Dear Friends of the Jesus Center,
I want you to read the story of Shelly Watson so that you can understand the value of the financial support you make to the Jesus Center. Shelly moved through using drugs to homelessness to staying in our women’s shelter, Sabbath House, to being employed by the Jesus Center as director of resources, to graduating in May with a degree in social work from CSU, Chico. She writes from her heart. I hope that reading her story shows you how much your generosity can allow us to help people like Shelly change their lives.
- Bill, Executive Director
I would like to tell you my story, but before I do, I want to introduce you to who I am today, and to tell you about what Jesus has done for me in my life. Today I am a wife, mother, a grandmother, daughter, sister, and I am someone who continues to carry the message of HOPE to others. For the past seven years I have been working at the Jesus Center, I am the Director of Services; I oversee the Sabbath House, House of Hope, resource center, and Bloomin’ Hope. Actually, working at the Jesus Center isn’t what I consider work. Yes, it is hard and it can be heartbreaking at times, but the most important thing everyone needs to know is that it is a privilege to be able to work for Jesus. I am honored to be in such a trusting position and to be the person who can try and speak life back into others; others who are broken just like me.
I arrived in Chico by accident in 2000. I was a hairdresser at the time and the first salon I applied to work in was a Christian Salon (I did not know this at the time). I walked in and one of the owners said to me, “you need to work here, you are very broken, and I believe you were sent here for a reason.” At the time, I didn’t even know what it meant to hear someone say “you are broken.” I was baffled by what she was talking about. I never planned to live in Chico, I just ended up here due to my involvement in an extremely abusive relationship, and after all, I was “in love”. Quite honestly, every relationship I had ever been in always became abusive. There was a pattern of abuse, a pattern of addictions, and a pattern of me allowing each man to treat me as if I was unworthy. I was at a point in my life where I felt I deserved anything and everything bad. For whatever reason I spent most of my life running after love, apparently any kind of love. ‘Why me God, why does this keep happening to me? Why it is the harder I try the worse everything gets? When will the pain end?” What I didn’t realize at the time is that I have always had love all around me, healthy love, and most importantly a supernatural kind of love. Over time with the help of so many people I learned to recognize this pattern and to learn that I do not deserve such treatment. My brokenness was beginning to mend. “I surrender LORD, I can’t do this by myself any longer. I need your help Father!”
This is what people in a caring community can do for another when they reach out to listen to someone. Do not judge one another; you do not know their pain or sorrow, you do not know their story, you do not know how crushed their spirit has been. Instead; listen, reach out, and continue to inspire others, offer HOPE, lead by example, and always demonstrate the love of Jesus. It is these actions which can make a difference in another’s life.
You know, I have always been a hard worker. I never had a problem finding a job, this was just not my issue. My issues were deeper than that, I hurt so bad inside, and eventually I found solace in drugs, in turn, the drugs which became my comforter also robbed me of my life. I slowly felt as if I had lost my soul. This is when my journey in Chico began. The owner of the salon spent many hours speaking to me about Jesus and how he was the most important person in her life. She told me about her past, she told me about how she rebuilt her life; she gave me HOPE. She invited me to church, I went with her and it felt like I was coming home. I cried and cried. I was so hungry for the word of God in my life, I wanted to know more, (imagine me mixing hair color and asking her about Jesus and continuing to ask her questions about the bible); she had extreme patience with me. It was through the church that I met others who stepped forward and began building a relationship with me, in some ways, I was scared. I often thought to myself, “What do these people want from me? Why are they being so nice to me? Why do they act like they care for me when everyone in my life has turned their backs on me?” “I refuse to be a project, I don’t want pity but I do need help. I need a hand-up to make all this pain go away!” Needless to say, I was confused but I continued to meet with them. I met a woman at church who became my mentor, Bev Knudson, she is a person who spent so much time with me, she prayed for me, she encouraged me, and she challenged me to begin to see myself as God sees me, she sent me cards, text messages, and she always told me the same thing, “read Jeremiah 29:11”-- 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. This was another “aha” moment for me.
Wow, God has a plan for me?
Along my journey I heard about a place at the Jesus Center called the Sabbath House; this is a place for women who need shelter, a place to be with others to go to bible studies, a place where the community financially supports the operations of the shelter so that women like myself could rebuild their lives. I thought this was the most amazing place, I struggled with comprehending why strangers would donate their money to a place where I could live for free. I grew up in a family where all of our needs were met, my father a retired military man always provided for us, he had great work ethics and I am proud to say I have inherited this trait of his. So, why did I need to come to a shelter? Because, somewhere along the way, I lost myself. I needed to be drug free, I needed accountability, I needed love, I needed to learn life all over again, I just needed a chance! Don’t get me wrong, I was difficult at first; I was still rebellious but a needed a chance. It took me a little bit to get going but with the love of Jesus and so many others, I made it through! After several months in Sabbath House I moved into the women’s transitional home. Living in a transitional home was perfect for me; I had the chance to work, the chance to continue growing in Christ, and to discover how to live life differently. In 2008, I faced some challenging health issues and I no longer could be a hairdresser, I was officially determined disabled and I began my journey of being a recipient of SSI/SSDI. After six months of being at home, and wondering what I will do with the rest of my life I decided to go to school. My body was breaking down in a variety of ways but my brain wasn’t.
I started Butte College late of 2007, I had made my decision to become a social worker. By the following semester I was approached by Bill Such and he asked me if I would like to work in the resource center, of course I said “yes”. It wasn’t long before I realized why I had endured many of the struggles during my lifetime; my struggles prepared me for the job I am doing today. My struggles have allowed me to understand what others are going through, my struggles have allowed me to experience pain and hardships, and it is those experiences that I bring to the table. When someone tells me ‘you just don’t understand”, I respond to them by saying “yes, I do understand”. Once I was lost but I found my way to the light, I want everyone to know there is HOPE in Jesus Christ. “Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2-3.
It had never crossed my mind while growing up that college would be an option; I never felt like it was even a possibility for me to consider. On my first day at Butte College, I walked through the campus and to this day I can recall the thoughts going through my head, “look at me, I am a college student”, I was so thrilled and I had the biggest smile on my face. I am pleased to say I graduated last month with a B.A. in social work from Chico State University and my son graduated with his B.A. from Sacramento State. I wanted to lead by example to my son and to so many others, to show that we all have the opportunity to go to school, it is never too late to learn, and most important of all….we are all worthy of going to college.
What I have learned over the years is that I am a determined and capable person. I am strong and I know how to persevere. Most of all I am a strong, independent, confident woman and I am a child of God!
Thank you to the many people who give to the Jesus Center because it is your support that helped me to be able to make much needed changes in my life. Approximately 175-200 women a year come through the Sabbath House; many lives change, others find refuge from their circumstances; and some just need to rest their weary bodies. Thank you for your support and continuing kindness. May God continue to bless each and every one of you!
Director of Services
P.S. Please help us overcome the current shortfall in the summer months. You can use the return envelope, mark your credit card number on the enclosed slip, donate online at www.jesuscenter.org or provide an added benefit to us by making your donation through Annie B’s Community Drive. Each dollar donated through the Drive from August 1 and September 30 brings an extra 8-11% additionally to the Center. The Drive is organized by the North Valley Community Foundation. Checks can be made out to:
Annie B’s/Jesus Center
North Valley Community Foundation
3120 Cohasset Road Suite 8
Chico, CA 95973
Also the City of Chico has a similar community grant program from August through September so that the first $10,000 the Jesus Center raises will enable the Center to receive an applicable percentage of grant funding from the City of Chico.