From Shame to Gratitude: A Unique Story of Relationship

by | Dec 18, 2020 | Stories of Transformation

A Story of Transformation

“God is working miracles through Love INC each day. It is a community of loving and caring people who truly want to help others and want to see everyone that walks through their doors succeed and reach their goals.”

Joe and Ashley Forton came to Love INC carrying many heavy burdens. Financial burdens, physical burdens, and even emotional burdens. Shame consumed them as they made a courageous choice to seek assistance for their financial struggles. What they encountered when they came to Love INC in search of this assistance was much more than budget mentoring. “Knowing that we weren’t alone was hugely impactful. We had been so afraid to share our reality with others and as we got connected we realized what a wonderful community Love INC was,” the couple shared as we asked about their experience.

“Joe and I were struggling with lots of feelings of shame and embarrassment that our financial situation had gotten so out of control…We were extremely overwhelmed and willing to do whatever it took to get out of the financial situation we were in.”

It is certainly not uncommon for those who walk through Love INC’s doors, or call seeking assistance, to feel shame for their situation. As countless individuals and families share with Love INC staff and volunteers what their reality looks like, they are never met with judgment, but grace and dignity. It was no different for the Forton family.

When Joe and Ashley first started attending the Life Skills Program, they started to see the overwhelming blessings that God had in store for them. During their year in the Life Skills Program, Joe and Ashley chipped away at their debt, which ended up restoring their hope: hope in themselves, hope in God, hope in the church, and hope in the foundation they were building for their three kids.

“We were overwhelmed with gratitude as our church organized a fundraiser to support us, and from the wrap-around support through Love INC volunteers.”

Now, as graduates of Love INC’s Life Skills Program, the Forton family has been able to pay off all of the debt that they started with. Their credit scores are now considered “excellent” and their faith and marriage are stronger than ever.

As the Forton’s community continued to show up and support one another, the family began to see hope and love through action. They were able to see the Body of Christ, the Church, work together to make a difference and love one another well. They shared, “Seeing others graduate gave us hope and motivated us to keep going.

Knowing we always had someone in our corner made us feel less alone.”

Photos by Kelsie Boss

A Story of Relationship

As we dove into Walt’s story, it was evident that God’s plan was beautifully woven into it’s core. His experience with the Life Skills Program looked much different than most, yet the importance of dignified relationships was present as ever.

Walt had been involved with Love INC and his church for years as a budget teacher. Within the past couple of years, Walt took the step to begin mentoring individual families long term. One of those families happened to be family friends, Ashley and Joe Forton. The Fortons were paired with Walt completely at random.

This mentor-mentee relationship did look different from how most begin, however it still demanded trust, honesty, celebration and vulnerability. Surprisingly, their existing friendship made trust a struggle in this relationship. “You have to trust people to keep confidentiality as no one wants their personal issues to be shared with an entire social circle. Although this pairing didn’t have the “getting to know you” phase, there was still a transition into the mentor-mentee relationship,” described Walt.

The Fortons worked hard to pay off their debt and this preseverance lead to a stronger foundation for their marriage and family to grow on. And the whole time, Walt was there supporting them. He was present and celebrated with the family each time they reached their goals.

Walt shared, “Over the past year, I have been around for the joys of paying off all of the debt that they came into the program with, and be a sounding board for the choices that built a foundation for fundamental change in not only their finances but their marital relationship and family trajectory going forward.”

He was there to be open in conversation and remind the Fortons just how far they had come since starting Life Skills. Walt mentioned,

“The two people that I knew all those years ago are not the same people now. They are such a beautiful, vibrant example of how Christ can lead you through the darkest of times and the most difficult conversations, to see the new calm they exhibit knowing that God is in control if we are willing to listen to how He is directing us.”

As these friends journeyed together, they strengthened their relationship and graduated with a lasting friendship filled with celebration and purpose beyond what they could have done previously. Walt shared, “the joy of hearing their testimony at graduation and almost being moved to tears sharing my own side of their last 16 months was truly something I will cherish as a volunteer, and more importantly, a friend.

From the bottom of my heart, I am overjoyed to have been part of this transformation and even happier knowing I get to be part of the fruits of their labor for years to come.”