Faith and Courage: Cristina’s Story

By Appaswamy “Vino” Pajanor

Cristina’s incredible journey of resilience began with a heartbreaking moment when her mother dropped her off at Carl’s Jr., leaving her in disbelief and shock. Struggling to comprehend the harsh reality, her family had to make the toughest decision after exhausting all other options to help Cristina. She found herself spending nights at fast food joints, sleeping under bushes at a Taco Bell, or attempting to stay awake at Jack-in-the-Box.

“I remember the first night I stayed at a Taco Bell by some bushes and was embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to see me; I was so embarrassed.” 

 

Embarrassment and challenges followed Cristina as she tried to make ends meet, collecting cans and seeking money from strangers, trying to escape the voices that haunted her. She was scared and did not feel safe; just getting through the day was very difficult. Yet, deep down, she held on to the belief that things would get better. She had a quiet faith in God’s presence, knowing that God was looking out for her and reassuring her that it would be ok.

 

“It took a long time not to hear voices or to slow down, but I knew it would not be forever; I knew God was there the whole time.” 

 

Cristina was able to go back to her family and agreed to rehab. She went to an in-house treatment center where they had the resources to help her through the mental and physical struggles that had thrown her life off its tracks. After treatment, her family did some research and took Cristina to Catholic Charities’ Rachel’s Women’s Center where she could continue on her new journey of sobriety and getting her life together. She also was given a bed at Rachel’s Night Shelter where she had a safe place to sleep every night.

The welcoming team at Rachel’s introduced her to a supportive community of women, providing a bed, a sense of belonging, and the assurance that everything would be okay. Rachel’s became a haven where nervousness gave way to calmness.

“They showed me my bed, and I felt safe and happy, lucky, blessed; that I had a bed, I knew I was going to be ok.”

Rachel’s became more than a shelter; it became a place of solace where Cristina spent the next year of her life. Cristina took advantage of all the resources and support available at Rachel’s and even pursued her education. With their guidance, she completed high school. On her graduation day, she received a call from Rachel’s. The team had gotten an apartment voucher for her. Cristina, armed with her high school diploma and a path to stable and long-term housing, felt an igniting spark of hope.

 

The newfound stability of housing brought joy and gratitude to Cristina’s life. Returning to Rachel’s on her days off, she found comfort in the supportive team and enjoyed meals with them. Her family, once worried, now celebrated her safety and security. Cristina embraced a job at a hotel and life in her new apartment, a milestone for someone who had never had a place to call her own at the age of 34. 

In her apartment, Cristina discovered the blessing of companionship with her puppy, Peanut. Rachel’s continued to support her, assisting with Peanut’s vaccinations and veterinary care. Catholic Charities played a crucial role in Cristina’s transformation, offering ongoing support and ensuring that both she and Peanut had the resources they needed.

“My family comes, and they are really, really, really happy that I am stable, I’m safe, and I’ve never had a place on my own. It means a lot.”

Cristina’s story is not just one of overcoming adversity but a testament to resilience, faith, and the power of a supportive community. Her journey from despair to stability, marked by the warmth of Rachel’s Women’s Center and the unwavering support of Catholic Charities, stands as an inspiring narrative of triumph against the odds.

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