Ministry finds home in Lincoln County

January 23, 2004|EMILY BURTON

HUSTONVILLE - Down a rutted, winding lane that kicks up smoke signals with each passing car sits a columned house, guarded in part by several large, friendly dogs and two wooden crosses. It is a house reminiscent of a southern plantation, surrounded by rolling hills and cattle, but the Isaiah House has become God's lighthouse for homeless and drug addicted men in an eight county area.

Mark and Tammy La Palme, owners of the Isaiah House, first opened their home to the destitute in 1994, several years after Mark overcame 20-plus years of drug addiction through Christ.

"It started in our own personal residence in Danville," said Mark. One homeless man in August quickly multiplied into several others; they didn't advertise but men kept coming.

"By that Christmas we had 12-13 men in our house, so we built some bedrooms in our basement," said Mark. "We weren't really focused on the issue of homelessness, or why they're homeless, but we just wanted to provide them with a nice, clean place to stay and get them a job."


Looking back, the La Palmes said what followed was the hand of God leading them to their current location. But at the time, it felt like persecution by Danville's Planning and Zoning.

"We had build seven beautiful little bedrooms in there, and we had to tear them down. They didn't have window access," said La Palme. The family was also fined more than $8,000 by P&Z, and their home was condemned. It was a complete shock, said Mark.

In July 2001, the couple began asking their unexpected guests to leave, though they were waiting for a sign to continue their mission. It came in the form of a phone call from a Maryland man who had somehow heard their story. He offered property in Lincoln County to the La Palmes so they could continue their work. Before long, the family packed up their lives in Danville and moved to Lincoln County.

"It's gone to far to stop, it seemed like God was opening doors to us," said Mark. "We did so tearfully, but we were excited about what God had planned for us."

A little over 200 men have come through since, most with the goal to become clean and sober. Many leave with new starts on life through strong roots of faith and worship. Even more go to new homes without the destructive habits that have driven their paths to the Isaiah house.

"The largest problem is drugs and alcohol, thirdly would be the mental issues, it's not for lack of jobs," said Mark about the homeless.

For one resident, the house has become a haven from drugs and women, though his decision to move in did not come easily.

"I knew this was God's purpose for me. I knew this is where God wants me to be, but I didn't want to be here," said Trevor Storey, 22. "I was just bound in sin, through women and a lot of drama in my life."

With a two-year old daughter to raise, Storey said he hated to leave his house but knew the future of his child depended on his own decision to get clean. During particularly difficult days, Storey would retreat to the "prayer closet" and read his Bible, praying for a sign of direction from God.

One day his Bible fell open to a letter from home, and a passage caught his eye. It was Isaiah 58:6,7,10, the quote used on the front of the Isaiah House pamphlet. Two months later he is still at the house working "to grow on the foundations of Christ. I want to go to college and make a career for myself," and plans on staying "just as long as God wants me here."

Eight men currently live with the La Palmes

Storey is just one of eight men currently living with the La Palmes in the 1830's mansion - the only one of it's kind in an eight county area.

"There is an incredible need for it," said Mark.

The numbers speak for themselves. In 104 weeks of service, 46 new jobs were found, $17,900 in child support paid, 15 veterans helped, 26 marriages saved and 37,000 nights of lodging provided. The home recently became a member of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, a church service organization.

But the needs of the homeless and addicted have extended past the current capacity of the Isaiah House. Every day, between one and five men are turned away due to lack of funding.

Local churches are helping through financial sponsorships and donations of time and supplies, but the La Palmes are still working on a tight budget and running the house 24/7 without compensation.

The organization desperately needs multiple volunteers to help the La Palmes, now trying to raise their own children in a section of the house while providing salvation to the men. Volunteers are needed for a myriad of positions, including a live-in night Daddy to manage third-shift duties, a GED teacher, a general maintenance man and a driver to help shuttle men to appointments, work or social services.

In addition to labor, the house needs more bunk beds, larger water lines, gravel for the driveway, money for prescriptions, a digital video camera and a four-wheel drive vehicle.

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