A little over a year ago, House of Refuge Sunnyslope (HRS) brought on Nichole Willard to be the Women’s Program Manager. She oversees House of Hope for single moms and House of Promise for single women. With the expansion of House of Hope she will oversee up to 24 women and up to 20 children.
“When God called me to House of Refuge Sunnyslope I was honored and humbled to be entrusted with the position to help lead and transform the lives of women. My heart leaps with excitement and joy to partner with God first, and then others in the ministry, as we bring restoration to women and children.”
Her responsibilities include pointing each woman to Christ and the truth in His Word. Nurturing, caring and loving each woman right where they are in their life. Equipping them with the tools and skills they need to build a healthy foundation for their future through Bible studies, mentoring, life skills, and goal setting.
Over the last twelve months she has seen many women impacted by the program.
“It’s remarkable to see changes over a few months’ time. When the girls first get here their stories are filled with brokenness and hopelessness. When they take the first step in faith, to be in the program, God opens the door and I get to watch the hope in their hearts be ignited in an instant. They can smile, laugh, love, and their faces fill with peace. I’m left speechless because it is the hand of the Lord at work.”
Nichole has a story that is similar to many of the women. As a child her family life was loving and stable until her parents divorced and the family spun out of control. Both her mother and father dealt with alcoholism and addiction, leaving little guidance for the children. At the age of 14 Nichole was raped and also had to leave school to care for her younger siblings. She soon left home, began using drugs, and her life began spiraling out of control too.
Her lifestyle led her to prison in her early twenties. This is where she found God’s presence and peace. She began reading the Bible, praying, and joined Along Side Ministries to receive mentoring and guidance. Now, many years later, she is living a new, restored life in Christ. He led her to a career in the business world and then brought her here to HRS to teach Bible study. After spending four months as a volunteer getting to know the women and the program God opened up an opportunity to join the staff.
Recently, she was asked what she has learned after a year serving in ministry.
“I’ve learned so much! When I love as Christ has loved me, then hearts change and God’s love is recognized. He will equip us to do what His will is and He utilizes our brokenness to heal and help others in their weakness. Every person is different and you have to learn how to love them right where they are, not where you want them to be. Lastly, support, encourage and never give up on others, just as Jesus never gave up on me.”
“My prayer for each woman is that the Lord will let them be like a tree planted by the stream of living water, which brings forth fruit in due season. May they never wither under pressure, but grow strong in the Lord and may they prosper in all they do. In Jesus name. Amen. Psalms 1:3”
Pictured above is Nichole with Hawa, one of the House of Hope ladies who she helped guide to Jesus, and Pastor Chuck at First Christian Church of Phoenix.