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We recently caught up with a former Ruth House resident to learn her life story and her journey toward the Living God. Learn how God used your gifts to reach into Theresa's life and leave an amazing and lasting impact.
Theresa was born out of wedlock into a Catholic family. As far back as she can remember, God was always important. One of her earliest memories was of her walking into the kitchen on quiet mornings and seeing Grandma reading her Bible. Her Grandma would say, "Shh! Grandma's talking to someone!" and take Theresa into her lap. Theresa later realized that Grandma had been talking to God. Theresa says this is when she believes the seed of faith was planted in her heart.
Theresa moved often as her mom followed her dad to wherever he decided to live next. Although he was an atheist, she and her mom still went to church. Sometimes Theresa walked there on her own because she felt so much better after attending services. During this time, Theresa became a little parent as she helped raise her younger siblings. "I was my mom's sounding board because Dad didn't talk too much to anybody. I did everything with Mom... I can even remember changing diapers!"
Sadly, Theresa's mother passed away when she was in her teens. While she was still grieving, her father, already distant to begin with, started sexually assaulting her. Theresa was in shock. Her dad also treated her differently than the other, younger children. He would make her do all of the housework while the other three got to watch cartoons. She was desperate for God, "In my prayers, I'd ask God to keep his warm and loving hands on my shoulder, to guide me to do his will."
When she was 16, her father married Shirley, who was horrified at what had gone on. But, when prompted, he retorted, "I was teaching her about the birds and the bees." While Theresa finally had help for household chores, she was also steadfast in her dislike for her stepmom until God gently spoke to her heart, "God put the seed in me that I need to embrace Shirley because she'll be with me from now on. I can still mourn, but I can't take it out on Shirley because she didn't take mother – God did."
After graduation she met her future husband, Robert, during a trip to Canada. When she got back home, she was involved in a severe car accident that severed a muscle and crushed her knee cap. Robert would visit her in the hospital so much that she finally insisted that he go to church with her. Once they were married, Theresa started nursing school and got pregnant with their first baby. One day, while she was working in the emergency department as a nurse, she was asked by a police officer whether she had any relation to Robert. When she said yes, she found out that Robert had been in Vietnam as an MP and was selling drugs and dealing with prostitution.
After divorcing Robert, she married Steven and began going to church with him. They eventually bought their own farm where she raised and slaughtered chickens, turkeys, and geese. She loved farming but her new husband knew nothing of the lifestyle. Steven eventually asked her for a divorce due to an affair he was having, but she kept farming, nursing, raising their children, and keeping the faith.
Theresa was trying to be strong for her children and dealing with her own emotional baggage. One day, she was cleaning out her house in her upstairs bedroom. She suddenly smelled smoke. The potbelly stove had started a fire on the first floor. She was trapped upstairs. With smoke swirling around her, she made it onto the porch roof and jumped off, spraining her legs. She couldn't get help because the keys to her car were locked in the house. She watched helplessly as her home went up in flames.
She was able to relocate to a new home within the city limits of Menomonie. However, shortly after her family moved in, the house flooded. She remembers watching the foundation collapse and water come pouring in while she was moving items in the basement. Her children got her out of the basement just in time.
It was around this time that she stopped following the Bible because she didn't know or understand the meaning of some of the things she was reading. She also realized how codependent she had been on her husband and how that had messed up her life. She began counseling to get rid of the victim mentality that had come from her sexual abuse and grown through destructive marriages.
Theresa worked as a traveling nurse during these years after the house fire and flooding. She moved around the country, helping people wherever she went. One day, however, she slipped and hurt herself on the job. She became home-bound. As the money ran out, she was eventually forced to rent a little room in Eau Claire, where the young owner became very abusive. Sometimes he would walk in unannounced and steal things. She became depressed and found herself in a hole so deep she couldn't find her way out. "God get me out of here; get me out of here," became her constant plea. Because her landlord had stopped her mail, she had to retrieve it downtown. This was the first time she went out in months. Instead of going back home, she went to the Sojourner house, a homeless shelter. After just one day there, her daughter-in-law spotted her sitting on the side of the road and insisted Theresa live with them. However, after one month she knew she was getting in the way. She had to get out.
