Let Me Sow Love - guest blog post
Guest Blogger Eli Hammonds of Exodus Ministries in Dallas, TX
We met Eli at the beginning of the summer and IMMEDIATELY fell in love with her and the work of Exodus Ministries. We knew right away that we would be partnering long term with this ministry. Eli is beautiful, funny, SUPER talented, loves Jesus and has a heart for the hurting the size of TEXAS! Sit back and enjoy some time getting know Eli like we do:
Where do you work and why did you chose this career path?
I am privileged to serve on staff at Exodus Ministries – we reunite mothers with their children where wounds from incarceration and addiction are present. We teach them how to be loving mothers in a safe, uplifting environment. I’m not sure that I chose this path, per se… but the Lord was clear that this was the path for me.
My role[s] here include: Children’s Director – I get to love on these kiddos every day, oversee an incredible volunteer team and schedule. Creative Director – I run our social media, do our photography/video and writing. I also serve as one of the Resident Managers here – I live on property as a “House mom” of sorts.
What would you have done differently if you knew then what you know now?
I would’ve trusted the process more – doubted less. I would’ve spent less time trying to please people.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
I had my physician tell me about a year ago to “say no more often” – My “yes’s” were effecting my health.
Who are your biggest influences? Who do you admire most? Who or what inspired you to do what you’re doing now?
Wow – I feel really grateful to have served alongside some really incredible leaders throughout the last ten years. My college pastor and his wife, Rob and Medea Peabody, are ones I’m consistently inspired by. Their faith is real – not flashy or for anyone else. They walk in integrity and grace. Other than that, my mom is my very best friend, and my first phone call in any situation.
What is your biggest challenge?
I remember a church leader encouraging me years ago, before I was serving “in the trenches”, to “lay the hurts that I feel at the feet of Jesus” and when I learn to do that, I’ll continue to see freedom and breakthrough. This is an every day challenge – sometimes I think I know better, or want a situation to end differently – especially in working with former addicts and their children. I sometimes get caught up in the “why” – “why did __________ have to happen this way?” but I’m learning every day that the Lord loves His people more than I ever could. The deeper I understand this, the less pressure I put on myself to be perfect and/or to rescue.
What are you currently reading?
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson.
What is your favorite movie?
The Holiday, Little Women J
If you could tell people in no more than 2 sentences about your organization to make them want to get involved what would you say?
Every day we get the opportunity to love those this world won’t care enough for, and the Lord is changing the trajectory of their lives. The nationwide recidivism rate is about two-thirds [67.8% - the rate in which ex-offenders return to prison within three years], but for those that complete the Exodus program, it is 0%.
Chocolate or Vanilla?
Chocolate, but I prefer popcorn over anything sweet!
What’s your best advice for handling criticism?
I think it’s important to listen to constructive words – words meant to build and not destroy. Though I’ve learned to take everything to Jesus and ask Him for His heart on the matter. As humans, we can spew negativity in the name of Jesus, but Jesus never did that. It was His loving-kindness that leads to repentance.
What surprising lessons have you learned along the way?
“You can’t draw from an empty well” – I always heard it, but never truly believed it. I viewed self care as weakness and selfishness. The first year working at Exodus, I did not take care of myself. I ate terribly, I didn’t take time to do things I loved, I continued to pour myself out every day, white-knuckling it and trying to navigate this area of life and stories of trauma I saw every day. Needless to say, it did not work out well. I gave away my joy, and was not useful to anyone in that season. I’ve learned since then what things make me come alive… cooking a good meal, taking time for a bubble bath, essential oils, and yoga!
What do you find are biggest stumbling blocks and what are the best ways you’ve found to overcome them?
My biggest stumbling block would have to be me, and the way I think things should be. It all comes down to surrender. If I truly believe that God is for me and not against me, there’s not a single thing I will face today that can take me from that love.
What’s next for you?
I currently serve as the Children’s Director/Creative Director/and one of the Resident Managers here at Exodus. That sounds like a jumble of different roles, but if you’ve worked for a ministry before, you probably understand. I would love to one day be able to focus on solely the creative side of things, while still serving with a local ministry. I’ll be at Exodus as long as the Lord sees fit.
What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to be remembered?
My favorite prayer, and what I try to live by, is the Prayer of St. Francis. It says:
Lord make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy
O divine master grant that I may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it's in dying that we are born to eternal life
Thank you SO much Eli for jumping in and answering ALL the questions in such a truthful way! It is our privilege at Belle & Sparrows to watch the work you do and to get to be a very small part of your world! Keep up the AMAZING work you “good and faithful servant.”
If you would like to learn more about the ministry Eli does we would LOVE for you to jump in with us on a local trip to go serve alongside her. Our November Exodus trip is full but January has room – come GO with us!