Shattered GlassPerspective (noun.) - the point of view from which you look at an object or situation.

Perspective is flavored by our personalities, knowledge and experiences. Perspective is a judgment call that we make, based on what we believe to be true. We look at something and judge its worthiness by what we value.

Our perspective also comes into play when we find ourselves in a new circumstance, pleasant or unpleasant. We smile or complain, depending on our opinion of the experience. We don’t have to know all the facts to have an opinion. We just judge, based on what we perceive to be true. 

Recently, Lower Lights Ministries suffered a great injustice.  Our beautiful window at the Holistic Leadership Center was wounded by what appeared to be a .45 caliber bullet fired nearby. Two people from our LLM family were sitting in the building, having lunch and were shocked by the blast. 

Our beautiful window! How dare they? How frightening! How much is this going to cost? These were just some of the initial responses from our community. But some of us responded, What a good God! Thank You, Father, for creating a hedge of protection around us! It was a matter of perspective.

You see, about 2 years ago, a kid with a BB gun damaged our windows, catching us off guard. Mike Zook, a good friend to LLM and President of Ohio Glass and Aluminum Co., stepped up and offered to repair our windows for free. In fact, he upgraded them to include a shatter resistant film; one used for security in government buildings. The film was not visible and easy to forget.  But as the bullet flew into the window, our perspective was changed! We realized the incredible impact of Mike’s gift.  It went far beyond the price of the glass, beyond the safety of our two coworkers. It was a gift of confidence in a God who knows our need before we even get there.  It was an assurance that God has work for us to do and His provision (sometimes through our partners) is enough.

Our perspective isn’t necessarily that of the glass is half empty/full variety.  Our perspective is of the shattered window experience that allows us to see God using all of us with whatever we bring to Him.

Renee Carden, Director of Engagement

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 2017 COH CollageIt’s October and the leaves are starting to skitter down Bellows Ave. Summer is definitely behind us and another Celebration of Hope is in the books. Before we embrace the holidays, we’d like to take a moment to recap that special night.

Celebration of Hope is our annual event when the community of Lower Lights Ministries gathers together to celebrate what God is doing in us and around us.  For the last several years it’s been held at the Boat House on the northern edge of Franklinton. The Boat House is a beautiful location and symbolic, too, for it sits at the confluence (coming together) of the Olentangy and Scioto Rivers.

We’re grateful for all the friends, participants, donors and well-wishers who come together to eat a meal, tell stories and strengthen each other. That’s how community is formed.

This year Lower Lights Ministries attempted to answer the question “What do we do that makes a difference?”. We’ve come to the realization that it’s not what we do, it’s what we are… we are blessed to be a doorway. A doorway where men, women and children can pause in safety as they are going through a liminal experience.

The term comes from the Latin word for threshold, as in a doorway, because in a liminal experience a person is betwixt and between. When you are standing on the threshold of a doorway, you are neither in nor out, you are not yet where you are going, but you are no longer where you were. There is a loss of the old identity, a sense of chaos and fear, yet the doorway feels safe, a respite in the storm as you wait for your new identity to become clear. 

The staff and board of LLM can relate to this idea.  We have gone through our own liminal experience as the whole organization, every department, has undergone significant changes. It has felt like a whirlwind, painful and exhilarating all at the same time.  We’ve had to love each other through the stretching and groaning.  We’ve seen God at work, even when we had no clue what the result would be (or when it would be over…)  Jan (our CEO) expressed it this way: we need to let go of who we were before we can really embrace who He made us to be. 

We’re not trying to elicit sympathy when we talk about our liminal experience.  We know that it has great benefits. By walking through this season, we’ve had a shared experience and we are stronger for it.  We’ve honed new skills and found new strengths that we didn’t know we had. We can relate better to our participants because we’ve been vulnerable and had to lean on others for support. Lastly, we’ve been forced to look at our organization with new eyes and rethink processes and methodology. 

If you’re going through a liminal experience, hang in there! It is uncomfortable, but it’s also normal and best of all, it’s temporary.  We invite you to tell us about it and let us know how we can pray for you.  We’re a community and that doesn’t stop at the door of the Boat House.

