But God knew what I needed.”
Thankfully, a caseworker at the Fulton county jail connected Erica to Gilgal. It took several weeks, but she was finally released – arriving on campus on her 36th birthday.
“I didn’t really know what to expect from Gilgal,” Erica shares, “But the staff and residents were so welcoming. I came with nothing but the clothes on my back, but I soon had everything I needed. It was the best birthday in years.”
It wasn’t too long after her arrival that Erica met a familiar face, Stephanie W., a former jail mate who is a Gilgal resident. “I was surprised when I looked up and saw her. I wasn’t sure where she’d gone when she got out in March. She looks so good. She told me that she was in second phase of the program and studying to get her GED. I couldn’t believe it. The change in her is real.”
Seeing Stephanie come so far in such a short time inspires Erica to dream again. “Stephanie is so motivated,” she continues. “She almost has her GED and will start a great job right after. That really inspires me. I’d like to think it’s not too late for me to get my education like my grandmother always wanted.”
Erica recalls a scripture from Jeremiah 29:11 that says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Not surprisingly, this scripture is also on the wall of the entrance to the Gilgal classroom.
“In jail, I was asking God to let me have a personal relationship with Him. At Gilgal, I get the chance to do that. He’s all around. We stay in His word and put on the Armor of God every day. I am getting to know Him and starting to believe His promises for me.”
“One day I hope to have a career, own my own home and travel the world with my daughter who is 16 now,” she continues. “I believe that Gilgal can give me this opportunity, just like it has for Stephanie and others. They have job readiness here and teach life skills. There is good programming to help me work on me. I know it won’t be easy, but I’ll be learning a new way of living and that is another answered prayer.”
“I want to thank all of the people who make Gilgal possible,” says Erica. “Today, there’s a hope inside me that I don’t believe I have ever felt. I look forward to discovering God’s amazing plans and living out the future He has for me.”
Thank you for choosing to partner with Gilgal. Our vision has always been to “assist women in breaking the cycle of defeat that led them to drug and/or alcohol addiction and replace it with a cycle of victorious living through Christ Jesus.” Since 2005, we have served over 800 women, each with their own story to tell. Sadly, many of them have not broken free from the destructive cycles of their past.
But for women like Erica, there is still HOPE. Your prayers and financial support ensure that she and countless others who God brings through Gilgal will come into a personal love relationship with Him and live out His plans.
As we enter a new year, we want you to know that our mission remains the same: “To educate, equip and empower women [like Erica] to embrace a future free of drugs and/or alcohol by utilizing their fullest potential in a God- honoring way.”
As a Christ-centered, long-term recovery program, we plan to continue our ministry of “restoring homeless women with addictions” by providing biblically rooted programming that serves the individual needs of each woman. We are committed to providing for their basic needs (food, clothing, housing, etc.); while ensuring they receive spiritual enrichment, family reunification, personal and group counseling, life skills development, health and wellness education, relapse prevention and career education and development. We also will assist them in addressing barriers to employment, complying with legal and financial obligations, and securing stable housing.
Our purpose at Gilgal is to create safe spaces and enriching programs for women to not only dream again, but to truly heal from the inside out. We want them to know who they are in Christ, so they can fully embrace His future and His HOPE.
Thank you for all you do to make so many dreams possible.
Change Happens at Gilgal. We’re grateful you choose to be a part of it!
Many Blessings for a Wonderful New Year,
Love the Gilgal Staff and Board