“Miss Ariel, Miss Ariel! I want to talk about God!” Ariel looked up from her work, both surprised and delighted. A young mother stood in the doorway, her eyes bright with excitement. Only a few days before, she had arrived at the shelter with no money, no place to live, and no idea that there was a God who loved her.
Ariel could hardly contain her joy as she took the Bible and showed her the love of Jesus. The young mother considered the Gospel and eagerly asked questions. How could such a holy God love a sinner like herself?
“She was pretty fresh when she came in,” Ariel recalls. “But she was ready.” Ariel witnessed a miracle that day as the young woman accepted Christ as Savior.
Miracles like this don’t happen every day, but opportunities to share Christ’s love are abundant at Joy House, a shelter for mothers and their children operated under the Milwaukee Rescue Mission.
As a case manager at Joy House, Ariel Mayes uses biblical counseling to build relationships with guests and teach them the skills they need to start life afresh.
The Call to Counsel
During college, Ariel discovered a God-given gift for developing deep relationships. So she followed her calling and graduated from Maranatha Baptist University with a Biblical Counseling degree in 2016. A few months later, after much prayer and job searching, Ariel came to Joy House.
For Ariel, the opportunity to counsel in a Christian environment is a dream come true. “I knew I had to do it from a biblical perspective because that’s the only true hope for change,” she says.
Guests aren’t always open to Christ, but that doesn’t stop Ariel from sharing the joy of the Gospel with them. That’s because Joy House began with the understanding that only faith in Christ can bring life-changing help to the needy.
A Day at Joy House
As a case manager, Ariel serves her guests at Joy House in several ways. First, she brings new guests into the shelter. Joy House is a haven for both expectant and current mothers and their children. The House offers food and shelter as well as discipleship classes that enable the guests to successfully launch out on their own after their stay at Joy House.
When she brings in a new guest, Ariel reviews the rules and expectations of Joy House and makes sure that the guests are acclimated to the new environment. “I also just make sure that they’re okay,” she says. “Many mothers come in and you can tell they have been living on the street . . . they are dirty, nervous, and just exhausted.”
In the evenings, the shelter is alive with activity. Ariel checks in on visitors to see that they are making progress in Joy House’s discipleship program. She also gets to interact with the children as well as the mothers. “I love the relationships I get to develop so much!” she says.
Even though Ariel gets to do what she loves every day, stepping into a world full of suffering and pain was difficult for her.
Many guests at Joy House have suffered abuse and trauma throughout their lives, and others struggle with mental illness and addictions. Just as drugs damage the brain, trauma prevents the mind from functioning properly.
Guests often take medication to stabilize their mental state, but they often develop addictions to these medications. By the time they reach a place like Joy House, they often cannot even recognize the effects of their addictions.
Though many people believe that these addictions are the leading cause of homelessness, Ariel says that this is not the case. “Most of the moms I work with use marijuana,” she says. “But we are dealing much more with domestic violence or trauma.”
During her first months on the job, Ariel could tell that work was taking its toll on her. She had trouble sleeping as she tried to carry the burdens of work alone.
But then she realized that she could not handle these burdens on her own. She had to hand them over to God. “I had to learn that the things I was dealing with at work . . . were not my things to carry,” she says. “I can help and I am there to help, but ultimately those are Christ’s, and God is in control of all of those situations.”
Her daily commute became a time of communion with God. “I would pray my whole drive home . . . just to verbally allow God to take those things off of my shoulders,” she says.
In addition to changing her relationship with God, her time at Joy House has changed her relationships with people. “It has definitely changed the way I view homelessness,” she says. “You cannot make assumptions because you don’t always know their story.” Instead, she focuses on asking questions and directing them to God’s word, the only true hope for change.
Even when the stress and sadness of her job weigh down on her, Ariel clings to the fact that God is always in control.
“My God is still good, and I get to choose joy.”