We love new years. We throw parties to bring in the new year. We buy silly hats. We buy fancy new calendars. We choose words to guide us for the year. We start new habits and build new patterns. Something beautiful happens in our brains when we think. “Ah...Last year is complete. I’m ready for a new start.”
2021 has been the north star for many months as we’ve trudged our way through 2020 asking the question, “when will this be over?” Much like our big new years in January of 2000, I’m embracing the reality that this one is going to come and go regardless of how dramatically we close the 2020 door or how loudly we celebrate the new year!
The truth is that both the troubles and the blessings of 2020 will continue regardless of what our calendar reads. And yes, there were both challenges and blessings.
The challenges are easy to list: a global pandemic, closures, masks, socially distancing and isolation. We have experienced tumult in the public square that for some of us seems to have no parallel: racial tensions and political divides. Here in Butte County, we saw more fire, more devastation, and smoke retraumatizing Camp Fire wounds and newly assaulting others. As jobs are disappearing, with many local businesses shuttering, we also see our housing reach an all-time high for expense and incredible scarcity.
Although harder to see, there are blessings too: We’ve discovered who is willing to sacrifice for community. We’ve seen churches stepping up to help our work more than in any other year. We moved our farm to Hegan Lane and have watched a beautiful project emerge. Thanks to our presenting sponsor, Golden Valley Bank, the Run For Food —a beloved Chico tradition—went virtual and offered something normal in the midst of a crazy year. We found and purchased our next home on Fair Street after 4 years of looking! Project Roomkey gave the providers in our area an opportunity to work together under the County’s leadership to shelter the most vulnerable homeless folks in hotel rooms during COVID. It has been encouraging to watch over 80 of them move out to permanent housing as a result of the stabilization and resources wrapped around them by our community partners!
So, how do you look back or look forward when you realize that 2020 was marked by both challenges and blessings?
I propose that we must choose between hope and despair as we look forward. A recent small caption on the cover of Christianity Today read: For God still so loves the world.
Choosing hope and joy means focusing on what God is doing, not on what’s going wrong.
Choosing hope means joining together to work for good instead of throwing up our arms and giving up. Choosing hope—for those of us who follow Jesus—means living out our belief that God so loved the world that he sent his son and now sends us to love those around us.
I’m choosing not to let 2020, or COVID, or politics impair my joy. Instead, I’m going to see 2021 through hope colored lenses!
2021 at the Jesus Center means...
- A new home for us on Fair Street. We are scheduled to have our new 60 bed residential facility up and operating by May of 2021
- A pathway home for those struggling with homelessness and related challenges.
- A home where community members join in building up those who struggle.
- A home for restoration.
2021 is also our birthday here at the Jesus Center. Forty years ago, two ladies chose to see the problems through the eyes of hope. They plugged in their crock pots and filled them with warm food—the best thing they knew how to do— to care for the hungry.
40 years later, we are pulling out all we have to redefine help and build a facility that will house a relational program of restoration. Meaning: we are going to surround those in this shelter with love, with resources, with encouragement: a living pathway to new life. This is what Jesus calls abundant life. (John 10:10)
To create this new pathway home, we need our community all the more. Your support in 2021 means we start our new program with a foundation that allows us to serve those ready to take their pathway to a home and a life of their own.
“And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” — ROMANS 5:2-5
Your gift gives us hope and we can’t wait to share that hope with those who are struggling in our community.
Blessings and Happy New Year!
Laura R. Cootsona