A couple of weeks ago, Beverly and I were invited to an engagement party for a former child resident of the Village. As a child, we remember her as being exuberant, full of smiles, and enjoyable to be around. Now she is a college graduate, engaged to be married, and preparing to go into graduate school at Oklahoma City University for an advanced degree in cello presentation and music. At the engagement party, she demonstrated her mastery of the instrument by playing a selection of pieces. I had a gathering of tears of inner joy in my eyes as I listened to the talent and skill of the now adult. I then began to think of many of the other children that have lived at the Village who are now adults. Many of them have gone on to complete bachelor’s and master’s degrees. From our population, we now have nurses, doctors, schoolteachers, and HR directors. Some have served in the military,become civil servants, social workers, and parents themselves. But in the beginning, there was a time where what they needed then was a helping hand to begin anew. These are examples of why we are grateful to all who have shared of themselves to support the Village since 1989. When given a chance, the rebuilding of broken lives, renewing of minds, and the restoring of souls can and does occur.
“And now these three remain faith, hope, and love.” (I Cor. 13:13) All else passes. “Each of these Three Great Virtues must always include the other two in order to be authentic: love is always hopeful and faithful, hope is always loving and faithful, and faith is always loving and hopeful. They are the very nature of God and thus of all Being. ” (Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ, p . 25) The journey to Little Flock, Arkansas and the birth of Restoration Village began with the question: “Where do they go to get well?” A collection of specific Bible verse promises became the foundation of our faith that the Village would come to be. Over the last 30 years, the Village has faced big challenges, direction-changing events, doubts, and yet it continues to grow and reach further out into our community in memorable and transformative ways. All of the promises that in the beginning became our challenge to venture forth were framed by one special verse: “You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” (Deut. 8:2)
30 years ago: We repaired houses that had been vacant for 7 years. We figured out how to get a hydraulic ram jet pump started so that we had water. We had residents from the very first day and didn’t really know at the time how to help them. We slowly figured out how to maintain 70 acres of land, how to prepare meals for 35+ individuals daily, and how to provide safe shelter and instill a sense of hope for the future. Through the years we have added additional houses, paved the roads, built the Children’s Advocacy Center, begun an equine interaction therapy program, and established a weekly community outreach ministry to the homeless and downtrodden.
We have added additional staff including a licensed therapist, advocate, and a host of volunteers to assist in various ways. Almost a hundred babies have been born to women at the Village and thousands of lives have been touched in meaningful, loving ways.
In his new book, The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life, David Brooks shares his thoughts regarding grace and service to others and in many ways summarizes our last 30 years. “I was struggling with the concept of surrender and grace. I didn’t like Martin Luther’s idea that you can’t be saved by works, but only by faith. I wanted to stake out a middle ground, which I called “participatory grace.” You’d do some good things for your fellow human, and God would sort of meet you halfway.
Anne (David’s research assistant and wife) was having none of it: “I want to reiterate that yes, grace is the central thing Christ offers, but that is the doorway. And it is to know him. I see lots of emphasis on striving in your note, and I appreciate its antidote to cheap grace. But the foundational fact is you cannot earn your way into a state of grace—this denies grace’s power and subverts its very definition. Grace must reach out to the broken and undeserving. It must reach out to those recognizing plainly, vulnerably, their own need, and emptiness. It can only find welcome in those sitting still.”
Sometimes the best therapy sessions happen while driving around town. Recently one of our newer ladies, who does not have transportation of her own, had a late afternoon appointment in Fayetteville. Adrienne took her to Fayetteville to the appointment and the resident assured her that she had secured a ride back to Village later that evening. The next morning Adrienne checked the sign-in log and discovered that she didn’t return. Adrienne called her and found out that her ride fell through and that she was now stranded. She said she was too embarrassed and ashamed to call for help the previous evening. So Adrienne drove to Fayetteville to go pick her up. On the way back, this woman began to share some of her stories of loss and trauma with Adrienne and at one point she stopped, looked at Adrienne, and asked: “Why are you people so nice to me?” Without missing a beat, Adrienne replied, “Because you are worthy of love!”
The Village doesn’t charge for any of the services, shelter, or food that is provided. But there is accountability of a different kind. There are requirements to attend counseling, group therapy, and advocacy meetings. There are chores that must be done, curfews that must be minded, and rules that need to be followed. And progress towards individual goals must be made. But therein also lies opportunity to further extend grace and love when the initial high of being at the Village turns into a deep and dark low, or when a rule is violated, or a chore is left undone. The Village begins with a commitment to building relationships.
Harvard has been conducting a study over the last 75 years through which they have been following individuals and their succeeding generations of family members to find out what makes people happy and healthy and then they use the data to try and predict future happiness and health. What the researchers have discovered is that there are 2 common elements to those that are the “happiest.” The first is no surprise, and it’s that there is love. The second element is whether or not the individual has enough emotional capital or emotional resources to be able to deal with hardships when they happen. One of the Directors of the study, Dr. George Vaillant, remarked, “When the study began nobody cared about empathy or attachment. But the key to healthy aging is relationships, relationships, relationships.” At the Village, we are all about relationships. And we are grateful for the relationship that you have with us to make it happen and to offer the gift of restoration and renewal to another in need.
On June 5, we celebrate our 30th anniversary of arriving in Little Flock. And we still stand on the promises that God started giving to Beverly and I over more than 30 years ago.
Restoration Village is Northwest Arkansas’ faith-based, long-term homeless shelter for women and children in crisis. If you are in need of the safe shelter and life-changing services we provide, please contact us for more information. We serve the Northwest Arkansas area, including Rogers, Bentonville, Springdale, and Fayetteville. Your hope can be restored, your dignity can be renewed, and your life can be rebuilt.