What can one say when it’s time to hand the ministry of your heart to another leader? It’s exciting to see what has grown from the birth of an idea into six shelters scattered over the landscape of Sussex County. When I first arrived at the CPSC scene, it was a group of people talking about solutions. I wasn’t sure where I fit in, but I knew I loved people no matter where they lived. I was already in the woods and on the street ministering. We handed out food, clothing, love, and prayer to those living without a roof over their heads. When Susan mentioned my name as an option for the Director of Code Purple Sussex County, I was slightly surprised. My mind immediately went to the fact that I was “just a stay-at-home mom” that homeschooled her children. My mind fumbled with the thoughts of how in the world I would be able to make it all work. Little did I know that raising six children and managing a household would be some of the very training I would need to run shelters.
I said yes, and thus began the whirlwind of long winter nights spent with diverse individuals trying to make it through the day without the everyday things we take for granted. I can’t even imagine the number of people I have met over the last eight winters, but I remember their stories. They shared many stories of trauma, tragedy, loneliness, heartache, despair, bad choices, and brokenness. I have wept and laughed, and my heart was moved by the smallest acts of kindness shown in the shelters. A part of me will miss the calls from the hotline. I’ve been blessed to help people in crisis have a plan of action and peace after being able to talk it out. I’m sure there will be many surprised people when someone other than “Nikki” answers. Honestly, the other part of me will be relieved to sleep this winter. These years of running the emergency winter shelters have shown me the emergent need for more shelter beds. I couldn’t ignore the looming question of “Where does one go?” The answer comes back void most days. I had to follow God’s leading in my heart to start a year-round shelter. After a year, that longing has been fulfilled. Redemption City now runs a ten-bed shelter in Seaford, but that’s not enough. The future holds a 50-bed facility that will hopefully make a dent in Sussex County’s need for shelter space. I knew I couldn’t do it all, so letting go of CPSC was the only rational choice I could make.
Opening my hand and letting CPSC go has been easier knowing that the new Code Purple Sussex County Program Manager is a loving and caring individual. She is full of energy and is just the kind of person it takes to manage the shelters. Gissela Cruz has experience helping those in need and is an excellent fit for the job at hand. We have been visiting our sites so she can get to know a better layout of CPSC. She will be answering the hotline as soon as she gets settled. It will take time for her to get to know everyone, but I told her I was only a phone call away. I plan to help with the training, so you may still see me around. Let’s give her a warm Sussex County welcome!
Thank you to everyone who has worked tirelessly to make my job easier every winter. Thank you to my family that has sacrificed many nights to assure people would have shelter each winter. Thank you to LoveINC, who taught me many things about ministry. Thank you to Susan Kent for the belief in me to allow me to grow my wings and fly. Thank you to Gissela for taking this ministry as your own. Thanks to the good Lord above for equipping us for every good work He has called us to do! –Nikki Gonzalez