Renee Carden, Director of Engagement

 

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 LowerLights17 35

Who knew a year ago, that I would give up my dream job of leading Bright Light Kids? Our department’s staff trio (Mary Mugrage, Gene Johnson, and myself) has broken up. The group that laughed, played, and worked so well together is dissolved. Why mess with something that works? Why? We don’t know, is the honest answer. 

Before you start calling or emailing, let me tell you that we are all still here, working for the ministry and remaining friends of the heart. God is just doing a new thing, recreating something new out of familiar fabric. He often does that, you know? It’s uncomfortable and painful sometimes, but I’m content that it is right for each of us and for Lower Lights Ministries.

Here’s how it happened to us: through a series of changes in our LLM community, we found ourselves in need of someone to join the Engagement & Philanthropy department to connect with individuals and volunteer teams. I have spent my entire professional life serving children so I was surprised to find myself considering the role. The idea of such a big change felt crazy! We prayed for God’s leading and the illogical started to make sense. I took on the role of Director of Engagement and Mary and Gene are now serving as Co-Directors of Bright Lights Kids.

I love my new role! I love to tell the Lower Lights story to new people so that they can see beauty in the chaos. I love meeting people, listening to their stories and helping them find their place in community. I love the variety of my schedule; one day I paint with work teams and the next day I meet with executives. I’m being stretched and pulled into new ways of service. I’m never bored with my work, even when I feel totally inadequate for the task at hand.

At LLM, we constantly recognize that God’s transforming power is at work all around us. We are amazed at the work that He does in others, so why are we so surprised that He has work to do in us? When each of us allow the Creator to poke and prod at our lump of clay, stunning new results are produced.  Is this new development for my benefit? For Mary and Gene’s personal growth? Or is it for the organization’s health? I suspect the answer is yes to all of them! The mystery of it all still eludes me.

A new Bright Lights Kids year is starting this month and I hope that you will consider being a part of this wonderful program. Mary and Gene need Academic and Personal Mentors to walk alongside kids who need loving and caring adults to be their friends and cheerleaders. I’ll be cheering from the sidelines this year and trust that it will be the program’s best year yet!

Renee Carden, Director of Engagement

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living proof blog

I came to Rachel’s House on February 17, 2016 after nearly 6 years in prison. I had lost everything when I was arrested – my freedom, my career as a nurse and my husband who died one month into my jail stay in 2010. I also lost my only coping mechanism—prescription painkillers. I developed an addiction innocently enough after a particularly bad surgery. Over the course of several years it got completely out of control. I was charged with deception to obtain dangerous drugs for writing prescriptions.

I was numb when I finally got to prison after being in jail for a year. As soon as I could, I began attending the Rachel’s House Bible Study. I continued this for the next five years, knowing very early on I needed to come to Rachel's House. I needed a completely different way of life. I was mad at God for all the loss he had bestowed on me. And while I still believed in him as I always had, I just wanted nothing to do with him. I saw my pastor weekly during jail and monthly during prison and slowly, I began to be softened by God’s love.heather

After my arrival to Rachel’s House, being provided with a spiritual mentor had the deepest impact on me. I had someone I could share my doubts and fears with in a safe, non-judgmental environment. My first spiritual mentor ended up passing away quite suddenly 6 months into my stay. As devastating as that was to experience another significant loss, I was reminded that bad things happen, but nothing absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by accident. That’s been by far the biggest lesson. Everything is part of a bigger, ultimate plan, that we may never understand this side of heaven.

My favorite Rachel’s House memory was going to Honey Run Park on Labor Day with Emmalyn, the Program Director, and another participant and essentially falling in the river, but getting to swim for the first time since 2009. I love to swim. It was refreshing and invigorating and was kind of like how my life was starting to turn around.

It took nearly 14 months to decide when it was time to graduate. I feel safe at Lower Lights and I have never been on my own. I went from my parents’ to college to husband with no breaks and I had not been single since I was 15! The sound of leaving seemed overwhelming, but over time, I developed a peace in myself that told me with all I had been through, I could certainly count on God to help me with anything I may face. I’d already been through 2 of the worst losses possible: career and spouse.

