Changing the Legacy for Their Children

by | Sep 19, 2022 | Stories of Transformation | 1 comment

Pregnant and nineteen, Nicky Hamilton and her unborn baby’s father, Chris, were thrown into adulthood and forced to manage life on their own. In an attempt to relieve societal and economical pressure, they got married and moved out of their parents’ houses. 

Clinging onto the little hope that they had, Chris went back to college at Cornerstone University and worked multiple jobs while Nicky tended to their newborn baby. Attempting to keep the lights on while only making $5,000 during the first year of marriage, the Hamiltons attended a Dave Ramsey financial course, a Crown Ministries financial course, and began building relationships with Ada Bible Church members. 

As two 21-year-olds with another baby on the way, the Hamilton’s grew fearful for their future. They made under $10,000 during the first few years of their marriage, which left their family clinging onto every penny. Their struggles worsened and the material from their financial classes were irrelevant to their current situation. They needed financial basics. 

Helplessness settled in after Chris graduated from Cornerstone and $130,000 of student loan debt drained their bank accounts. This meant the couple would be paying $1,000 a month for 25 years, which was unrealistic with two little kids and an annual income of $10,000.

Hope resurfaced when Chris secured a job as a worship director at a local church. Full of excitement, they packed their bags and they moved their family to fulfill their destiny.

Unfortunately, instead of the new job providing financial security, church leadership encouraged unhealthy budgeting habits which became burdensome over time. The Pastor abused their family financially and spiritually for two and a half years.

The Hamilton’s were unable to have a savings account due to having a $1000 monthly student loan payment and being pressured to give an unrealistic tithe to the church. By the end of their time at that ministry, they were required to give 30% of their income and also asked to donate their yearly income tax refund. “To make matters worse, Chris was required to go on a missionary trip and the pastor instructed that we use credit cards on the trip, which put us into credit card debt,” mentioned Nicky. Soon after attempting to seek financial assistance, the church indicated that the Hamilton’s were not permitted to get assistance from external sources, such as Love Your Neighbor. 

Feeling stuck and hopeless, the financially burdened couple stayed with the abusive pastor after the church abruptly split. This created a downward spiral causing the couple to have no income for 8 weeks all while Nicky was eight months pregnant with their fourth child. 

After eight stressful weeks, Chris found a job at a pharmaceutical company in Grand Rapids. As they regained hope, they took a leap of faith and terminated their relationship with the church and fell into homelessness for four months, as a family of six. 

With the help of some friends, they moved into a rental property and were determined to keep their family together. After a quick Google search, Nicky discovered Love Your Neighbor and our financial literacy courses. 

Nicky met with Mary, a former Love Your Neighbor Life Skills Program Leader, and shame and embarrassment dwindled once they started building a relationship with the Life Skills community.

“We joined the program out of complete desperation, Nicky stated.”

The Hamilton’s community was growing and their peer support encouraged them to grow financially through accountability. “Every time I drove past Taco Bell I wanted a $3 taco, but it was more work to document it in my budget and I didn’t want to explain to my mentor why I “needed” the taco from Taco Bell,” Nicky laughed. 

“We were so grateful that the program provided us with diapers, gas vouchers, and Christmas gifts because it allowed us to pay off our credit card debt, while providing for our children,” Nicky graciously stated. The Hamilton family was able to pay off their credit card debt by the time they graduated. 

Another family from Ada Bible Church was inspired by the family’s journey, so post-graduation they blessed the Hamilton’s by paying $75,000 of their student loans. “They were our cheerleaders, constantly pouring into us. I cried for a week,” Nicky said. 

As they strengthened their relationship with God, Nicky was adamant to find a way to give back. God led her back to her former hobby: Photography. 

Nicky began offering family photography sessions for Life Skills families. “It gave me an opportunity to meet the families and encourage them to finish the program because it was transformational for my family and me,” mentioned Nicky. 

“At the time, people were approaching me to do graduation photos, but I was not confident enough in my ability,” stated Nicky. She is now gaining confidence in her photography skills and grooming her business! 

God, growing through a new community, dug Nicky and her husband out of an unforgiving hole. They came to Love seeking financial support for their family and left feeling motivated, hopeful, and transformed through their faith. 

Are you in need of a photographer? Check out her work: