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If given an opportunity to travel to Eugene, chances are the visit will include a tour of the Whitaker or "Whit" District. This eclectic community is full of gardens, local restaurants, an organic grocery store, vintage arcade, coffee shop and full of friendly neighbors.  The interesting element of this area is that it is also home to the Eugene Mission, where close to 600 homeless utilize its resources daily. It may seem strange that one of the most hip areas in Eugene is also among the poorest of populations.

The Eugene Mission (EM) sits at the dead-end of 1st Avenue and it's buildings span over several acres of land. On the outside, the EM appears to be just another set of old buildings, composed of masses of people. However, working among this population, the EM is much more than it seems from the outside.  Staff at the EM often joke that writing fictitious stories would be less entertaining than the actual events that occur daily.

Since I started working at the Women's Center of the EM in July 2012, everyday has been unpredictable and intense. To be honest, if it were only as easy as working with the homeless, the job would be much less chaotic. But unfortunately, homelessness is often the least of many problems. EM guests are struggling with addictions, mental illness, various diseases; they've been abused, broken, and wounded. Each guest has a story, and as staff, the most difficult responsibility is to have time to hear each story.

God is working in the Women's Center. The reality of our work is that the EM is understaffed compared to the numbers that are served daily.  It is easy to become anxious, feeling completely overwhelmed by needs versus the lack of resources. However, it never fails that the days I grow weary I am given grace. Grace for being human and making mistakes, grace for feeling tired and needing a just "normal day," and the grace that is extended when I just need to be transparent before my Almighty God.  It because of this grace that I truly feel cherished in my weakest moments.

And it is because of this grace that I want to love the women that I come in contact with everyday. Not that I love perfectly, but this has become the desire of my heart.  It's amazing how God's love has done a transformation in my heart and the heart of the staff at the Women's Center. Beyond the internal workings, God is blessing the Women's Center with a brand new building! That's right, May 11, 2013, will be the open house for a building that will be mold less and have the ability to double our occupancy. The EM is rare because, unlike other shelters, the women are not asked to leave throughout the day. However, the current dayroom is overcrowded, which makes for some grumpy guests.

Also, the campus is connected with other agencies in the community and we are now able to assist guests with employment, housing, VA, medical, drug and alcohol assessments, and other social services through the community resource HUB. Furthermore, God is designing a program for guests that want to find freedom from their bondage. It is such a delight to converse with those who truly want to make changes in their life. Last week I was speaking with a WC guest and I had the opportunity to share with her some positive feedback after making some simple observations. I was truly humbled when she responded with "it's because I am equipped with the Armor of God." She is right and she gets it. She refused to take any glory and recognizes the source of her strength. God has me here "for such a time as this," to learn from these guests. It is such a blessing to watch transformation take place. While this guest has so little, she taught me so much. Our neighbors in the “Whit” see these people and are also moved with love.

God is blessing the EM and expanding hearts and minds beyond what was ever thought possible. Continue to pray for the EM. For more information about the EM, visit us on the web at www.eugenemission.org.



Holleigh Woodard