-Written by Linda Leathers, Founding CEO and Original Wild Praying Woman
Where do I start to share my heart of gratitude after 16+ years of experiencing a front row seat to watch God create and develop The Next Door into an organization that provides comprehensive services for women and their families impacted by the disease of addiction, mental health disorders, trauma, and incarceration?
It all began with a stirring to use an empty building in the heart of downtown Nashville for God’s purposes. Now, it sounds like a no brainer, but almost 20 years ago, it seemed a little crazy. We named ourselves the WILD PRAYING WOMEN. This group called and cried out to the Lord for His guidance to find the niche that this building could fill for the community. We asked the community for guidance, and we asked the Lord to go before us and tackle the giants that would hinder the vision. We also promised to give Him the glory for anything good that came out of this adventure.
I want to acknowledge that it took an act of faith from First Baptist Nashville to literally TURN the keys over to a piece of property to this group of women—and by then a few good men—to follow an idea that this building could be an oasis, a place of healing for women re-entering the community from incarceration. We could be THE NEXT DOOR for women to walk through.
Over the years, this grassroots effort has become a nationally recognized non-profit corporation with a focus on ANY woman who needs assistance getting out from under an addiction. The Next Door in Nashville has a behavior health hospital campus in the heart of Midtown complemented by 21 affordable housing apartments for women and their children. In Chattanooga, The Next Door provides, in partnership with the TN Department of Corrections, the only Correctional Release Center for women managed by a faith-based non-profit with a leading 15% recidivism rate. This statistic sounds too good to be true, but it is reality!
The Next Door has served over 8,500 Tennessee women and thousands of others that call these women daughter, mom, wife, sister, aunt, and friend. The Next Door’s sweet sauce is its Christ-centered mission, core values, and the team that has bought into a philosophy of care that believes CHANGE is possible. The Next Door is a catalyst in the healing process for women by providing the finest of compassionate care in a community of respect, wholeness, encouragement, faith, love, and hope coupled with offering excellent evidence-based medical and clinical services.
It has been the greatest privilege to see a burden on the hearts of wild praying women become a reality only as a result of God’s working. He created The Next Door. He provided miracle after miracle through His grace and mercy.
My heart is overwhelmed with joy and gratitude to Him for each person that has prayed, invested financially, volunteered, served on the Board, worked for or entrusted The Next Door with her care. There are five key spiritual life principles that I will always be grateful for from my time at The Next Door.
1. The Lord is at work and He desires to use us to bring about His purposes.
2. His ideas give us the opportunity to step out in faith, work with intentionality, and trust Him for the results. You don’t have to know how the story will end, you just have to embrace the journey.
3. The Lord is faithful. As He calls us to follow Him, He will provide. At just the right time, He will come through. He wants us to trust Him.
4. He does not require perfection from us, because in our weakness, He is strong.
5. My life theme is LIVE in FREEDOM. This theme has been engraved in my heart while serving at The Next Door. I have met some of the most courageous, brave women that admit their lives are a wreck and that they desperately need help and hope to survive and later thrive. I have learned that each of us need that type of reality check. The Lord desires to step into our world and radically use whatever “our mess” is for good in some way. He gives grace. His love is unconditional. He is with us in every aspect of life. I have been challenged to be grace-giving and show mercy to all people. I have been given—and have needed—so much grace over the years that my response to others must be to share grace with them. We can all be people that live in and give freedom to those in our path.
As a result of The Next Door, I am forever changed. About five months ago, I began to experience a peace that was almost tangible letting me know that it was time for me to transition to a new next door in my professional career. I am convinced that God has another ministry adventure in store for me. In the same way, I believe with every fiber of my being that The Next Door’s greatest days for impact are ahead. The Board has made a wonderful decision to name 12-year team member and partner in the work Ginger Gaines as the next CEO. The organization is in great hands of leadership moving forward.
It only makes sense in my final paragraph of this blog and time at The Next Door to share, “Thanks be to the Lord.” The Next Door is His work. As long as I have breath, I will know firsthand that miracles do occur.
The Lord has done great things for us and we are filled with joy. Ps. 126:3
Live in freedom.