Thursday, December 24, 2009

The true meaning of Christmas

This entire month we’ve experienced an outpouring of love and care from individuals and groups from all over the Frederick County community and beyond. Christmas gifts for the resident families, charitable contributions, gift cards, food, and items from our wish list have been delivered in abundance.

A Hope Alive volunteer delivered Christmas gifts on Tuesday from his family and stayed to play a while with the children throwing snow balls with them to knock the icicles off the roof and giving them piggy back rides. They gave him a big group hug for the fun they enjoyed.

This morning a local pastor dropped off handmade jewelry that was delivered to her doorstep by someone who was unemployed. This individual wanted to offer something to those in need at this time of year and felt the handmade gifts were all he could afford. My heart was so touched when I saw the beautiful beaded bracelets taped to brown paper and tucked inside a Christmas card with the handwritten message, “May the Lord bless you always.”

Also this morning I received an email from a friend who said a local Frederick merchant delivered a $100 check to her for Hope Alive instead of their employees doing Secret Santa gifts. Yesterday she had a visit from the woodcarver who made the bear that stands in front of their store – Dancing Bear Toys in downtown Frederick. He made them a new bear – a dancing one! – free of charge but asked that they auction off their original bear and donate the money to Hope Alive.

These expressions of love – and so many others – beautifully represent the true meaning of Christmas when God poured out His great love for us all through the gift of His Son Jesus.

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its Savior.” John 3:16

Merry Christmas! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Milestones big and small

Last week was a milestone week at Hope Alive. Our youngest resident - 5 months old - started sitting in a high chair to eat his cereal. He looks like such a big boy! Our next youngest resident - 10 months old - started walking! He took his first step a week ago and by the end of the week he had taken off. He was exceptionally mobile at 8 months old so walking at 10 months was no surprise to his mother, other resident moms, and staff. With his first step in our children's center, everyone came running to celebrate this important milestone in his life. There's no stopping him now!

Also last week, 5 of our resident moms celebrated the successful end to their fall semester at Frederick Community College. One mom was so relieved that her anatomy and physiology class was over (in addition to her other three classes) and she felt pretty confident about her final exam. She's scheduled to graduate with her AA degree in May 2010! Another mom proudly announced that she had passed her final exam in english and finished the semester with an 3.8 grade point average. Another mom is expecting to receive her high school diploma in a few weeks since finishing the course work at the end of November!

As Christmas approaches, don't forget to finish your holiday shopping online through with a percentage of every online purchase going to support our ministry to homeless women and children - just check Hope Alive as your charity of choice. Check out our December newsletter at - you'll enjoy the photos of our resident families and their messages of life-change and hope. As you prepare for the coming of Christmas, be sure to prepare your hearts for the birth of the Christ child - Jesus the Christ who came to give us abundant life and hope! Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The healing journey

Last week I had breakfast with a dear friend who led the development efforts of Hope Alive's program services. She had attended a mental health conference the day before and shared some fascinating information with me. She explained that with individuals suffering from mental illness, there can be a lack of development or blockage in the prefrontal lobe of the brain where the "executive functions" occur such as memory, reasoning, decision-making, and problem solving. This problem can be compounded by substance abuse. Only after a woman has been clean and sober for a year or longer does she begin to deal with the emotional issues that have started to rise to the surface. Through therapy, healing, training, and coaching, the development of the executive function of the brain takes place.

So what does all this mean for Hope Alive? As my friend listened to the conference presenter, she began to see Hope Alive's need to serve as this executive function as a large percentage of homeless women suffer from these issues. It will mean more training in this area for our staff, greater tolerance, patience and grace for slow progress, and even more intense coaching and training for our women as they legitimately need longer to gain the skills and functioning needed to achieve self-sufficiency. As we have over the past 3 years, we continue to dedicate ourselves to developing the most effective residential ministry possible to end the cycle of homelessness for the families we serve.