That's when she called the Ruth House. She met with our staff and was accepted into the long-term Renewed Hope Program. She began studies at the Solomon Learning Center and getting employment training at the Bargain Center. She knew she was going to stay. She recollects, "The whole program was awesome." Finally, someone was teaching her Scripture in a way she could understand and she began reading spiritual books and soaking in sermons from the pastor of her new church. Information and resources were at her disposal and she wasted no time diving into as many as she could. She fell in love with Jesus all over again and decided she was going to stay on God's path from then on.
While at the Ruth House, Theresa had to have an emergency surgery. Since narcotics were not allowed at the Ruth House, Theresa was given weaker pain meds. However, Theresa had taken narcotics for other pains she had throughout her life and, after retrieving her purse from her storage unit, she found an old narcotic. She recalls, "I don't know why I took it – I didn't even think about it; I was in pain, and it was there. I forgot I even did it." But her body didn't forget. That night, when she came back from her studies at the Solomon Learning Center, a planned drug test revealed her mistake.
She didn't let that setback hold her down, though: those four months helped get her back on her feet. She rented a room and continued to pore over Scriptures and Godly books daily. One day she was reading a book about prayer and she knew God visited her. "I've never felt such joy and freedom. He was standing by me with his hand on my shoulder; I felt his presence! I felt like I was floating with rays of sunshine coming out of every corner of my body and I felt so much lighter: he took my sins away and I was truly reborn! Now Wendy at Word of Life [church] is my mentor. Once we were talking about God and how he came into our lives and about Jesus; now, that to me, is absolutely phenomenal that he gave his only Son for us to take away our sins. I always knew that but never gave it as much thought as I did once I got to the Ruth House. Everything that I have done that went wrong was when I was off his path... He had to say "HELLO! ARE YOU THERE?" and he needed to take drastic measures. I've been skipping on and off God's path my whole life. But nothing I do will be done correctly unless I understand it's his will and not mine."
Today, Theresa desires to encourage others to embrace the Word of God, the Holy Trinity, and their belief in God so they, too, can experience rebirth. She declares, "No one needs any other stimulation. No drugs. No alcohol. All they need to do is believe in the Lord and they can have the same 'high' from him! He is IT. He is I AM. He is Jesus, the Lamb of God. He is everything. And when you follow him, get on his path and follow his path, your life will change immensely."
Thank you for your prayers and financial support that provide hope for so many in our community. Join our Prayer Partner Team online here. Make a gift to help more men and women like Theresa online here.
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."―Winston Churchill
Families and communities are strengthened by those who plan and use their resources well. Americans are respected for being generous and compassionate with their time, talent, and treasure. Planning to use your resources to provide for your needs, your family, and to help the organizations you care about is a good decision.
Wills are practical means of directing the use of your assets. You can assign what to give to family and organizations you care about. Some people do this by assigning a $ amount to each recipient or a % of the available assets. Hope Gospel Mission has been serving the homeless, hurting, and addicted in the Chippewa Valley and western Wisconsin for 17 years. We thank you and the many concerned community members who have been a part of this important work. We invite you to continue your partnership with us by including Hope Gospel Mission in your estate planning and having a vital part in rescuing, rebuilding, and renewing men and women who need our help now and in the future!
We gratefully accept gifts from wills/bequests, properties, retirement funds [IRA, 401(k), 403(b)], life insurance, stocks and bonds (contact us for transfer info), and revocable living trust bequests.
When I was young my heart was set to be a veterinarian – I LOVED animals! My first career was a veterinary technician and I did that for the first 9 ½ years of my adult life after receiving my Associate's in Vet Tech in 1992. I decided to go back to school to further my education in Business Administration in 2001 at UW-Stout in Menomonie. With a business major, the requirement was to take 10 credits in another area. I chose the restaurant managment route since I was already cooking and bartending to make ends meet. Once I got into my cooking classes several of my professors encouraged me to continue on to go to Culinary School as they said, "Jodi – you really have what it takes!" I started Culinary School at the Art Institute International in Minneapolis in the summer of 2008… 6 months after receiving my Bachelor's degree. December of 2009 I graduated with honors and received my Associate's in Culinary Arts Degree.