After a lot of prayer, I decided to stay on as the Rachel’s House House Manager after I graduated. Did I have anything to offer? I’m older than most everyone. Could I do this? God put these fears to rest. What I do have is being able to share my experience, strength and hope with these girls and I can talk with the voice of someone who has been there, done that (or worse.) I’m living proof today that with the grace of God and lots of hard work, they too can experience a life better than their wildest dreams.

- Written by Heather, our newest House Manager at Rachel's House

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path to lower lights 2

Three years ago, while sitting in Perspectives class at my church, someone spoke about a ministry in Columbus that had a prisoner reentry program called Rachel’s House—it piqued my interest. When the class ended, I asked the staff member if there were any opportunities for me to be involved in the program over the summer. She shared there was not a current opportunity with Rachel’s House, but there was an opportunity with the kids as a camp counselor with the Bright Lights Summer Day Camp.

I applied for the position and was able to be a counselor the summer of 2014. By the end of the summer a staff member pulled me aside and asked me to consider doing my Social Work internship at Lower Lights my senior year of college. Fast forward to the fall of 2016—two years and two more Day Camps later—I finally found myself walking in the doors or Lower Lights as a Social Work intern.

As I have been interning at Lower Lights I continue to be reminded of this passage in Matthew 25:


“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

To some, Franklinton may be full of 'the least of these,' but Jesus cares for each and every person in this neighborhood, and Lower Lights has placed themselves in the center of this community. I am convinced that Lower Lights embodies this verse. On any given day at Lower Lights a neighborhood kid excitedly explains what they are learning in school to their tutor, a Rachel’s House woman is reconciling relationships with her family and an illiterate adult is learning how to read for the first time. I am so thankful for the fact that God had led me to Lower Lights to be a part of an organization that cares for all people.

nina small

I believe I was lead here by a divine appointment that started that night I was sitting in a class at church. Remember that reentry program that first got me interested? My internship has allowed me the opportunity sit in with the Rachel’s House staff meetings. I have also built a relationship with several of the Rachel’s House women by taking them to appointments and meetings. Lower Lights has been a vital part of my life for the past three years and I am so thankful for this internship experience this school year. 

Upon completion of her internship, Nina will complete 420 hours of direct service at Lower Lights. She is a Social Work intern set to graduate from The Ohio State University in May 2017. We are thankful for her involvement with Lower Lights since 2014.

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winter reading blog

Grab some hot chocolate and check out one of these books our staff members are currently reading!

waking the deadWaking the Dead by John Eldredge

For those who are seeking a fresh and creative way to look at discipleship, Eldredge challenges Christ followers to stop existing and to see the battle for our heart so that we can live "fully alive." Being a person who lives from my head most of the time, this book was a great challenge to learn how to live from my heart. It was the perfect refresher for a parched soul.
- Emmalyn Jerome, Director of Rachel’s House

 

generational iq book

Generational IQ by Haydn Shaw

If we look around in the workplace or in the church, we find up to five generations in the same place—each approaching their work, play, and spiritual life in different ways based on the events, ideas and images they have experienced. Often, the friction between the generations can be remedied by understanding those ideas and images. Hayden Shaw has studied the generations for over 30 years and relays in Generational IQ why the future is bright as we engage the millennials and future generations. A must-read for every church or ministry leader, Generational IQ starts the process of engaging and trusting the next generation to take the gospel to the next level.

As millennials make themselves available for meaningful volunteer service at Lower Lights, we are encouraged by their faith put into action. They often bring an energy and authenticity that is quite refreshing. The question is this: Will we attempt to understand, engage and trust the next generation of leaders that God is raising up?
- Chuck Wilson, Volunteer Coordinator

 

emotionally healthy spirituality

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

As our culture becomes more and more addicted to “busy,” Peter Scazzero helps readers understand the need for taking care of ourselves emotionally. He encourages us not to be afraid of our emotions, but to embrace them and understand them as part of being God’s image-bearers. The book gives practical ideas to know how to love and respect ourselves so that we can be effectively love and respect others.
- Kristina Neff, Director of Philanthropy

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top ways 2016

PRAYER.

