Love Came First: Stephanie’s Gilgal Success Story

What an exciting year so far!  We entered 2022 with such anticipation of all God is going to do at Gilgal.  And, while COVID-19 still lingers and disrupts our daily lives, there is one thing that never changes and that is our Father’s LOVE.

John records that, “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)  His Love Came First and we want this truth to remain the driving force behind all that we say and do at Gilgal. From the way we engage with residents, to the principles that drive our programming and partnerships — the love that first loved us is what makes change happen at Gilgal.  

So thank you Gilgal family and friends for sharing this love and helping to make Gilgal dreams come true.  There are countless women who have benefited from your kindness. Take Stephanie W. for example. You may remember her story from our 2021 Blue Jean Gala. 

 “I am amazed by how much God loves me and all that He is doing in my life. I never dreamed I could come this far so fast. I want to thank all of you for believing in me and helping to make my dreams come true.”                   

                                          — Stephanie W., Gilgal Resident

Stephanie came to Gilgal in March of 2021 at the start of the COVID lockdown. As a referral from Fulton County jail, she was mandated to complete our program. While at Gilgal she has received basic essential services, as well as a full range of recovery programming, spiritual enrichment, individual case management, workforce development and life skills training. She also was assisted in regaining her Georgia ID and reuniting with her 12 year old daughter.

Her most recent exciting news, however, is that she successfully obtained her GED! After four months of hard work, she is now positioned for a corporate career path that she never would have known before.  We are so proud of Stephanie for all that she has accomplished.

Thank you to everyone who invested in Stephanie’s life. We continue to look forward to all that God will do next for Stephanie and all of the women we serve. Please pray for those who are currently with us and those who are yet to come! 

Change Happens at Gilgal because LOVE CAME FIRST — through God and passed on through each of you! 

Visit us on YOUTUBE to watch more video’s about the change that is happening at Gilgal because God’s Love Came First!

A Hope and a Future: Erica’s Story

 

“I want to thank all of the people who make Gilgal possible. 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.”

— 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

 

Christmas Blessings from Gilgal

Lauryl W., age 23, says, “Last Christmas, I was in the midst of my addiction. I did not see my family. I was in a relationship with a man who I thought loved me. He was physically abusive to me. My hope for this Christmas is mental freedom. My mental health is so important. I am grateful to be sober and surrounded by people who make me feel welcomed.”

Dear Gilgal Family and Friends,

As we enter this special time of year, we want to reflect on what this season truly means. What has been your favorite part of the Christmas season? Sharing a meal with family and friends? Spending quality time with loved ones? Celebrating the wonder of salvation and God’s love for us?

As you ponder these questions, I want to pause and thank you for your gracious support of Gilgal. Change is possible for Lauryl and Misty because of you.

WHY DOES CHANGE NEED TO HAPPEN?
In the Atlanta community alone, on any given day there are more than 1,000+ women experiencing homelessness and addiction. At Gilgal, Lauryl and Misty are examples of the many women who come to us in crisis.

100% of Gilgal residents meet the official definitions of “poverty” and “homeless

75% of Gilgal women are victims of childhood abuse, neglect, or trauma

75% of Gilgal women have received at least one mental health diagnosis

60% of Gilgal women are victims of intimate partner violence

40% of Gilgal residents have had their children removed by protective services

WHAT IMPACT IS GILGAL MAKING?
Gilgal is a Christ-centered, long-term, recovery residence for women experiencing homelessness due to drugs and/or alcohol addiction. We are a cost-effective organization with an important mission to metro-Atlanta and greater Georgia. Gilgal provides housing and nutrition, as well as a full range of recovery services including spiritual enrichment, life skills training, workforce development, love, and ongoing support to women in need.

Gilgal programs are free of charge – eliminating barriers to receiving services
Gilgal serves single women over the age of 18
Gilgal has 3 residences and serves an average of 50 women yearly
Gilgal women come from all walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds

Crack, Alcohol and Meth are the top 3 drugs of choice for Gilgal women

The result is life-changing transformation that includes job growth, life skills, education attainment and most importantly reconnection to people who love them. Your support will help them experience warmth and care this winter, throughout the year and for the rest of their lives. Your support can help them dream again.

Merry Christmas and thank you for faithfully partnering with us. Change happens at Gilgal because of you. We wish you every blessing for a healthy and prosperous 2022!

