My ability was limited for this kind of project as I was very shy and had no money or time to be involved full time. My husband had just retired early due to a shoulder injury and was too young for Social Security. We were still raising our two grandchildren and building a house.
These thoughts were on my mind for six years and just would not go away. I signed up for a Discipleship Training class at my church, Westside Church in Bend, Oregon. This class was twice a week for eight months. During this time of learning people were sharing about God speaking to them, I finally asked the teaching Pastor how do you know God is speaking to you. I have been a Christian most of my life and never heard God speak to me. He stated if the idea is something you most likely would never do and the thought never leaves your mind its 99.9% of the time God speaking to you through the Spirit. At this time I realized this was God asking me to obey and move forward with His plan. He had heard the cry for help from His people.
I said OK to God, got out of the boat, and out of my comfort zone. Then I thought "how will I open a house for women" when I had no funds and my husband had retired due to a shoulder injury. He was only 60 and we had no income benefits. We had very good credit and I sold a lot in town to keep our credit in good standing.
God is faithful and never gives a Vision without the means to complete the task. I remembered some land I was making payments on 30 miles from Bend. This property was going to be our retirement place.
At this time it was just rocks, sagebrush and juniper trees. Had I moved there I would never have been involved in any type of Ministry due to the distance from local towns.
I put the property up for sale to have funds for a down payment on the first House of Hope. The property was on Farm Deferral and in a Wildlife Overlay zone. We had our work cut out for us to get the property ready for a buildable site and approved by the county and neighbors for the home site. Items like removing 3.5 miles of old fencing and replacing it with new for the cattle we would place there to prove up on the farm operation and need for housing there. Develop a new road through the middle of the 217 acres, develop a farm operation plan, develop a Wildlife Habitat Conservation/Management Plan, purchase cattle, water troughs, hay, and 50 gallon barrels for hauling water to the site from Bend. This had to be done and approved before a building permit could be applied for.
You're probably wondering why I'm telling you all these details. I think God wanted to know how serious I was when I said "yes" to His plan. I had never been around cattle in my life and each day I drove out to water and feed these wonderful ladies, and haul 200 gallons of water to them. Talk about a Faith building experience.
I will always remember the first time I drove into the property with the water and hay on my truck.
WOW! All of a sudden there were 12 big old pregnant, mean looking, gals looking and touching the truck wanting their water and food now. I could hardly get my truck door open; I have never climbed into the back of my truck bed so fast in my life. I did learn if I could throw the hay far enough away from the truck I could than have room to get out of the bed and pump the water I was hauling into the trough. I came to look forward to my time with the gals and I can tell you my prayer life really changed during this time of playing farmer. It was just me, the gals and God. For all I knew they could be mean and step on me or push me over and I was alone with them. But I knew God was with me.
It took about a year to receive the final building permit and sell the property. We had one offer and he wanted me to carry the contract. I felt I had few choices only having one offer so I agreed and we were to close on our Nations big day September 11th. Well I can probably stop here as you can guess that one buyer cancelled the offer.
My realtor I learned later was a Christian and God was using him. He came to me and asked if he could continue to work on the sale as our contract had expired. Of course I said OK as I had nothing to loose at this point.
I can tell you this day was one I will always remember as the Blackest day in my Faith walk. I had to decide did I really trust God or was it just lip service. I went to my bedroom and got on my knees, told God out right I had stepped out of the boat and my comfort zone and said yes to His Plan. I was truly wondering if I had heard Him correctly or was I crazy like most of my family thought. I said, "Father it's up to you what happens to our Sale and the new House of Hope plan, we have worked so hard to make this happen and here we are with little hope of completion." I was truly questioning myself and my belief in the project, and I am sure my husband thought I was over the edge and needed some medication. But I decided to stand firm with God and believe He was able to finish what He started. After a very long six month period the Realtor called one day to say the buyers were going ahead with the Purchase and this time they would not need me to carry the Contract. God had a better deal for us in the end.
I'm telling you all of this to encourage you to stand firm and not give up. Sometimes God's plan seems a little crazy according to our worldly view but try to remember who designed the plan.
House of Hope Ministries, became a non-profit 501(c)3 and opened our first home January 1, 2003 in Bend, Oregon. For women it was a dream come true, or just the beginning of how we would see the hand of God working in our community of under resourced people. It wasn't long before I felt the hand of God on my shoulder and a message came to me almost in a joking way this time. He said and I quote, "you know we need a men's house too." I knew it was God this time I didn't have to wait six years to find out. I said in my human response "Oh no I can't do men's housing. Remembering I am doing this by myself, no men are helping me with the house operations." But of course I know better than say no to God, or I might be sent to the belly of a Whale like Jonah.
We had just completed a house out past Tumalo as my husband did not like living in town. So the Bend house became empty and available for a men's home. I had planned to sell this home.
As I look back I can see the hand of God all over this Ministry. I have to say I was scared to death to start this journey. I counseled with the counselors at Westside Church for eighteen months and felt they were scared for me also to take this on at my age and with the small amount of funds I had. I am truly grateful for God walking with me and reminding me to keep my focus on Him. I truly could not have done this without the Spiritual strength, wisdom and love for others God gave me. God has also improved my physical strength as I could not have worked the many long hours and days without a break at my age and without getting sick. We are going through our sixth year now, and see no end in sight. We have seen over 375 people come through our doors at HOHM homes.
I want to give credit to my wonderful husband who was not a part of this Ministry in the beginning. Very soon to become our "fix everything man" and never getting paid for the many hours he works everyday for House of Hope Ministries. We now have eight locations that need his time and abilities. He feels God gave him the ability to fix things and he needs to use his skills to serve God.
There are no paid employees at HOHM. The Woods' family takes care of all the needs of the Ministry and when there isn't enough funds from the housing fees we collect to cover the expenses The Woods' make sure the bills are paid. This has become a burden to the family as our income is very small. We seek help from our community and friends in the Faith world. We are so grateful for those who have supported us through the years.
Everyone goes through an interview process before they come to live in one of our homes. They always hear about the Hope for the future and how much God loves them. No one has to be a believer to stay at our homes. But I can tell you before the interview is over they know these homes were made available SOLEY because God loves them and He heard their cry for help.
I just want to say in closing, If I had known working for God according to the Plan He had in place for my life, was this great I would have started much sooner. What a way to live. I'm so excited at what God is going to do everyday and He has given me the privilege to be a part of this wonderful work. I was very shy when I started and God made it very clear to me this journey was not about how good I was at reaching out or speaking to people. It was all about what they needed to know about Him and His love for them. He took away my shyness and gave me boldness - a tool needed to do the job.
I wish everyone could hear and witness the changes that take place in the lives of our HOHM families.
We credit the changes totally to God's love for them and the Christian support they receive from within the homes and in the community.
Darlene Woods, Founder
The History of House of Hope
It all began 1995, with compassion for the under resourced women in our area. A thought that just would not leave my mind. I envisioned a 10 bedroom boarding house. The name came at the same time, "A House of Hope," because most of the ladies I know in this situation have lost their Hope. A place where they have Hope for the future. A place where they learn about the Lord's unconditional Love for them. I thought to myself this is such a good idea if someone with money and talent starts this I will be there to volunteer.
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. - Jeremiah 29:11