Skip to the main content.
Donate Need help?
Donate Need help?

5 min read

An Offering of Oil: When God Asks Imperfect People to Serve Imperfect People

Written by Lauren McCrea, Volunteer Mentor, UGM Center for Women & Children 

I just thought I was going in to buy a new pair of running shoes, but God had a divine appointment scheduled for me with Kym from Fleet Feet in Coeur d’Alene.Behind the counter, I saw a framed picture of a group of women having completed a race. Kym explained the “Up and Running Again” program which partners with the Union Gospel Mission Center for Women and Children in Coeur d’Alene. She said she needed help with the upcoming running season and that I should consider volunteering as a running coach with her.

Running shoes on the shelvesImmediately, my brain flooded with all the reasons why I wasn’t qualified or didn’t have time. I created excuses before I even left the store.

I honestly felt like the widow in 2 Kings 4; all she had to offer the prophet Elisha was a small jar of olive oil, which didn’t seem valuable—and was common—but she trusted God. She stepped out and allowed all she had to be poured out. In return, she gained more than she had in the beginning. We runners are an odd yet delightful bunch; we will willingly exert everything we have physically, knowing full well the feeling of that second wind and knowing that at the finish line we will be happy we showed up.

I didn’t know what volunteering would look like, but I knew Jesus, and I knew that if I showed up and leaned in to His promises, He was going to do something amazing. So, I signed up. 

I did not know much about homelessness or addiction other than the things I was shown through the news or media. I didn’t know what to expect or what I would see. I grew up turning my head away from the person holding the sign asking for help. I believed the problem of addiction was the problem of other people. I am embarrassed to say that now, but I believe that is the false perception of many today.

Person sleeping on concrete benchWhat I saw in these ladies looked an awful lot like myself, someone broken and in need of a Savior. I saw women who had experienced some of the worst things the world could throw at them, I saw women struggling with substance abuse, women who believed the lies the enemy placed upon them, but above all, what I saw was Jesus. The Bible promises us that God is near to the brokenhearted and the crushed in spirit, and I can tell you, that is EXACTLY where God is. I promised God I would show up to volunteer as I was—imperfectly perfect—and trust that was going to be enough. But, just in case, I made sure I brought snacks, because nobody can resist snacks.

“I promised God I would show up to volunteer as I was—imperfectly perfect—and trust that was going to be enough. But, just in case, I made sure I brought snacks, because nobody can resist snacks.”

CDA Up and RunningThe women that were a part of the running group of 2020 hold my heart forever. When we started the season together, many had never run in their lives, or walked more than a few miles at a time. UGM encourages the women to share their stories, and there were mornings of tears, and mornings of laughter. I felt like Moses at the Burning Bush, I stood in the very presence of God at work. He was rewriting these women’s stories, He was reclaiming their hearts from the places that trauma and brokenness had taken them.

As I grew in my relationships with these incredibly courageous women, God stirred up my heart with His passion for the broken, lost, and those struggling with addiction. It started to permeate my discussions with family and friends. Over time, the impacts grew broader and broader: Some of the ladies began attending my home church with me, I began pursuing my Master’s Degree in Addiction Studies, and my kids began asking tough questions about how we can be Jesus to the world around us. In all of this, I could see God’s fingerprints, in spite of being unsure of what I had to offer.

That’s when God led Machen and Linda to my life. Both Machen and Linda asked me to be their mentors around the same time. (Apparently those snacks worked!)

Lauren Linda and Machen

And, as I tell them, my life is better because they are in it.

Just like with volunteering as a running coach, I didn’t know what mentorship would look like. But, at this point, I knew both of their stories, I knew who they were, I knew their struggles and I knew the hope that Jesus had for their future. I took on mentorship as I took on being a coach: I would show up and let God do what only He can do. I saw my role of mentor as that of a prayer partner, a party planner, a cheerleader, a Mama Bear, a friend and perspective shifter.

“I saw my role of mentor as that of a prayer partner, a party planner, a cheerleader, a Mama Bear, a friend and perspective shifter.”

UGM Recovery is not an easy program. Diving into old wounds and traumas is painful, and living in community is hard. Sometimes I just receive a text requesting very specific prayers; a few times I have received tough, open and honest phone calls of stumbles, fears and mistakes made. There is no shame in the stumble—we all fall—but it is my honor to help Linda and Machen dust themselves off, and to walk next to them on this journey.

We have a standing date, celebrating what I call their Soberversaries, Machen on the 8th of every month, Linda on the 10th. Over frozen yogurt or dinner, we laugh and celebrate where they are now, sometimes we cry and mourn together the things their addictions took from their lives, but we ALWAYS see Jesus, even in the tougher moments.

Mentorship means just showing up, celebrating with, suiting up for battle with, mourning alongside, laughing with, offering a helping hand after a stumble, eating together, offering tough love, just listening and sitting with. Sometimes it isn’t pretty—like on mile ten of a half-marathon when Machen is tired of my cheerful encouragement and wants to quit (she didn’t, by the way. She has a half-marathon under her belt now) or when I have to encourage Linda to use words of love towards others. But we do life together.

Lauren and Linda at a restaurant

The beauty outweighs the difficult times; Linda has been sober for the longest time since she was in high school. She has her driver’s license back, has rebuilt relationships with her family and now serves others struggling with addiction, and it is ALL Jesus. Machen is no longer timid and doubtful of her worth. She shares her story, gives all the credit to God and has led numerous women to pursue a life free from the chains of addiction. She has turned embarrassment into empowerment.

It really is a privilege to know these women, and through my relationship with them, I am reminded of the faithfulness and goodness of God.

Revival is happening in the lives of Linda and Machen, but really in the lives of all of these people in LIFE Recovery at UGM. I am just grateful that God saw the plain old jar of olive oil I had to offer and saw it suitable to be poured out. My ladies always thank me for loving them, but truly, Linda and Machen, the honor is ALL mine, and you are SO easy to love.

I want to encourage anyone who is on the fence about mentorship and volunteering at UGM, to just show up and trust God that what you have to offer is exactly what God needs. There is freedom and restoration on the other side of your stepping out. I promise you that your faith will be deepened as you watch God transform lives.

Lauren Linda and Machen at a restaurant

Click here to sign up for a volunteer overview. >>

Rebuilding A Life: Brenda’s story of resilience and hope

3 min read

Rebuilding A Life: Brenda’s story of resilience and hope

Many individuals we serve have endured significant losses. How can someone rebuild their life when they lack the resources and emotional strength to...

Read More
Honoring Mothers in Recovery

4 min read

Honoring Mothers in Recovery

The 18 to 24-month-long UGM Life Recovery program requires vulnerability, persistence, and commitment from the men and women who participate....

Read More
UGM Camp: The lasting impact of faith and friendships

4 min read

UGM Camp: The lasting impact of faith and friendships

Preparing for UGM Camp The 2024 UGM Camp season will be here soon, and we are prepping in anticipation of all the children who are about to be...

Read More
Mentoring Through Recovery and Relapse

Mentoring Through Recovery and Relapse

“I know that no matter what I throw at them, they are going to support me and love me and speak truth into my life.” - Laura, UGM Crisis Shelter ...

Read More
Aftercare: Bill and Jan Traynor

1 min read

Aftercare: Bill and Jan Traynor

Bill and Jan Traynor were mentors before UGM had a mentor program. Several years ago they and other members from their church were preparing and...

Read More
Meet UGM Ambassador Kristi Kinsinger

Meet UGM Ambassador Kristi Kinsinger

Getting involved at the Union Gospel Mission is easy - the hardest part is figuring out which of dozens of opportunities is the best fit for your...

Read More