On a different note, we have been amazed at God's outpouring of support this holiday season ... from generous donors, faithful volunteers, and individuals and organizations holding special fundraising events to benefit Hope Alive as well as "adopting" our families for Christmas. God is faithful and pouring out His abundant blessings to meet the ministry's needs. I pray you had a blessed Thanksgiving and are preparing your hearts to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. Until next week.

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, November 20, 2009

Every day life-change

I am continually amazed at the tremendous life-change God brings to our resident families at Hope Alive every day. This week one of our resident moms couldn't wait to announce she had completed all the work required for her external degree program and she could have her high school diploma in hand by year-end. Now she's enrolling for the spring semester at Frederick Community College and just took her placement tests this week. She couldn't wait to tell EVERYONE she had passed her math and english placement tests and was ready to sign up for her spring classes. As we talked about her success, she shared that this was a dream she never thought she'd achieve.

Also this week, another mom's testimony for our Christmas newsletter provided a strong message about the new life God has granted her and her two children. Her son no longer kicks and fights with his teacher, but she received the best report ever on his changed behavior when she went for her parent/teacher conference. Her daughter is getting As and Bs instead of blank papers marked with an F. Check out the Christmas issue online in early December at - you don't want to miss this family's amazing story.

In this Thanksgiving season - and every day - we are especially grateful to God for all He has done and continues to do in the life of this ministry and every family we serve. Thanks for your love and support as we work together to serve families in need.

On a different note ... we have something new and exciting we'd like to share with you just in time for the shopping season! It's the new Hope Alive toolbar - once added to IE or Foxfire, each time you shop at more than 1,300 stores (Amazon to Zazzle!) a percentage of your purchase will automatically be donated to Hope Alive - at no cost to you (and you may even save money as the toolbar provides hundreds of great coupons and deals!). The toolbar also has a search box and each time you search the Internet, about a penny is donated to Hope Alive. I just purchased my grandson's birthday gift this way and I feel great knowing that I got him exactly what he wanted AND a percentage was going to benefit Hope Alive families. Please pass this along to all of your friends. The two minutes it takes to add this toolbar to your browser can make a difference of a lifetime! Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, November 6, 2009

From death to life

Yesterday was a very proud day for us at Hope Alive. One of our resident moms graduated from an intensive outpatient program at a local drug rehabilitation clinic. Five of us proudly watched and cheered as this mom shared her journey from addiction to recovery and was presented with her certificate of completion and words of affirmation from her counselors. As I sat and listened to her recount her story, God reminded me that just a few short months ago, her life hung in the balance between life and death. I remember visiting her in the hospital after a life-threatening relapse and then rejoicing when she called us for help when she “hit the bottom” and desperately wanted to find her way out. The alternatives for her and her children at that time were life-threatening, so we welcomed her to Hope Alive with open arms, lots of love and strict accountability.

She spent the next three months participating in the intensive outpatient treatment program and a family support program, in addition to working toward enrollment at Frederick Community College for the spring semester. She has become an advocate and friend to other women in recovery and a role model for women at Hope Alive with her determination and motivation.

We are so proud of her accomplishments and the victory God has blessed her with in the battle of addiction. She and her children today are healthy, very happy and are well on the road to success and hope of a future. It’s been marvelous to watch God at work in their lives and to see what He can do through the power of His life-changing love. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, October 30, 2009

Up close and personal

Anyone else depressed by the dreary rainy weather we’ve had lately? It doesn’t make my already overwhelmed week any better. Our “bare bones” staff from budget reductions this year is stretched even tighter these days with an added vacancy in our children’s ministry. So I’ve been spending some time with “Abba’s Angels” - our youngest residents – along with grant deadlines, transportation challenges, and even water problems in the house due to us operating at capacity. This all sounds pretty depressing doesn’t it – especially for a Friday – but in my introduction to my blog I said I’d be giving you “an up close and personal look into our ministry to homeless families”. This is the other side of the ministry we don’t often talk about. It’s through these tough times that our character is tested and grows. I keep reminding myself that God uses the challenges to make us more like His Son!

