For Penny, the worst part of being homeless wasn’t having nowhere to go. It wasn’t looking for a safe place to park and catch a few hours’ sleep in the backseat. It wasn’t even remembering all the abuse she had suffered: the broken bones, the burned apartment. It was not being invited to her grandson’s first birthday party. “That broke my heart,” she says simply.
During 25 years of marriage, raising six children, Penny had never envisioned such a bleak future. But after her divorce, she fell apart: drifting from one bad relationship to another, drinking heavily, even selling drugs to ward off the homelessness that eventually claimed the last of her dignity. “I felt so empty and alone,” she says of those days.
Penny had no clear direction, but she made her way north to Eau Claire, where she heard about Hope Gospel Mission. Even here, surrounded by love and encouragement, she didn't believe her life could change. Then Penny was diagnosed with cancer.
Although she felt that God had given up on her, Penny says, “I prayed and I prayed, and one of the resident assistants at the house told me, ‘Don’t worry about what you have no control over. Put your worry in God’s hands.’ And I did. I believed her. It was like I was a different person.” After a hysterectomy, Penny was free of cancer — no evidence in her lymph nodes. “There’s no way to explain it except God was there, holding my hand.”
Today, Penny looks forward to celebrating many birthdays with her grandchildren. “I have a great relationship with my kids. They tell me they’re proud of me. I haven’t been this happy in a really long time. I’m in a good place. I’ve overcome cancer and my addictions. I’m almost six months sober. I’m very thankful. I pray to God every night and ask Him to hold my hand.”
Penny knows God was holding her hand all along, and that He guided her toward Hope Gospel Mission. “I didn't know where I was going or why, but He had His hand in it. It was my time to heal.”