"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
I’ve heard that if you ever want to make God laugh; share with Him your plans. It was November 2001 and I received a call from the White House asking me to attend a Faith-based and Community Initiatives meeting with President George W. Bush. It was quite exciting to see how City Impact would be involved, but there was one problem. The meetings were to take place on Thursday and Friday, and Chelsea’s soccer team (I was the Head Coach and Kevin was the Assistant Coach) was to go to playoffs. We talked about it and Kevin said he would handle Thursday practice and I would catch a flight Friday afternoon to get home in time for the game on Saturday. Nonetheless, Chelsea was not very happy about it. “Mama, you are the coach and Daddy is the cheerleader.” “Chelser, I promise everything will be fine and I’ll be home for your BIG game”.
With excitement and some guilt I arrived in D.C. and attended the meetings. Thursday evening, I called home and told Kevin that Friday’s meeting would end at 1 p.m. and I would catch the 3 p.m. flight home. So I thought. Unfortunately, a Nor’easter hit the East coast and I awoke to a deep blanket of snow and basically D.C. being shut down. The news reported flights were being cancelled and to make alternate plans. I spoke with the meeting coordinator and she said she would get me to the airport early because many times the weather clears up enough to re-instate flights. I sat at the airport for hours and by the grace of God (and with a bit of shoving) I got on the 5 p.m. flight home. Before boarding, I called Kevin with the latest update and I heard Chelsea crying in the background, “Mama said she would be here.” Then my flight was called I rushed to the front of the line – whew, I’m on the plane headed for LA!! But, we were only in the air for about 15 minutes when the Captain announced they were being diverted to Baltimore because of the weather. He stated we would all be given a hotel room, a voucher for dinner and the first flight out. Oh my word, how was I going to explain this to Chelser? I called and she answered the phone and all I could remember of that conversation was, “But Mama, you promised!”
With a heavy heart and tears in my eyes I proceeded to the little Chinese restaurant across the street. As I approached the door, I saw this little old man turn the sign to CLOSED. He must have seen the bewilderment in my eyes, so he quickly opened the door and said, “I make you dinner – I’ve been waiting for you.” I gave him my order and he proceeded to make my dinner as he whistled “Great is Thy Faithfulness”. Could this be a dream I was experiencing or perhaps a nightmare? He then began to ask me questions, “Where was I coming from? Where was I going to? Why was I in D.C.?” I then told him my story, of course with my voice shaking and tears streaming down my face. He replied, “God has a plan for you, He told me so.” When my new friend handed me my dinner and prayed a short prayer he then said, “Dinner on the house”.
I went back to my room and called Kevin again and told him of my experience – I’m still amazed how God gives you signs of encouragement. Early the next morning, I was downstairs with my luggage waiting for my shuttle to the airport. My plane was scheduled to leave on time – with a glimmer of hope, I could get to LAX an hour before the game and I just might make it. I sat at my seat next to this boy who was about 10 or 11 years old. André was a chatty one; he told me that this was his first time flying and he was so excited he could barely sit still. André asked me a series of questions and I proceeded to ask him about his travels. He said his mother died of an overdose a month ago and his father was in prison for drug dealing and robbery. André was going to live with his aunt who lived in LA and she was Deacon at her church. He then asked me, “What’s a Deacon?” I told him and then asked him, “so, are you a Christian?” He said, “no, but I may want to be. My aunt has told me about Jesus, do you know him?” My mind went back to my conversation of last night, “God has a plan for you.” I then began to share my Jesus story with Andre’ and when I was done we held hands and prayed the sinner’s prayer. About that time the plane started shaking from turbulence and Andre’ asked me to pray again, so I gladly responded and just like that the plane settled. “Betty, Jesus heard you!” he exclaimed. Our plane landed shortly, I gave André a hug and told him I am going to run to catch my shuttle. Then I heard his voice echoing through the airport, “Auntie, that’s the lady who introduced me to Jesus!” I turned, waved and blew André a kiss.
I was reminded of this story the day I was going to share with the staff about the new changes to City Impact that would be effective July 1st. For the past two years, City Impact has experienced a drastic reduction in giving. To combat this financial situation, we have diversified our development efforts/activities, created a marketing plan, continued to write grants, meet with donors and prospective donors, trimmed down program expenses, reduced staff hours and not filled open positions. Our donors responded generously yet, not enough to continue business as usual. In June, God provided us the answer; City Impact would transition all our Ventura County Behavioral Health contracts and the counseling staff working those projects to New Dawn Counseling Center. New Dawn’s CEO, Cynthia Torres, has been with City Impact for over 10 years and has faithfully served the staff and the community. City Impact would then have the ability to provide a continuity of services to our clients and not lay-off staff.
No, this was not my plan – yet it is a win-win for all involved. City Impact will continue to provide counseling services, but focus on schools and collaborative efforts in prevention/intervention with law enforcement and probation. We will continue our parenting classes and our food outreach for the poorest of our county. Yes, God has a plan for City Impact – we may look slightly different, but we have empowered New Dawn the opportunity to increase counseling the number of clients with critical issues.
I cannot express my gratitude for all who have faithfully prayed, given financially and stood with us as we weather this storm. God continues to calm the waves that we have experienced and we look forward to the new doors of opportunities that He has in store for us. Please check out our website for information about New Dawn.
Blessings to you,
Betty Alvarez Ham
P.S. I arrived at halftime to Chelser’s game and we won!!