We are searching for a temporary full- or part-time Children’s Ministry Director who is “director qualified” based on Office of Child Care licensing regulations. If you know someone who might feel called to join our ministry team and serve our little ones, please send them our way.

Let’s pray for the sun to come out – and stay out. The fall leaves ARE gorgeous even in the rain! Have a blessed weekend. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, October 16, 2009

Precious lives

Picture if you will, a 4 month old infant with delicate fair skin, a few wisps of blond hair and the typical bald spot on the back of the head, delicate little fingers and toes, and a captivating smile and laugh.

It’s this precious little baby that I had the pleasure of rocking to sleep this morning. As he lay in my arms I looked down at his innocent face and thought about his life. Even though he’s technically “homeless”, this baby is surrounded by a very large extended family that loves and cares for him. In addition to his own mom and sister, he has 13 other siblings, 8 other moms, and staff and volunteers who can’t resist loving on him every day. He has a warm and safe home and a nurturing child care center that provides the care he needs to grow and develop into a healthy and happy toddler while his sister is at school and his mom is working on her goals leading to self sufficiency.

Is this child aware of the struggles his mom and sister have faced or the great success they have both experienced while at Hope Alive? Does he sense the same hope they have of a new future much different from their past? I doubt he’s aware of anything other than his own needs – clean diapers, food, warmth and comfort. At one point far into the future, he will be grateful that Hope Alive was there for his family and that he’ll never have to experience homelessness as an adult.

Most of us probably take life’s blessings for granted. May we never forget about the moms and children who are struggling to survive in our community and the precious lives we serve at Hope Alive who are committed to change and new life. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Touching hearts - the work of the ministry

Last night was my evening shift at Hope Alive. It’s usually a bit chaotic through the dinner hour and then things settle down pretty quickly as moms and children disperse to their areas to complete homework, baths, and bedtime. My hope each Wednesday evening is to get a little work done after things quiet down, but last night was just the opposite.

I had children who kept coming to the office asking for my help with homework. The first was a fourth grader who needed someone to play a math game with her - flipping coins to count the number of times heads or tails appeared and then making a statement about her data. After that assignment, we continued with her multiplication problems. While I was helping her, a third grader came in asking if she could read her story to me that she wrote – and typed on the computer –about animal friends who learned the importance of kindness. The story was really creative! As she was leaving, a second grader came in asking for help charting the moon’s appearance for the month starting with last night. With it being a blustery cold evening and him already dressed in his pajamas, I sent him off looking out every window in the house to see if he could spot the moon. He came back to report it was cloudy.

By this time I was feeling pretty frustrated that this was taking the place of “getting some work done”. But then God reminded me that this is the work of the ministry - touching the hearts and souls of those we serve. Realizing this I set everything else aside and finished the evening by having some deep discussions with our moms in the dining room - including next step housing options, relationships and conflicts - and giving hugs to the little ones going off to bed. There’s always tomorrow for that unfinished “task”.

If you’ve never been to Hope Alive, give me a call sometime. I’d love to have you come for a visit and tour. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, October 2, 2009

Words of encouragement to brighten our day

Some weeks we find our lives filled with challenges and we wonder if we’ll ever get to Friday. It’s been a week like that at Hope Alive. With 15 children in the Hope Alive house now, our children often fight like brothers and sisters. And when the kids aren’t happy – nobody’s happy!

Today I was reminded of an exercise Ashley Ross, our Children’s Ministry Assistant, did with the school-age children to help change their attitudes. She had them write notes of encouragement and affirmation to each other. I saw one of those notes today hanging in a second grader’s locker in the after school program. It meant so much to this little boy that he taped it up on the inside. Four other children wrote the following messages about him … “You have a wonderful smile! I have seen you share and give to others.” “You are my bestest friend.” “You are a great brother.” “You are a great kid. I really like having you as a friend.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all shared encouraging and loving words like these with each other? I think the world would be a much better place. Seeing this note today just brightened my whole week. I hope it does for you as well.

