Dear Friends and Family,
I met Reina in December 2008. She was struggling financially and expecting her fourth child. We offered to help Reina by getting Christmas gifts for her children and bringing her baby supplies. It was wonderful to deliver the gifts because she was so happy and thankful. She even cried because of her excitement and relief. Her baby was born on Christmas day, and Reina was joyful despite her troubles.
When I interacted with her over the next year, she was often drunk or high. For the following Christmas, she called at 1am several nights in a row pleading us to get a Nintendo for her son. I told her no because I was afraid she would pawn it for drugs. My father and I delivered a few gifts to her family on Christmas Eve. She was drunk when we arrived.
Six months ago, Reina called and said she needed help. She told me she loved her kids, but she was on a path of destruction instead of being a mom. Reina had hit rock bottom, and she didn't even have the clothes and hygiene items to enter drug detoxification. We were honored that Reina called us, and we were excited to help. She entered a three-month drug rehabilitation program the following week.
Reina is now out of rehab and sober! Though the temptation to smoke crack and PCP remains, this experience has reoriented her life. She is avoiding the people who have tempted her in the past, and she is working hard to comply with court requirements in order to regain custody of her children. The court ordered a parenting class, and she loved it so much she wants to take it again. When asked what she learned, Reina said, “Hollering and cussing at your kids is only going to make them cuss and fuss at each other.” Then she emphasized, “I thought I was the perfect parent, and I’m not.” In her apartment, Reina has scribbled the names of her kids over and over on a toy chalkboard. Below the names, she has written the “Serenity Prayer.”
Last Sunday, we brought her and her children to the park for a cookout. This was the first time she had seen them all week, and they were happy for the reunion. It is obvious that Reina’s children love her, and her healing is making their lives better.
Reina often goes back and forth between frustration and thankfulness to God. She asks us questions like, “Is it okay to be mad at God?” and “Is God doing this to me, or is this my fault?” She also has to fight loneliness. Since many of Reina’s friends enable drug use, we are in a small group who can support her in sobriety. We would not be able to support her without the help of donors. Thank you, and please pray that she will continue to persevere and recover.
Volunteers have been close to Malcolm's family for the last seven years. For much of this time, Malcolm has been in prison for crimes he committed while running the streets. When he got out of prison, he was an amazing and different person. He started taking care of his kids and stayed away from the streets. Surprisingly, he got a job as a security guard, and he even bought a house. His extended family constantly talked about the great transformation.
A few nights before last Thanksgiving, Malcolm was shot in the face. The shooter was someone from his past. His jaw was shattered, and the bullet is permanently lodged in his spine.
Malcolm was in critical condition for weeks. Even months after the attack, it was uncertain if he would live. After six months of hospitalization, Malcolm is finally home. He is paralyzed from the neck down. This has been an important time for us to provide material aid, prayer, and encouragement for his family.
Going to prison was a life-changing event for Malcolm, and now he is in the midst of another transformation. Malcolm used to be a muscular and intimidating man. He is now skinny and helpless. Malcolm is in his twenties and needs his mom to bathe and feed him. He also relies on a respirator, a heart monitor, and an electric wheelchair.
In the past, Malcolm was reserved, and my interactions with him were always brief. His demeanor has been transformed. God has given Malcolm the grace to be open and good-humored during this difficult time. When I visited him after his homecoming, he started chatting right away. He congratulated me on getting married, talked about his son, and told us about the movies he had been watching. My ministry partner and I prayed with Malcolm and told him we looked forward to visiting again.
Malcolm and his family have a difficult road before them. There will be many physical and spiritual challenges. We often spend time with his mom letting her vent, and we help her navigate through her frustrations and confusion. She has needed our help to find resources and manage bills. Even with his good attitude, Malcolm sometimes wonders about the purpose of his life. It will be a challenge for us to encourage Malcolm and affirm the worth of his life.
In different ways, Malcolm and Reina have looked at death this past year. Everyone confronts this crisis, and at this moment, Jesus offers life. This is the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection, and it is the center of the Christian life.
God bless you!
Laura Hehman with volunteers Sylvia Artiles, Ryan Hehman, Danielle Howard, Clark Massey, and Bianca Tropeano