Whenever I get a call about a potential resident there are several things that occur. I take all the information that is given, I ask several questions and then I set up a time for an informal interview and tour of our facility. It may be several days before I actually have the opportunity to meet them face to face. During that time, I begin praying for this family and for myself. I always ask the Lord for these 3 things: to give me sight beyond my vision, the ability to listen above hearing, and that my heart will be will be strong and true for them.
Have you ever encountered someone whose eyes reflected a very long, tired, and hopeless life? I bet at one point in your life you have. I’d also be willing to bet that when you did, you glanced away. (Even if it was for just a split second.) It’s hard to see those kinds of things isn’t it? No one likes to acknowledge that there can be such hardship and loneliness in this day and age. That’s what I saw in Deb the first day I met her. There was a hollowness in her eyes that I had not seen in any person with developmental disabilities – ever. When I prayed for God to give me vision beyond my sight I wasn’t expecting to see such loneliness. Here before me stood a woman whose entire demeanor stated “I have no value” She seldom would look me directly in the eye. Her shoulders were slumped as if she bore the entire weight of the world on her shoulders. Her hands were clasped together and rested in her lap. I believe that she was afraid to answer any of my questions for fear someone might yell at her for saying the wrong thing.
Everything about Deb screamed out to me, “I am so alone!” My heart broke for her.
We were able to move Deb to New Hope shortly after I met her. She’s been with us for almost 7 months. You all were there when we first brought her to our Riverwood family, and you were there when we moved her to our New Hope family. You all have been such a remarkable part of her story!
The above photo of Deb was sent to me the night they went to the Tim Tebow Prom in Jefferson City. I had to do a double-take myself! Can you believe it? Do you see what I see? Look at her eyes, they are shining! I don’t see any of the hollowness that I first saw when I met her.
Her life has changed so dramatically in the last 8 months. She now has “family” that cares for her and excepts her for who she is. She has gained confidence, independence and a deeper understanding of God. All of those things are now reflected in her daily appearance.
I am sure that Deb is going to have many other victories in the future. I can’t wait to share them with you all.
In August of 1989, Rhonna was hired by the as a part-time resident manager and has worked her way up to the position of Director of Residential Services of the Riverwood Campus. Before coming to Riverwood, Rhonna attended Johnson University where she became involved in the Disability Ministry program. The residents of Riverwood refer to her as “Momma Rhonna” or “the other mother.”