Holidays can be stressful, especially in our community. They can become reminders of the reality of loneliness or traumatic past experiences. Pray that our community experiences the peace and comfort of Immanuel - God with us - this holiday season. More prayer ideas HERE.

GIVE TO THE LIFT UP THE LIGHTS YEAR-END GIFT MATCH.

The year-end gift match is coming on December 8-9. The first $23,500 given will be matched dollar-for-dollar. More information HERE.

PURCHASE GIFT CARDS OR BUS PASSES.

Gift cards to Kroger or Wal-Mart help with food and other expenses for those who just got their first job and need some extra help to make it to their first paycheck. Gift cards to Ohio Thrift or Volunteers of America provide work or interview clothes. Bus passes provide transportation to interviews and other important appointments. You can purchase daily or weekly COTA bus passes at the Customer Service counters at participating Kroger or Giant Eagle locations. Call us at (614) 228-3855 to schedule drop-off. 

DONATE NEW HATS, MITTENS AND COATS FOR CHILDREN.

We’ll pass them along to partnering schools in our neighborhood to distribute to children with the greatest need. Please contact us before dropping off items.

SPONSOR A $10 HAIRCUT AT THE LOWER LIGHTS SALON.

Nothing is better than a fresh haircut for an interview or a first day on the job! Your gift will help provide an individual (or child) in need with a haircut.The Salon is our newest ministry operating as a Social Enterprise. Be sure to check it out yourself! For appointments call (614) 928-3398 or visit www.LowerLightsSalon.com.

SPONSOR A FIELD TRIP FOR OUR BRIGHT LIGHTS KIDS MENTORING PROGRAM.

Throughout the school year our kids take fun and educational field trips to places like the Children’s Theatre, the Art Museum and more! Please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Director of Bright Lights Kids for suggestions!

COLLECT ITEMS TO FILL A RACHEL’S HOUSE WELCOME HOME BASKET.

When a Rachel’s House woman comes "home" we like to welcome her with her favorite meal and all the essentials she needs to start her journey at Rachel's House. If you or a small group would like to donate Welcome Home Baskets, please use the list HERE and contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Director of Rachel's House, to schedule drop off.

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fall prayer requests

While the focus is on the holidays for the next couple months, our participants are extremely vulnerable, often feeling helpless and hopeless with regards to family relationships. Most are used to self-medicating in a variety of ways–overspending, overeating, chemical relapse, etc. Please pray our participants would be filled with the hope of Christ despite their circumstances. Pray also for our staff’s response to their pain–that we would be compassionate and that God would help us discern what would be most helpful to them.

We see so much pain and brokenness within the families we serve. We are encouraged by their resiliency, but we want them to learn the strength that comes from resting in the Father’s love. Please pray our families would entrust their burdens to God and that He would work powerfully in their relationships.
Our staff has grown over the past year and we excitedly look to the future of our organization and expanded programming. Please pray for our staff during this time of growth–that the Holy Spirit would work fluidly between us and that the enemy would be thwarted from generating disharmony.

“Let my prayer be counted as incense before you, and the lifting of my hands the evening sacrifice.” Psalm 141:2

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heidi blog

Watching program graduates leave the Lower Lights community feeling empowered and ready to face the challenges ahead of them is one of our greatest joys. In September, Rachel’s House celebrated two graduates! Heidi shares a little bit about what she learned during her time at Lower Lights and what it means to reunite with her children.

What did you learn at Rachel’s House?
I learned to live in the moment and not to rush to the future. I tried to rush during my time at Rachel’s House because I wanted to get home to my kids...but the truth was, I was missing the whole experience. So, I had to learn to live in the moment and trust God.

Also, I learned that it is alright to feel weak and lost, but it is necessary to reach out to your community for help. I've never felt so much love as I did from total strangers. The people I've met through Rachel’s House including volunteers, the staff, fellow participants and program graduates—all of the people were my community and my family each helping me grow a little each day. heidi photo

Most of all, I learned to love myself. How could all these people I didn't know love me before they even met me when I couldn't even love myself? I learned to let go of my fears and sorrow by talking through them and releasing them in community. I found myself at Rachel’s House—I didn't do it alone though. It’s funny how you can find so much love in a rundown, dark, drug-infested neighborhood! There is more love in that community and in that church than I have ever witnessed in my life and I'm proud to be a part of that.

