By Rick Kern
The Shepherd’s House transitional residence for women (TSH), a remarkably real-world expression of God’s love, has recently come under new leadership. Originally established under the auspices of the Shepherd’s Heart Christian Fellowship, the Shepherd’s House is a long-term women’s home dedicated to demonstrating the love of God in Christ Jesus. Additionally, they are committed to fostering the independence of women in a safe and secure housing environment. It is a bold and unique step in providing support for the homeless population of women in the Greater Rochester community. Program participants receive appropriate services in an encouraging housing environment that will allow them to become self-sufficient.
The Rochester based 501(c) 3 Non-Profit Organization, which has been changing lives for a decade, reached a critical tipping point roughly a year-and-a-half ago. They needed a new crop of leaders to oversee the ministry or else the business structure would have to be dissolved and the property sold. Enter Mrs. Brenda Ruether!
Ruether, who has attended Congregation Shema Yisrael for the past 13 years, began to feel a burden for homeless women and transitioning inmates. “While at Congregation Shema Yisrael, there had always been outreaches,” she recalls. “There was a friend of mine and we were talking about homelessness, but it was really about women and children and homelessness in Rochester. It really pulled at me and I began to look for a place to purchase in Rochester.”
While her efforts did not yield the desired fruit, the Lord spoke to various other people and confirmed that the time wasn’t right yet so Brenda waited and prayed. At some point last year her prayers were answered as the Lord made a way where there was no way. “Last November, somebody came up to me and said that the Shepherd’s House was going through a transition and they’ve been pursuing others to take it over,” said Ruether, “otherwise it will dissolve the 501 and sell the house.” Continuing she added, “I prayed about it with my husband, he came and there was many of us women that came together, and men, and prayed — just seeking God’s face.” She was very earnest in wanting to follow God’s leading to the letter. “I didn’t want to step out of anything that wasn’t of God because this was for His Kingdom and for these women. In April of 2017, I was impressed to say ‘yes’ and take on this ministry.”
Since that time Brenda has been working with numbers of volunteers painting and organizing. “A friend of mine, Jennifer, a sister in the Lord, she and I, and others have come in and painted,” Brenda explains. “There was a lot of work that had to be done on the inside of the building and there is still work that needs to be done. It got beautified for God’s children, for His women, that are going to come in.”
They also needed staff, which God supplied. “We prayed for a Director and staff and the Lord has provided,” she says. “He has provided people. There are so many women and men that have gotten the vision of what the Lord wants to do here for these women.”
The Shepherd’s House provides assistance with life skills from a Christian perspective connecting women to educational pursuits and employment opportunities, necessary social services, and supportive or permanent housing. In a word, TSH is dedicated to empowering women to successfully assimilate back into a productive role in society. Like many similar service organizations or ministries, referrals from an appropriate social service agency and an intake interview are required to receive services at the Shepherd’s House.
That being said, they came to play and are focused on changing the lives of needy women from virtually any background. “They can be coming out of jail or the hospital. Some of them can be just the homeless,” Ruether explains, “but there again, they file an application, which is an agreement that they will be there through this program for six-months or longer.”
TSH is demonstrating the love of God in Christ to these women, and in His name teaching them various significant life skills. “My prayer is to hone in to ask the Lord to show what gift He has placed in these women because He places a gift in every person,” Brenda offers. “It’s just grabbing a hold of that gift and nurturing it so it can come to the desired fruit, the purpose and the plan that He has for these women. It’s to fulfill their destiny.”
She continues, her voice filled with compassion, “There are many homeless people that have that desire and they just don’t have anybody to reach their hand out to them and help them along the way. It’s a place not only for women transitioning from prison, it’s also a place for homeless women and they all need to want to make a change in their lives.”
TSH can hold nine women who will have a somewhat regimented schedule, starting each morning with worship and an interactive Bible study. “The women obviously eat,” says Ruether, “and they make sure their rooms are kept up.” She adds, “Many of them have different programs that they do have to go through. It depends on what they come out of. Some of them have to go to Social Services or various things they have to do to get their finances set up.”
The program will feature visiting Bible teachers, exercise, and the typical work duties you might expect to keep the place running. “Everybody has to take turns with dinners one night a week,” Brenda explains, “dishes, vacuuming, and bathrooms are absolutely chores that the women have to do on a regular basis.”
The Shepherd’s House has enjoyed the support of Brenda’s fellowship, Congregation Shema Yisrael as well as another local church. “Rabbi Jim Appel is supporting me and what we’re doing here along with the First Bible Baptist Church,” Ruether recalls, “they have supported faithfully, monetarily, and in prayer since the inception, in and out. It’s stunning to me what God has done.”
In case there was any doubt about the prevailing focus of TSH, Brenda quickly puts it to rest. “The guiding philosophy of the Shepherd’s House is that these women will have a guiding relationship with the Lord,” she notes emphatically. “Without a relationship with God, everything looks good and it might last for a while, but it isn’t going to last for eternity. That’s really our guiding philosophy — the women’s eternal salvation.”
To learn more about the Shepherd’s House, call them at (585) 434-2449.