Lillian’s Story

Picture this: A small diminutive tree, mostly dried out, and dying. The branches are brittle, no longer green and pliable, and the leaves are dropping off, drifting off toward the ground. The landscape is trying to reclaim this tree, trying to call it back to the earth from where it came. All but one branch is succumbing to it’s call. One branch, that by some miracle has survived the elements and the hardships that plagued the tree, is now blossoming, checkered with leaves of every color as it prepares for the new season. While this branch can’t separate itself from the tree, its living cells are trying to spark a rejuvenation, not necessarily for the tree which it belongs to, but for the other trees dying in this same orchard. This is the story of Lillian, the branch that lives.

Her great-grandmother was devoted to charity and loved to give back to her community. She was actually one of the original donors for the WISH program. Somewhere along the way, her daughter, Lillian’s grandmother, lost her way though and fell into addiction. This began the plague that seemed to infiltrate their family tree. Addiction began to spread to other branches, like her parents and siblings, but she managed to fight it off. “I watched it tear my family apart, and it kind of made me go the opposite way.” She was raised mostly by her grandmother, and she told stories of eating meals at the old Gospel Rescue Mission. Despite her drug use, Lillian’s grandmother was good to her and showed her love and a caring home. It was because of this, and her love for her family, that from even elementary school, Lillian knew she was meant to help people that were in addiction.

A bad relationship was about to disrupt the stability Lillian was trying to create for herself. She met a guy in high school, and in her senior year, after making it almost to the end of her schooling, she dropped out to follow him as he moved to another state for work. Soon after, a near-fatal car wreck for someone she was very close to shook her world up, but not in the way you would think…

She spent a lot of time in the hospital with her friend, in fact it was nearly 2 months, but it was 2 months that would forever shape her future. Being around the hospital staff, nurses and doctors, she felt a stirring within, a calling. She knew that was the path God had meant for her, and in that moment, she realized that there was more to life than poverty or addiction. It would take some time before she would act on this realization, but she would soon discover that nothing would stop her. Not even being a single mom.

That’s right, Lillian found out she was pregnant. She gave birth to a precious little girl, and that’s when she knew that she was ready to make some changes. Her and her boyfriend eventually broke up, but that wasn’t going to slow her down. She got her GED, and then she got started on a degree in nursing through Connors State College. Despite several setbacks that should’ve been enough to knock her out of school, she wasn’t going to let the devil win, and with the support of her new boyfriend, she persisted.

Then she was given a choice: did she want to do a work study program for school and make some extra cash on the side, or did she want to participate in a non-paid internship where she could really do some good for the community and gain some knowledge in the field she was hoping to work in? So, remembering her elementary school promise that she had made to herself, to be able to help those in addiction, she came to Gospel Rescue Mission to complete her internship.

If you come by GRM, you can meet Lillian at the front counter where she is quick to greet you with a warm smile and friendly words. Our big picture plan here is to one day have a rehabilitation facility on site, and Lillian hopes to be able to work there someday. She is an incredible volunteer, and we are so thankful for her help! This “living branch” is definitely making an impact on our orchard here, and we know that through the healing power of Jesus Christ, our orchard full of ailing trees will one day start to bloom, producing the sweetest fruit, just like Lillian did!

For more on how to join Lillian in volunteering at Gospel Rescue Mission, reach out to our Volunteer Coordinator, Charolette Sanders at