As most readers of the Reformed Herald understand, the RCUS has given financial support to Hope Haven for many years. We have had various ministers serve on its Board of Directors. Since I have been working at Hope Haven for the last 18 months, I was asked to write about my experiences. Hopefully, this article will give you some additional insight into this Christian ministry.
One basic thing I have learned is that Hope Haven is a larger organization than I had realized. Hope Haven celebrated its 50th anniversary in the fall of 2014. According to the 2014 annual report, the total number of people served that year was 1,714, which included 1,099 adults and 615 children from 51 counties in Iowa and 11 counties in Minnesota. Total income and expenses were each over thirty million dollars. Some of the services provided for clients of Hope Haven include: Adult Living Services and Support; Vocational Services and Job Placement; Mental Health & Recovery; Children and Family Services; Hope Haven International; and Religious Services. Hope Haven has over 700 employees in order to serve its clients in these areas. There are also numerous volunteers, such as in the wheelchair refurbishing work of Hope Haven International. As a result, over 110,000 free wheelchairs have been delivered to over 100 countries over twenty years.
There are over 30 Hope Haven residential sites where clients live, and with the respite care that is provided for families, over 500 adults and children are served. In all, 250 adults have been helped to find employment in various communities. Others have various work at several Hope Haven sites in Rock Valley, IA, which is the home base of the organization. I work in direct client care in a home setting in Sioux Center, IA.
There are, of course, numerous biblical principles motivating Hope Haven to serve clients with various disabilities. First of all, whatever the disability, those served are part of mankind created in the image of God. We are called to love the Lord our God with all of our being and secondly, to love our neighbor as ourselves. Also, our God of all grace often proclaims in Scripture His compassion for the helpless. Consider the common Biblical terms such as “the poor and needy” and “widows and orphans”. Most of the clients of Hope Haven could not take care of themselves well without the aid of staff. Yet, the goal is that those served can develop their abilities and grow in the measure of independence which is possible for each one.
Therefore, the mission of Hope Haven is summarized in these words: “As followers of Christ, we unleash potential in people through work and life skills so that they may enjoy a productive life in their community.” To fulfill that objective, clients help to formulate goals for themselves. Progress toward those goals in their daily living is encouraged and monitored by staff. To see such development is certainly rewarding to them and to those who serve clients.
For those employed in direct client care, as I am, it can be challenging work. Patience and compassion can be tested regularly. However, this is not really different than caring for sinners without disabilities. It is easy to see the failings and sins of others, yet we are no different in that we disabled by our sinful nature from living righteously. In our minds, we tend to cover over that reality. Yet, in caring for clients, we must face our own continual need for repentance, faith, and sanctification.
Therefore, in considering spiritual lessons gained through this work, I think of the following: I am more greatly impressed with the helplessness of all sinners! Without the grace of God, not one of us could care for himself in daily living, let alone be acceptable to our Holy Creator! We are, of course, utterly dependent on the saving work of Christ! Also, without the restraint of the Holy Spirit, we would simply follow our sinful desires every moment.
Along with that, it is even clearer that no one truly desires to hear the gospel unless the Lord works in the sinner’s heart to heed it! Clients may be less ‘tactful’, as in suddenly changing the subject to something totally unrelated when spiritual truth is mentioned. However, the natural state of the most ‘tactful’ sinner is just the same. He or she may be polite and give a superficial hearing, yet will never truly desire to repent and turn to Christ – unless regenerated by God’s Spirit! As Jesus said, “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Therefore, may we all be more convinced of the need for continual prayer as we seek to live and speak for Christ!
Lastly, I will say there are always employment openings with Hope Haven, if one seeks to work in a challenging and rewarding setting. I would be glad to give anyone further information on that.
Rev. Harvey Opp