The University of Mississippi
Direction, hope, prayer, and support are what women who visit Leah’s House are seeking. News reports have indicated that Jessica Chambers sought support at Leah’s House shortly before her death, but what is the nonprofit located in Oakland, Mississippi?
Leah’s House is a hub of support for women founded in March of 2013 and run solely on donations. With a Christian evangelical message, volunteers help women discover their calling.
“It’s been a dream of mine for about 20 years,” said Director Michelle Moyers. “It was started by a friend of mine that listened to my vision about wanting to help women. She started a savings and rented us a house to help women with addictions coming out of jail, or just needing help to focus on life again.”
The name Leah’s House refers to a Bible story about a woman named Leah, the sister of Rachel and first wife of Jacob, who constantly lived in her sister’s shadow. Leah was scorned, overlooked, and often felt she lacked love and affection.
Leah searched for love and approval missing from her life, but always felt empty, similar to some of the women who – in search of their self worth – become residents of Leah’s House. Leah later, with hope restored, gave birth to a son, Judah.
Several volunteers and a board of directors teach classes and guide Leah’s House. The average age of women seeking refuge is 35. The program currently services 12-15 women who complete the program in three to 12 months.
Moyers said women at Leah’s House come from an array of circumstances.
“Women with addictions, low self-esteem, and (women) from prison with nowhere to go may find security with us,” she said. “Those who have had their children taken by the Department of Human Services, some from probation officers, even women from crisis centers make up our shelter’s population.”
Some of the recent graduates include a current Leah’s House manager, a newly baptized Christian, and a woman now free of drug addiction. Moyers said the main goal is building strong independent women of God that realize their worth and purpose without validation.
“Our hope is that they may become strong emotionally, spiritually, and physically and realize that another person cannot make one whole,” Moyers said. “You must decide to be whole within yourself, and with God, and you will then be ready for a healthy relationship.”
The admission process to Leah’s House begins with check-in, an interview and paperwork. A bed is assigned with usually two to four women sharing a room. A typical day includes breakfast, devotion, and classes beginning at 9:30 a.m. Classes resume after lunch.
“We also work at food banks and do community service,” Moyers said. “At night, we have speakers come, and we work (from the book) The Purpose Drive Life. Sunday and Wednesday nights, we attend church, and Saturday is a rest day unless we are doing fundraisers.”
Moyers attested to many success stories that motivate her to continue daily. One is a woman who almost died from alcohol abuse, lost her son, and couldn’t eat when she first came to Leah’s House. She has been sober two years and now has her son back.
Moyers said Leah’s House requires funding of $20,000 to $35,000 per year to operate. They rely heavily on community donations, such as toilet paper, clothes, detergent, dish soap and other household items.
“When the ladies come from prison, they have nothing but the clothes they are wearing,” Moyers said.
Leah’s House leaders envision a ranch-like property with horses, goats, chickens and gardens.
“We do believe we will grow, because we have a big vision to help women,” Moyers said, “and at some point, we want to be able to take in women with their kids so they will not be separated.”
Leah’s House has grown and has the support of many churches who help with fundraisers.
“In 24 hours, a life can change due to unthinkable circumstances,” Moyers said. “Women are hurting, and we need to help one another rather than being in competition.”