My goal after graduation was to work and start a personal chef service for the surrounding area. I've worked in a few nursing and assisted living homes and restaurants. I also started "Jodi's Culinary Services – a Personal Chef Service" in 2010. This still wasn't enough. I felt empty. I was a spiritual person but didn't have a church to call "home." In fact I didn't go to church at all… Not since I was a kid. Instead, I would go for walks and that was my "God time."
I watched a church getting built in North Menomonie and still didn't have a desire to go. Once it had been built and started functioning as a church at that location for a year or more something started pulling me. The pull got stronger and stronger until I couldn't ignore it any more. On the first Sunday in January 2011, I attended that church, which is Cedarbrook Church. I felt comfortable and the people were very friendly and welcoming. Right away I got involved and started building my relationship with the Lord. By joining small groups, I met additional people and I was asked to take over as the point person for the Café. From there on I built friendships and on August 21, 2011 I was baptized! My heart felt whole – what an amazing feeling that was! I leaned on God more and more and still continue to do so. I'm more at peace with myself all the time!
Little did I know God was preparing me to be hired as the Foodservice Manager for Hope Gospel Mission in January 2014. My position has been as rewarding as it has been challenging and that is a wonderful thing because it's helping me grow! I enjoy receiving donations from restaurants and local businesses – not to mention local caterers and churches – they all have been very generous and kind! Menu planning has led to the opportunity to be creative – not just with the menu but for the people who will be cooking it! Since our cooks are all volunteers, I base our menu on their cooking comfort level so they won't get scared from cooking something too involved or bored from cooking something too simplistic. I would love to get more volunteers to sign up and I'm sure our hard-working residents would love it too!
The residents... How blessed are we to have them in our lives! I just pray that each one will see what we see in them... That they are wonderful people, their past is just that: a past, and that they take the opportunity to get to know God and become the person he has intended them to be! I am looking forward to see them grow in so many ways as I know God has done for me and am very excited for our residents' futures!
Another thing I'm working on is to keep open contact with the other pantries and shelters in the area. If we have an overabundance of food or fresh products, we pass them on to other facilities. We've already been blessed by helping out the Community Table, Boys and Girls Club, Sojourner House, Beacon House, Bolton House and Trinity Lutheran Church. Some of these and other places have donated to us when they've had "more than they could chew."
I feel there are so many positive possibilities at Hope Gospel Mission and I am glad I can contribute! I thank God and am very blessed that I'm on his path now instead of my own. Not only am I excited about our resident's futures but I'm excited about mine too!
|David Baus, S. H. Hoeppner||Donald Kurtz, Phyllis Kurtz||CJ Robinson (3), Justin & Heather Knutesen|
|Rev Horst Bruenjes, Margaret Benson||Virginia Larson, Gary & Virginia Larson||Clemens Roter, Rosemarie Roter|
|Wilfred G. Burlingame, LaVonne Burlingame||Terry Lawler, Ann V. Coolidge||Marie Rowin, Janet Rowin|
|Jesus Christ, Gail Gunderson||Lorraine & Charles Michels, John Michels||Jim Sessions, Louise or Jim Sneen|
|Deatrick Family, David Jacobson||My brother, Gary & Kathi Bauer||Gary Solberg, Judy Solberg|
|Lynne Farmer (3), Justin & Heather Knutesen||My Hero Chris Hedlund, Traci Hedlund||Otto Ursin, Martin Ursin|
|Roy C. Gilley, Gloria Budik||My mother & baby girl, Glenna Bowe||Victor Ursin (2), Martin Ursin|
|Jake Glodowski, Joe & Lenore Glodowski||My wife Marlene, Jack Sampson||C. W. King, Elizabeth King|
|Donald Greene Bus Driver O-F, Greg Gilbertson||Bruce Pamperin, Kristen Berger||Loren & Vicki Wildes, Mark & Sheila Whitley|
|Son David Gugel, Karen S. Gugel||Pierre George Pevan, Deborah Beecroft||Mark Wildes, Mark & Sheila Whitley|
|Beverly Hanson, Marcia Meyer||Tyrel Wiseman, Sue Gunn|