The first week in June, I attended a different kind of graduation. The experience of seeing these 23 men graduate from homelessness and addiction into active, productive lives with gainful employment, community, friends, and a future is what inspired me to tell the stories behind the scenes of Atlanta Mission. That night was overwhelming emotionally, despite the fact that it was actually a very solemn ceremony. There was an atmosphere of joy, contentment, and humility.
Then I attended the Women’s Graduation from My Sister’s House. Let’s just say it was different. A LOT different. These ladies were whooping and hollering and celebrating and cheering and crying and hugging. I suppose that amplifies one of the many differences between men and women. I probably should have expected something different, but I did not see this type of emotional outpouring coming. It was fantastic.
The MC of the ceremony, whom you have met, opened the evening with a prayer, and then shared with the audience of about 200 friends and family about the rigorous structured Personal Development Program (PDP) that all the ladies have just gone through. She talked about how their counselors draw stuff out of them that they’d rather leave alone. How it takes courage to confront the past and your demons head on. How these ladies worked hard on themselves in groups and alone. There were conflicts that they had to work through.
There were balloons, cheers, rowdy applause. They broke into song, and not just any song, but the theme song to “The Jeffersons”, when she announced that one of the graduates would be moving into her very own apartment the following day.
I captured some of the more memorable remarks from each graduate as they were recognized up front. I’ve inserted just their first initial for the sake of their privacy. Each lady took a couple of minutes to express what was on her heart, but each lady’s turn took much longer because of all the cheering and applause and tears.
- J – “Thank you for teaching me a better way to live. Victory is mine! You can have it too!”
- S – “God gave me the strength to do this. It took 13 months and it was really hard. My counselor never gave up on me. Now I am a better mother, with patience.”
- E – “this was a tremendous undertaking, and they gave me wisdom, guidance, and love. Praise God for getting me through this.”
- K – “I was afraid nobody would cheer for me. I was the most broken person. I had no hope. These people took this pile of nothing…some of it was not fun, but painful. It required inner healing. God is the only one that could have done this for me. “God loves us as if we were the only person on earth.” God let me understand that I was not alone.”
- F – When this lady walked up front, she was speechless. Apparently, being short of words was very out of character for her. One of her friends in the audience shouted, “I know you got something to say!” She did have something to say, but only three words: “God did it.”
- D – “This was a true journey for me. I have not been able to see the path He has for me. God has been by my side.”
- C – “I finally made it. I never knew God until I got here. They made me look at myself in a way I’ve never looked at me before. I didn’t even know this person was inside of me.”
- K – “I didn’t have any wisdom when I arrived. I fought the same thing here that I fought at the shelter. Too much self control. I didn’t give it up to God. Let go and let God.”
- L – “I may have left the building but you’re in my heart. God used this place.”
She absolutely nailed it. The place went wild.