Plan to join us for our upcoming Resident Achievement Banquet on Tuesday, October 20 at 6pm at Dutch’s Daughter’s Restaurant. It promises to be an inspiring evening of encouraging and loving affirmations of our resident families. Check out our new website for more information at Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, September 24, 2009

High 5's for this one!

While at Hope Alive, our resident women address a variety of issues that are at the root of their homelessness. Effective financial management and debt resolution is a major area every woman has to tackle. Hope Alive is blessed with two wonderful volunteers, Dave and Cindy, who have created an effective financial education curriculum to meet their needs. They meet one-on-one with moms each week – meeting with all nine women over a five-week period.

One young mother in particular has made tremendous achievements in this area from identifying her wants and needs, developing and managing a monthly budget, resolving debt, maintaining a positive checking account balance, and even saving money. One outstanding debt was with a local department store for which she was trying for months to develop a payment plan to resolve her $390 debt. Rather than working with her on a payment plan, the store demanded full payment and continued to hassle her with constant calls.

Yesterday morning the department store called again and this mom applied the information she learned from our staff and volunteers Dave and Cindy. She calmly spoke to the employee and requested to speak to her supervisor when they refused one more time to work with her. Along the way she took notes, recorded names and stated what she could and couldn’t do – all from a woman without a high school diploma who is motivated to change! She is accepting full responsibility for her debt, too. Praise the Lord! When our staff emailed Dave and Cindy with the good news, they replied, “you’re right, we would be smacking ‘high 5's’ for this one!”

The resident women we serve are some of the strongest and most courageous women I know with their determination to overcome their barriers to independence and success. What a privilege to walk with them on their journeys to wholeness, self-sufficiency and hope! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, September 18, 2009

Change from the inside out

Early this week, some of our resident women cornered me to complain about their hectic schedules and busy lives with classes, homework, work, counseling, cooking, and the needs of their children. They just wanted to find a little time for themselves and a chance to get away from it all. Selfishly, I brushed it off thinking they aren’t any busier than I am - working full-time, speaking engagements, being wife, mother, grandmother, household projects, gardening, etc.

As I thought about this the following days, God showed me I was wrong to feel this way. Their schedules aren’t much different than most of ours, until you consider what’s going on in the inside with the struggles and life-change that happens in their hearts and minds. Besides the meaningful goal-directed activities that fill their days, they live with 8 other families in the Hope Alive community (now that every bed is full), they need to replace old ways of thinking with new, reframe their beliefs and values, learn new skills, heal from past trauma, embrace hope, and dream about what’s possible for their futures. It’s a total life-transformation from the inside out!

One young mother once told me the only life she knew was family chaos and hanging out at the local bar. Until she came to Hope Alive, she didn’t know life was about education, healthy living, working toward a career and productive life for herself and her children.

I hope you can join us at our upcoming Resident Achievement Banquet on October 20 at Dutch’s Daughters Restaurant to hear our resident families’ inspiring stories and how wonderfully God has blessed their lives. Visit our website at for the details or call us at 301-241-4005 for more information. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, September 11, 2009

God's ever-abiding presence

Today is a day of remembrance of the thousands of lives lost on 9/11 from the devastating tragedy that changed our country forever. May this day serve as a reminder of God’s ever-abiding presence through each crisis we face and the blessing of life and loved ones.

This week at Hope Alive we experienced a crisis of our own – in no way meant to compare to 911 – but still one that shook our lives. This past Monday, a new family moved in to Hope Alive having lost their home through a traumatic situation. Two days later, one of the 7 year-old twins fell off the monkey bars on our playground severely injuring her arm. Head trauma was also suspected by the paramedics so they med-evaced the child and her mom to Hershey Medical Center. What a brave little girl – in severe pain, surrounded by so many EMTs, immobilized by a neck brace and body board, and transported on a stretcher by ambulance and helicopter. At Hershey, they treated her for a broken arm and severe dislocation and thankfully no head trauma. She and mom stayed overnight and returned to Hope Alive the following day.