With gratitude,

Val Cater
Executive Director

Misty M., age 35, says, “Last Christmas was very depressing for me. I was using, isolating and grieving the loss of a special friend. I did not want to celebrate. This Christmas, I have found the deeper meaning. It is about redemption and a Savior. This is far more meaningful than what the world has shown me. I have come to a place of acceptance on the death of my loved one. I have begun the process of healing.”  

Thank You for Making Our Gala a Success!

Thank you for joining us for the 7th Annual Blue Jean Gala celebrating 16 years of ministry. This year’s theme was LOVE NEVER FAILS and once again God proved His unfailing love for Gilgal through all of you!

Visit www.gilgalbluejeangala.org to access a recording of this year’s livestream, as well as an archive of the 2020 Blue Jean Gala.

Change Happens at Gilgal Because God’s Love Never Fails.

A Heart Full of Thanksgiving: Meet Abby L.

“The life of an addict and prostitute brings with it a lot of shame and guilt. Yet throughout my time in the Gilgal program, I have never known so much love and support from total strangers. Gilgal staff, volunteers and donors who didn’t even know me accepted me unconditionally.”  Abby L. (2020 Gilgal Graduate)

Blessing and Glory and Wisdom and THANKSGIVING….

My name is Abby L., and I am a 2021 Gilgal graduate. I first shared my testimony at the 6th Annual Blue Jean Gala in October 2020. At that time, I had been at Gilgal for only a few short months.

I learned about Gilgal while at the crisis stabilization unit. After years of homelessness, drug abuse and prostitution, I had finally reached rock bottom. I needed a long-term recovery program, however, every call was a dead-end. They either turned me down because of my suicide attempt, didn’t answer the phone, had no beds available, or cost too much. My caseworker said she couldn’t find a place for me, and I had to leave in three days. I knew I couldn’t go back to the streets and needed God’s help. I asked if she knew of a Christian-based program and she said, “Yes. Let me make a call.” That afternoon I was on the phone with Ms. Deborah and accepted at Gilgal.

Check out this video from Abby during our 2020 Blue Jean Gala

I’m happy to say I completed the program in September and feel like I am living for the first time. I’ve been reunited with my three children – ages 4, 14 and 19. I am also back in touch with my immediate and extended family.  After graduation I was able to attend my brother Ryan’s wedding and am enjoying precious time with my dad who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. I’m grateful to Gilgal for making these priceless moments possible.

Last Thanksgiving, I was a resident of Gilgal and away from family.  And while the COVID lockdown prevented me from going home on pass, I enjoyed one of the best Thanksgivings ever with my Gilgal sisters and staff.  It was a special day full of love and fellowship which I will never forget.

I can honestly say that Gilgal was one of the hardest and greatest things I’ve ever done. My experience there was transformational. I was a loner for so long and didn’t know how to interact with people. The life of an addict and prostitute brings with it a lot of shame and guilt. Yet throughout my time in the program, I have never known so much love and support from total strangers. Gilgal staff, volunteers and donors who didn’t even know me accepted me unconditionally.

I also learned how to set goals for my future, live with integrity and maintain structure and healthy boundaries. I got my ID back, secured a job at CKS Packaging and opened a checking/savings account. I am still employed at CKS and was recently promoted. My Gilgal training on interpersonal relationships and emotional well-being has been invaluable on my job and at home.

I can honestly say that Gilgal was one of the hardest and greatest things I’ve ever done. My experience there was transformational.

Abby L. pictured here with her younger brother Ryan L.

 

This Thanksgiving I am looking forward to being with family at my brother Jake’s house. My sixth-grade niece said she is so happy to have the family all back together. I can’t wait! I am even bringing a special Brussels sprout dish that Ms. Sara taught me to make last Thanksgiving.

If I could give advice to anyone coming behind me it would be to trust God and the process. Gilgal offers all of us a chance to live life for the first time. We’ve been running and trying to escape what haunts us. Unfortunately, we chose drugs to cope. But Gilgal exists for us to be still and find peace with God. We don’t have to run anymore or make up any excuses to accept the person we used to be. This is our chance to learn and grow. It’s like a college education mixed with a vacation. You get to literally remake yourself. So, when you graduate and walk out that door, you’re better equipped with God and lasting friendships.

Sometimes it is overwhelming to think about the amazing people who love me and invest so much in Gilgal. I am so grateful for the volunteers and partners that poured into me on a weekly basis.  Even during the pandemic, they still faithfully served. They never gave up on me and it motivated me not to give up on myself. Today I know that my dreams are possible. Please pray for me as I take each new step to live them out.

