One of the questions we hear most often at TRM is, “What kind of people work for TRM? What are their stories?” It takes a very unique kind of person to willingly spend their days ministering to the hungry and the homeless, especially when they themselves have come from a life of brokenness and pain.
For the past 67 years of service our staff at TRM have tirelessly proved their dedication to serve, to minister and to heal the hurting and the broken, often overcoming many obstacles in their own lives in order to do so. In this newsletter we tell Part 2 of Tina’s story - a woman who came to us after incredible obstacles in her life.
After being abandoned by her mother and experiencing homelessness during her teenage years, in her late 20’s Tina’s identical twin sister and two nieces were brutally murdered. Her entire life fell apart. She had always been her sister’s protector and champion, defending her against the world that had treated them harshly most of their lives. No matter what their circumstances were, they had always faced them together. For Tina, losing her twin sister Sherry was like losing herself.
Shortly after Sherry’s funeral, her visions began. She would often see Sherry, holding the hands of both her daughters, coming toward her from a stream of light. Tina and Sherry talked in her visions just as they had in life, sharing their grief together just as they had shared so many other emotions, experiencing them as one.
In one of her last visions she remembers Sherry and her two nieces telling her, “Tina, don’t worry about us. We are happy. We are safe. We miss you and we love you.” It would take years for Tina to begin healing after Sherry’s death, but her visions enabled her to survive.
But Tina’s life continued to throw challenges in her path. In her adult years, before having and raising her three children, she returned to Kansas to become the caregiver for her grandparents and later her father. She spent many years taking care of their needs rather than her own, but she didn’t mind - she wanted to repay them for caring for her and Sherry as children. Losing income and work history during these years however set her on a path to becoming financially dependent on others, and in her mid-50’s she found herself with no job, no savings, and no home.
She remembered the Topeka Rescue Mission from the time she and Sherry had stayed there. She remembered her family getting back on their feet at TRM long ago, and the love they felt there. Now, over 30 years later and finding herself homeless again, she began walking back to TRM.
Tina came to us as a warrior who had fought bravely for years and been weakened and wounded in battle. She needed a safe place to rest, heal, and begin again. Two years after coming back to TRM, Tina completed the CaRE job training program at TRM and demonstrated an incredible ability to overcome life’s obstacles, create new opportunities, and minister to others.
Today Tina works as the Sous Chef in the busy TRM kitchen. She begins each day by preparing to serve three hot, filling meals to the guests of TRM. She begins cooking in the morning, supervising kitchen shifts, and overseeing multiple volunteers on kitchen duty throughout the day. At the end of the day she’s responsible for getting the kitchen’s paperwork done, preparing recipes and ingredients and doing meal planning for the next day.
Her daily role is to make sure all guests of TRM are well fed, as well as preparing and distributing boxed lunches and dinners for anyone in need in the community. But more than that - Tina regularly works with TRM guests and volunteers who come from broken situations, and she uses the platform of coming together to feed the hungry as a way to break down barriers and heal others.
She uses the skills her grandmother taught her in the kitchen to stretch ingredients and modify recipes to feed many people, utilizing ingredients on hand - sometimes easier said than done depending on what kind of food donations have come in that week. She uses her skills as an empath to sense the emotions of those around her - skills she developed as an identical twin who shared an incredible bond with her sister Sherry. She uses the pain in her past to identify those who are in pain and need her help - skills she utilizes every day while working with TRM guests and volunteers.
When asked if she has a message to tell supporters of TRM Tina said,
“Keep your mind open, keep your heart open. Love everybody, and do the best you can do.”
Going forward Tina has a vision for her life of continuing to work to help others, keeping the Lord in her heart and being the best person she can be. She is assisting in the development of a culinary school at TRM with the goal of training TRM guests and others in the community to learn how to cook and shop for nutritious food and become the chefs of their own kitchens.
Tina has turned her story from one of devastation into triumph over obstacles. She has become such a loved and valued member of TRM family we couldn’t imagine life without her. But without you, we could not minister to Tina and the many others like her - the warriors who have fought valiantly and are in great need of safety, love, and healing. Through your generosity and love, you enable us to be there for Tina and thousands like her in their darkest hours! †