What does it mean to be reunified with your children?
That’s easy!! It means I'm forgiven. I am redeemed. And it means that I can finally breathe again. I've worked so hard and I have trusted in my Lord and he has kept his promises. My heart is happy and full of love again. Reunification means: sobriety, strength, overcoming, accepting challenges, wholeness, struggles, trials and heartache. But, it means I've made it! I made it through prison, I work hard every day, one-day-at-a-time and I thank God for his many blessings.

My life will never be perfect, I will mess up daily, but without the love and community of Rachel’s House, reunification wouldn't exist for me! I love my Rachel’s House family—they will always be a beat in my heart—God saved my life by making a path for me to grow at Rachel’s House. Reunification with my children—now, that's just simply grace!

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made for this moment blog

Over the last 25 years, Lower Lights Ministries has moved from meeting physical needs in our community, to a holistic community development organization focusing on developing leadership from within that same community. Last year we interacted with over 1,000 people in a relational, Christ-centered, holistic way and God-willing, we will continue to do so for a long time to come. Now, it is time to turn our eyes toward the future.

The heart of LLM is about creating a safe space, an environment where everyone is welcome experience healing and freedom. We call that safe space, community. To keep community safe, everyone agrees that if they become dangerous to others, they will leave until they can safely return. This concept runs through all of our programs. Over the years, many who came had a history of severe drug abuse, but found themselves in a period of sobriety because of prison, treatment or self-control. They were desperate to stay sober; they were looking for acceptance and accountability. They found it in the Lower Lights community. Some of them stayed. In fact today, 25% of our full-time staff are program graduates and recovering addicts. With their help, our programs grew more effective and many people maintained sobriety, even though recovery was not one of our primary programs.
We discovered a deep truth: when a person comes to that essential moment when they are determined to overcome addiction, they will first turn to someone who truly cares for them, but who cares too much to enable their destructive behavior. Being part of a safe community at LLM provides just that—no matter whether you are addicted to power, food, pornography, relationships, or drugs. In our programs, it is about finding freedom from whatever robs you of the life God created you for. LLM spends a lot of time and resources building relationships and creating doorways for people to peek into our safe community so that we can be there when those struggling come to that essential moment.

But for those actively engaged in drug addiction, we have had to refer them to other programs, regardless of the strength of our relationship with them. We simply were not equipped to house them without threatening the sobriety of those already living with us. For the last 5 years we have grieved the lack of affordable beds in Columbus for our friends, and as the number seeking help has doubled, then tripled, we realized the time had come.

There are others who are part of our history, multiple people who have been woven into the tapestry of the last 25 years. They are wandering up and down Sullivant Avenue relentlessly looking for a way to pay for another fix. The drug of choice may have changed some in the last 25 years, but their hopelessness and slow death has not. When society reads the horrifying statistics or feels the impact of crime, they might remember them, but for the most part, they remain forgotten, nameless and faceless. But that is part of the fabric of LLM--for us, they are not nameless or faceless, we know them. Watching them shuffle aimlessly, around and around the block, bruised, dirty and covered with sores is part of working at LLM, even after they die; we can’t forget. Daily, we wrestle with the pain that we should have been able to do something.

I am honored to announce that last fall the courageous Board of Directors of LLM unanimously voted that we develop a 3 year plan that would end with Lower Lights operating a drug rehabilitation program, complete with long-term housing. With all my heart, I believe that everything we have experienced and learned the last 25 years has been about preparing us for this. We were made for this moment.

LLM is ready to help address the deep need for drug recovery and treatment options in our city. We intend to add to the number of recovery beds available. Our offering will be a drop in the bucket, we do not delude ourselves that we are large enough to stand against the tidal wave of addiction in our city, but like the shepherd boy David, we boldly take our five small stones and march out to face the giant. We have no option, we were made for this moment. Not only have our years of ministry prepared usthe faces we encounter on our streets compel us.

Janet Ruark, Lower Lights Ministries, CEO

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