Change Happens at Gilgal. Thank you for being a part of it!

 

Watch our 7th Annual Blue Jean Gala to get an update from Abby and her family. Change Happens because God’s Love Never Fails!

VIEW IT NOW

Congratulations Amelia W. – October 2021 Gilgal Graduate

Join us in congratulating Amelia W. for her successful completion of the Transformations @ Gilgal program.  Way to go Amelia! We are so proud of you and can’t wait to see where God takes you next!

Thank you to everyone who invested in Amelia and helped her reach this milestone. We know it is only the beginning.  Please pray for her as she continues to walk out the plans God has for her.

Change Happens at Gilgal because God’s Love Never Fails! Thank you for being a part of it and helping Amelia dream again!

Thanks to God and Gilgal, I Can Dream Again: Veronica’s Story

“I am extremely grateful to God, the Gilgal staff, volunteers and faithful partners who make it possible for women like me to dream again.  God’s love never fails.”

Thanks to God and Gilgal, I can Dream Again!

Hi! My name is Veronica D.  You may remember my video with Chesley McNeil last year as we were preparing for Gilgal’s 6th Annual Blue Jean Gala.  

Check out this video from Veronica and Chesley promoting our 2020 Blue Jean Gala

At the time, we were both excited about the ministry’s first ever virtual event. I was also looking forward to my upcoming graduation. I’m thrilled to say I did graduate from Gilgal in September of 2020 and my life has never been better!

 I can’t wait to see what God has in store this year for Gilgal’s 7th Annual Blue Jean Gala. I hope that people will be inspired by the stories from other women like me and see what their giving really means.  Without Gilgal, I don’t know where I’d be today.

I struggled with crack cocaine for about 10 years until God delivered me more than 20 years ago. I stayed on the straight and narrow for a while, but eventually began drinking. I abused alcohol for about 10 years and found myself court ordered to rehab for a year. God was faithful and restored so much that my addiction took away. However, I slowly left Him and returned to heavy drinking. Soon after that, my life spiraled out of control, and after 5 DUIs, I lost everything – including my driving privileges and registered nursing license. That’s why I came to Gilgal. It was there that I learned to make God the center of my life and found real transformation through a personal love relationship with Him.

After graduating from Gilgal, I moved to my hometown of Philadelphia and was reunited with family. I started attending church regularly and continued the process of piecing my life back together.  Over the past year, God has restored my nursing license and given me a job at the hospital of my choice.  I also had my driver’s license reinstated and had my final court date, which by God’s grace went favorably due to my completion of the Gilgal program. I am now taking classes to earn my master’s degree in nursing and currently on the dean’s list.

I am blessed to say that the Gilgal staff remain a huge part of my network and spiritual family. I currently teach a weekly relapse prevention class (virtually) for the residents of Gilgal. I am also passionate about growing the alumni program. I want to give back to the ministry that gave so much to me.

Many of the teachings and spiritual disciplines I learned at Gilgal I still continue to practice daily. In the near future, I will be starting a ministry to serve the homeless population here in the Philly area. I plan to share the unfailing love of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Thank you for being a part of my transformation. I am eternally grateful to the Gilgal staff, volunteers and faithful partners who make this ministry possible. Because of your support, women like me can find a safe place to heal and dream again.

Change Happens at Gilgal because God’s love never fails.

 

 

Join us October 21st for our 7th Annual Blue Jean Gala. Visit www.gilgalbluejeangala.org for details.

Celebrating Abby and Latoya’s Graduation – August 2021

Join us in congratulating Abby L. and Latoya A. for their successful completion of the Transformations @ Gilgal program.  These incredible women join our class of 2021 Gilgal grads!  Way to go Abby and Latoya! We are so proud of you!

Thank you to everyone who supported them along the way. Every prayer and every donation of time, talent and resources helped them achieve this major milestone. Please continue to pray for them as they take each new step into the plans and future God has prepared for them.

Change Happens at Gilgal because God’s Love Never Fails! Thank you for being a part of it!

Annual Blue Jean Gala Benefiting Homeless Women with Addictions

Mark Your Calendars and Make Plans to Attend

On Thursday, October 21, 2021 at 6:30 pm Gilgal will host its 7th Annual Blue Jean Gala.  This is a virtual event hosted by Kia, our presenting sponsor for the 7th year in a row!  The theme for the evening is “Love Never Fails” and you’ll hear first-hand from clients, staff, volunteers and partners about the change that is happening at Gilgal because of God’s unfailing love.

