Marsha Tennyson here, I am the Founder and Director of Chrysalis. This will be my first blog, which is basically about, this being my first blog. If you are reading this, our long awaited new webpage is online where you will be able to view information about upcoming events, monthly stories about our residents and of course, read my blog. I am thrilled to be able to have a forum in which to share our lives at Chrysalis.
I am going to share about Chrysalis and who I am at a church in Boise this month, so I will give you a sneak peek. Almost 30 years ago God called me to work with women that are coming out of incarceration and addiction. It was not my idea, it was God’s. My father had been in ministry on Skid Row for 25 years and was the Executive Director of the old Los Angeles Mission. (I say old because when I arrived in Skid Row the mission was in an old warehouse infested with rats and other unsavory living things.) In the nine years I worked there, the Los Angeles Mission built a 27 million dollar facility. There were mainly men on the streets up until this time, mostly men whose lives were racked with an addiction to alcohol. But gradually young women started peppering the streets, who were addicted to crack cocaine. There was no place where they could receive assistance in their very dark world. I often heard my dad talking about the need for a mission for these amazing women and God started to work on my heart. I would go to bed and wake in the morning thinking, maybe I would be the one who would go to Los Angeles to start a program for women.
I did not feel qualified or called. My husband, not knowing the battle that was going on inside of me, had been talking to my father. He was going to accept a position at the mission to help in the computer department. I was not excited about this. I felt the timing was all wrong and again did not feel called. But we went. Knowing the need I began to volunteer in a shelter/program for women in Los Angeles. I applied and they hired me. I thought, if I am going to work with disadvantaged women I better learn something about it. After about three weeks I knew. To this day, I remember where I was sitting and how I felt. I knew this is what God created me to do, to provide an opportunity for change to women that were devastated by life. I have been doing just that ever since.
Still not feeling qualified, but definitely called, we opened a Day Services in the old mission. Women would stand in line at the front of the mission on Los Angles Street. They would then file in and sit on the old wooden pews in the chapel. We would read them the rules and give them a number. They waited to be called and then came into our newly made clothing room and shower area at the back of the chapel. After taking off their old soiled clothing, (we threw it away), they would take a warm shower and be given lots of great smelling stuff, clean clothes and whatever bobble or trinket had been donated for them to browse through.
This was my introduction to working with women that had lost everything. I was able to give them something very important that they had not experienced for a long time, and sometimes never before, respect. I remember the first time a woman came up to me and said, “Thank you for what you do for us. I have not been treated with respect for a very long time.” I was qualified for that. I soon learned God would never ask me to do anything he would not give me the ability to do. So after all these years I still know within myself I am not able to touch the heart of a woman, no one is truly qualified to do that, but God can. I am a vessel God uses to give big hugs, provide homes where there is safety, accountability and support. To give hope, until they have hope of their own. I have trusted God to give me the words, love and tenacity to do his work; to serve His amazing creation.
The women lived in boxes on the streets. They called them cardboard condos. They were dirty, addicted, and had lost all hope. But God always sees, always loves and never forgets. I soon realized working with these women, it was much like looking for buried treasure. Each one was given gifts and talents that were buried deep inside. I have spent the last 30 years trying to help women dig them up.
This blog will tell you more about my mission and the mission of Chrysalis and those involved every day; volunteers, donors, and our incredible residents that are fighting for a new life, healing and an expectation for a better future. I hope you will join me on this journey and remember to pray for me, our staff, and the women on our 18 month program. Please email any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.