It all started with prayer. In October 2005, I took a three day prayer retreat to the family farm. It was from that time of reflection that God began to develop the dream that would become Victory Acres Farm.
One priority was to provide for my aging grandparents through the twilight years of their lives. Thankfully, we were able to do this by buying the farm on contract. After they passed away, we refinanced the farm paying off the Himelick family heirs.
Our second objective was to provide a safe place of hospitality and healing for guests. Hospitality includes housing. Three cabins were donated a few years back. We fixed them up on the inside, and they have provided places for people to stay when they have come to the farm. While they were originally intended for short-term, seasonal use, we have had more than one person spend the winter in them and some live there for over a year.
In 2012, some of you might remember that we purchased a repossessed house in Gas City and completely rehabbed it. We had plans for it to house our Nehemiah program guests, but God had other plans. It provided housing for two different families, including a former missionary family in transition. Earlier this year, we were able to sell that house and use some of the proceeds to secure another house in Upland. Smaller and closer to the farm, it better meets our current housing needs. While it still needs some work, it is usable and being used now.
It will be used for our Nehemiah Project guests, housing for single men. However, the first “project” God sent to us was Gordon* I met him in the inner city over 19 years ago as an eight year old boy. Now 27, we have stayed in touch through the many twists and turns of his life. I was there when he graduated from Army boot camp at Ft. Benning, GA, and I celebrated his wedding and the birth of his two children. His road has been long and hard, complete with jail time and homelessness. But after a host of wrong choices, he is coming back to many of those lessons he learned at Victory Chapel as a boy. Recently, Gordon and his family came to live at Victory Acres, and we have helped them to get their children back from foster care, are working through marriage counselling, and are providing them a place to live while they rebuild.
Long term, we will be helping them save to get a place of their own, and then the Nehemiah House will be used to help others that God will send our way.
Housing, meaningful work, having a safe place to call home, having a community of people that care - that is what Victory Acres is becoming. While we have a long way to go, we are slowly building a community of faith.
The farm is not just about farming; it is a place for grace. It is bringing people together from many different backgrounds to share His love and His land. For our most recent Bible study, Jennifer, Gordon's wife, made the soup. The sights and smells of Christians breaking bread together is priceless, (and the soup was delicious.) The message of the meal was clear - they are not just another “charity case;” they are a valued part of our lives.
So why a farm? A picture saying on our front door colored by Sarah, my 9 year old little girl, pretty much sums it up, “Our farm is all about meeting new people.” Yes, meeting new people and walking the road with the ones that we already know. It’s all about the people.
Yesterday, as I talked with a homeless man in Detroit, I was reminded of why we are here. Tommy,* 37, is an alcoholic whose life spun out of control four years ago. He and his fiance, April, panhandle to support their drink and drug habit. They sleep in an abandoned house. When we met, he was digging through a container of spent cigarettes trying to find one with enough left that he could smoke it again. They are desperate. They used to have good jobs and decent life, but their addictions took it all away. I talked with him about Victory Acres, and if they takes the right steps, they might end up here some day.
It is for people like Tommy and April that we are developing more housing options. Continuing to build the capacity to confidently welcome people is the task before us. By God's grace and with the help of God's people, we will continue to do just that.
In Christian Love,
Eric Himelick,Executive Director
Victory Acres Farm, a division of
Victory Inner-city Ministries, Inc.
5311 S. 800 E.
Upland, IN 46989
* Names changed for privacy.