So mark your calendars and make plans to host your own watch party.  Details are coming soon! Visit www.gilgalbluejeangala.org for updates and to access a recording of last year’s livestream. 

Change Happens at Gilgal Because God’s Love Never Fails.

STAY CONNECTED:

Be sure to follow us on social media and sign up for our online newsletter to keep current on all that is happening at Gilgal.  You can also visit:  www.womenofgilgal.org to sign up for our email newsletter or to contact one of our team members.

Happy Mother’s Day from Gilgal: A Mother’s Love Never Fails

In honor of Mother’s Day, we wanted to share a special update from Gilgal graduate Jennifer H. and her mom Denise.  Jennifer’s story represents just one family impacted by the journey through Gilgal.  Change Happens at Gilgal because a mother’s Love Never Fails!

Jennifer: “Sometimes I feel like Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit.  My life went from being cozy and comfortable to life-threatening chaos and misadventure, and back again.  Mine was a happy and secure childhood.  It was wonderful.  The beautiful relationship I had always enjoyed with my parents continued into adulthood.  Addiction, however, is a destroyer of many things — hopes, dreams, careers, and families.  As I became more and more dependent on alcohol to meet my every need, I started shutting out everyone, including my parents, and even God.  For years, most of the time I was too drunk or hungover to call or visit as my life turned into a sad existence consisting of little more than drinking and working.  Eventually, I drank myself out of my job and my apartment and just assumed my parents would help me as they had before.  In other words, I used them.  In October 2018, as I faced another eviction, I was shocked and dismayed when my plea for help did not get the result I was expecting.  I ended up homeless.  I physically felt like I had been slapped in the face and kicked in the stomach.  I had never felt so hurt and rejected in my life.

But, through this and many other dark times in my life, Jesus was holding my right hand through it all.  He held me through being homeless on the streets of Atlanta, through six weeks at an Atlanta homeless shelter, through Gilgal’s program of recovery, and miraculously, back into my parents’ arms!  While at Gilgal, Jesus showed me the way out of the grips of addiction and into healthy relationships with others, including my parents.  I started calling my mother again and wrote a long letter to my dad apologizing for all the pain I caused.  After graduating from Gilgal in March of 2020, I continued my job while renting a small room in Riverdale.  I was tickled pink to even be on speaking terms with my parents.  God had bigger plans.  One fine night I was talking to my dad and he said, “Your mother and I think you’ve paid your dues and should move in with us.”  I almost dropped the phone!

I moved in with them in July and the months since have been such a sweet time spent catching up with them.  As I write this, I’m nearly two and a half years sober and my days are spent helping my parents around the house and chasing after the puppy.  I’m still awaiting the reinstatement of my RN, but that will happen in God’s perfect timing.  I am truly blessed beyond imagination!

Denise: I’m Denise, Jennifer’s mom.  I had two little girls and was determined to be the best mom I could be.  I came from a family that did not have many hugs, kisses, or support.  My girls were, in my view, angels.  They never got into any trouble, were great students, and were always either studying or at dance or majorette practice.  I never worried about them.  My girls were raised on Christian values.

After Jennifer left the nest, I had no idea she was drinking as much as she was.  As time went on and life happened, she went through a bad marriage and many other trials and drama that pushed her further into addiction.  She became more and more distant from her family.  She would call less and less, and eventually was calling only when she needed something — usually money.  It was awful for the whole family. Her dad and I had been seeing a counselor in an attempt to get some control over the situation.  The advice was to walk away.  Ultimately, Jennifer ended up on the streets.  The holidays were especially difficult.  I love the holidays and have always enjoyed that time to spend with family.  Jennifer not being home for them left a huge, sad cloud over every event.  I missed her and felt like she had rejected us and hated us.  I’m sure she felt the same about us.

God got her to Gilgal and showed her the way out of this darkness.  During that time, she started calling us again when she wasn’t loading trucks at work anymore.  After she graduated, her dad and I decided it was time to try and help again.  It had been several years since we’d seen her.  He asked her to come home and she did.  It was an answer to many prayers, and it proves again that love never fails.  God loves us and will never forsake us.  The previous few years were awful, but God taught me many lessons.  By His grace, I have my precious girl home, happy, healthy, and helpful in every way.  God used Gilgal to literally save her life.  I am so very thankful and pleased she is safe.  This is going to be an incredibly happy Mother’s Day because a mother’s love never fails, and this mother-daughter relationship never failed.  God is so good.