Cheryl Sicher has been a faithful volunteer and now committed staff member with Rebirth Homes since before we opened our first home for survivors of trafficking, and we are so excited to share a little of her journey with you this month in our spotlight. Cheryl’s journey is one marked by God’s amazing preparation and the way He brings growth in His time.
If you’ve heard about the vision for Rebirth Homes, you’ll know that initially, the goal was to rebuild a home that had fallen into disrepair and to transform it into a safe place for survivors to heal. When Debbie Martis shared her vision for Rebirth Homes, Cheryl was interested in helping out. Debbie had her eye on an old house on University Avenue in Riverside for a possible drop-in center, and Cheryl’s husband Bob worked in real estate at the time. Debbie asked if Bob could show her the house. He did, but then he had to tell her why this house was not right for the program. “University is one of the busiest blades there is,” Cheryl reflected. The location just wasn’t right.
But, the Sichers had an idea of what might be just right for the program. They owned some land, and one of the acres was well-located for the program. Construction took longer than expected, two years instead of just one, but the extra time to practice patience was a blessing in the end because it gave us time to build community connections.
Cheryl had been serving those experiencing homelessness through the Grove Community Church, and she saw such deep connections between that work and working with survivors of trafficking. When Debbie asked for mentors to step up, Cheryl was part of the first group of mentors, and she has been faithfully serving with Rebirth Homes since then. Now, she is Rebirth’s Service Coordinator, and she does a little bit of everything. She assists in teaching classes on experiencing God and on finances for the participants, she helps participants gather all important legal documents they may not have like birth certificates and IDs and apply for EBT, she drives participants to office classes, and she is so instrumental in helping each woman who enters the program.
This work is never easy, but it is deeply rewarding. One of the biggest challenges is learning to be patient. As she did with the delayed timeline on constructing the house, Cheryl looks for the way God opens space for her to grow and lets God take the lead in challenging situations. She also celebrates participants’ successes in both small things and big things like phasing up in the program. “It’s worth it!” she says.
If you’re curious how things are going now with that acre of land that has been so wonderfully transformed by saying yes to God’s movement, it is flourishing. Cheryl described how Rebirth has added a garden for the participants, and how transformative it has been for them. What was once empty and wild land is now being cultivated as a space of healing. Potatoes, carrots, lettuce, and pumpkins are growing in the garden. Survivors start with seeds and celebrate each step along the way. Each plant breaks through the ground. Not long after, Cheryl can see a little 2-inch plant through the window. That little plant grows to 6 inches and in time with a little patience and care, there are flowers and fruit. The participants enjoy the harvest and work as a team to make delicious dinners with these fresh from-the-garden veggies.
Rebirth is always looking for those who are interested in going on this healing journey with participants. Cheryl’s advice to those considering becoming a mentor is “You have to have compassion and love because it’s a lot harder on you than a lot of people would think—once you get involved with individuals, you take on their hurts and their joys.” Be ready to invest in survivors, she said, “You have to open yourself up to share your life experiences.” Ultimately, what she is sharing with the survivors she mentors is a true picture of life, not a flowery picture that only includes the good and doesn’t recognize the bad. By sharing our time, growing in patience, and opening our hearts, we can each make a difference. Cheryl summed it up this way: “Love what you’re doing—that’s what I do.”