“One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” – Acts 16:14 ESV
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “haven” as (1) a harbor or port; (2) a place of safety and refuge that (3) offers favorable opportunities or conditions. For Broken Chains Ministry in Akron, Ohio, Lydia’s Home will be just that safe place for women leaving prison. At its optimum, however, the transition house will provide more than shelter. The home will be an environment for women to realize their full, God-given purpose and abilities.
Lydia’s Home is the brainchild of Dennis Strawhan, executive director of Broken Chains since 2004. Dennis is acutely aware of the pitfalls that face a person completing their prison sentence. He has overcome those snares himself.
“I had been a corporate professional, married with two kids and enjoying all of the trappings of this world,” Dennis says. “But I was empty inside. Then, my wife decided she was finished with our marriage and left me with my two kids.
“I tanked emotionally,” Dennis continued. “I turned to some friends, whose ‘help’ led me into a $1,000 per day crack cocaine addiction.”
Dennis’ professional salary couldn’t support his habit, so he turned to bank fraud – a crime that brought two felony convictions and a potential sentence of 41 years in jail. As he awaited his sentence, however, a visit from the pastor of Akron Bible Church turned his life around. Dennis became a Christian and was given a great gift from God. Rather than serving his sentence in jail, Dennis was sent to Bethel Colony of Mercy in Lenoir, NC. Bethel had a tape-listening program – teachings from great Bible expositors like Billy Graham, Charles Stanley and Chuck Swindoll. Those life-giving teachings set the course for Dennis to claim victory over his addictions and convictions, and he wants to share that same transformational hope with female ex-convicts through Lydia’s Home.
“We are currently writing the curriculum that the women will follow when they come to Lydia’s Home,” Dennis says. “For the first 60 days of their stay, I want women listening to and watching Biblical content. Phase II will include intensive counseling to restore their identities, then we will move on to life skills and work force development.”
Dennis believes, based on his own experiences as well as the countless people Broken Chains has served, that true change cannot happen apart from the Life Himself, Jesus Christ.
“At Broken Chains, our focus is restorative justice,” Dennis explains. “We want these women to be restored to a faith relationship with Jesus Christ, to their family relationships and to their communities.”
That vision is what led Dennis and his board to begin praying for the funds to build a female-specific transition house. The group budgeted $100,000 to buy land and were going to raise an additional $300,000 for the structure. Upon returning from a wonderful anniversary trip to Mexico with his wife and co-laborer, Tamela, however, Dennis received a phone call. In a way only God can work, He had provided a property that far exceeded anything Dennis and his board could even ask or imagine.
“My colleague told me of a house in Green and said I had to come see it now,” Dennis shares. “I was absolutely shocked when I arrived. The house has eight bedrooms, two kitchens, three and one-half bathrooms and even a media room for the tape listening and viewing program!”
The Broken Chains team made an offer, and it was accepted. Moreover, the City of Green approved the ministry’s request to rezone the property to a group home. The sale will close on March 15, 2017, and then renovations can begin. Dennis’ prayer is that Lydia’s Home can open its doors by July 4th weekend.
For those led to serve, there are many opportunities to help Lydia’s Home now and in the future. Currently, Broken Chains is seeking donations of $50,000 to $60,000 for renovations of the house. Once opened, volunteers will be needed to help teach cooking and other life skills classes, to mentor women and/or to take a woman out for coffee.
WOW – Women for Oppressed Women is committing to raise funds and awareness for Lydia’s Home in 2017. Please keep visiting our Facebook page and website (www.wow-ministry.org) for information on how you can join us in these efforts. We have some fun activities in the works! In the meantime, please visit www.brokenchainsministry.org to learn more about Broken Chains’ comprehensive approach to restorative justice.
To God be the glory!
© March 2017