Needing to be with her daughter, the mom was forced to leave the other twin behind at Hope Alive in the care of other resident moms. This little girl felt very alone and apprehensive about being in a new home, having started in a new school the day before, left with near strangers, and missing her mom and sister. I was inspired to see how warmly the other moms embraced, cared for, and comforted this precious 7 year old. She asked us all to pray with her before she fell asleep.

On their return from Hershey, the mom shared with Jody our Family Ministry Specialist that she recognizes God’s presence in their lives through the crises, His bringing them to Hope Alive and directing them on a new path in life. Please pray for the child as she recuperates from her injury – she’ll need to return to Hershey Medical Center four times for follow up care (and still potential surgery) in the next month. Pray for this family as they continue to adjust to their new school, home and Hope Alive family who have welcomed them with love and acceptance.

Every bed is full at Hope Alive. We now have 9 families plus the family living in after-care for a total of 10 moms and 17 children!

Until next week ...

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Friday, August 14, 2009

Our beauty-full children!

Our resident children amaze me! This week’s theme for our Abba’s Angels program (infant through preschool) is “Beauty”. The children had their nails painted, special dress up including fancy hats, and a real tea party complete with china cups and saucers. Even the boys loved it. When asked what “beauty” means, they replied – almost in unison – “What’s inside makes me shine!”

Last week our King’s Kids (school-agers) attended a Vacation Bible School at Harmony Lutheran Church in Myersville. One of our 5 year-olds was excited to share her favorite Bible story of the week – Jesus feeding the 5,000 with two fish and five loaves of “garlic bread”. What imaginations! They enjoyed water fun in the front yard this morning and are wrapping up their study this week of the grasslands.

We had a surprise inspection of our two licensed children's programs this morning by the Office of Child Care (MD Dept. of Education) and we passed with flying colors!

Our Children’s Ministry is all about loving, embracing, and nurturing the beauty in each child and giving them (and their families) the opportunity to grow and develop to their full God-given potential. Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Founder and Executive Director

Thursday, August 6, 2009

This week at Hope Alive

There are so many things to report this week. One of our moms just received word this week that she was chosen to receive an Ausherman Family Foundation FCC Scholarship for full funding. Our moms are learning valuable conflict resolution skills and are initiating reconciliation on their own – something the world needs to learn!

All of our moms who are being coached by our budget buddies, Dave and Cindy Hostetter, are taking significant steps to manage their personal finances in a much more positive way. Most of them deal with bad spending habits and they are finally recognizing the difference between their needs and wants. The budget buddies are doing one-on-one curriculum (including homework) and coaching through monthly meetings with each mom.

Another mom was accepted in the “Rise Program” at the Department of Social Services – recognized for her potential for success. This provides full funding of her education and the time to devote to her studies.

Also, it’s been a joy these past couple of weeks to hear the children praying during our morning prayer time. They volunteer to be the “pray-ers”.

I experienced a heart warming moment this afternoon. I was in Jody’s office and one of the school-age boys signed through her window, “I love you!”

Abba’s Angels (infants and preschoolers) had a great field trip to Splash Park in Germantown and the King’s Kids went to Port Discovery in Baltimore last week. When I asked one school-ager what he liked most about Port Discovery, he said, “EVERYTHING”! Until next week …

Sue Oehmig
Executive Director

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Welcome to our blog

At Hope Alive we receive calls every day from homeless families who desperately need our help. Unfortunately, we can only meet a fraction of the need – but, for those who call Hope Alive “home,” their lives are changed in remarkable ways. It’s their stories of transformation that I want to share with you in this blog, giving you an up close and personal look into our ministry to homeless families and raising awareness about this critical issue right here in our own backyard.