Mothers Fighting Poverty: Rebecca Lewis of McPherson, Kansas

Leading up to Mother’s Day, the NCC Poverty Initiative is sharing a series of stories lifting up, celebrating, and praying for mothers who are fighting poverty and alleviating suffering in their communities.

Prayer for Rebecca: God, thank you for expressing your love through Rebecca. Thank you for filling her heart with solidarity and love. When times get tough, fill her with your grace and courage. Bless and strengthen her family and her work. In good times and bad, let her life overflow with the deepest joy that only You can give. Amen.

Recognized by: Circles of McPherson County and National Circles Campaign

Much of Rebecca’s life story is not unlike many other women who have grown up in generational poverty in the United States. She was born in California to a very young single mother, lived with a keen sense of not having enough, dropped out of school and struck out on her own on her sixteenth birthday, spent years in relationships full of addiction and violence, has been single parenting her own three children, and to date, has moved 61 times. So several years ago as she stopped at the First United Methodist Church in McPherson yet again to get free diapers, she was quite hesitant when the secretary lovingly pointed to a flyer that said “Steps To End Poverty (now Circles of McPherson County) Getting Ahead In a Just Getting By World: A free fifteen week course for struggling families designed to show a way out.” Because she felt indebted to the secretary for all the diapers, she signed up for the course, although, in Rebecca’s own words, “…there is a tremendous amount of shame and isolation that occurs growing up in poverty. Raising children in poverty is full of even more shame, guilt, frustration; growing despondence coupled with looming fears. The result is a gnawing sense of hopelessness and a notion of being trapped. The thought of letting anyone in is terrifying on so many levels. So just signing up for a class like Getting Ahead was pretty scary. The whole idea of taking hands with people not from poverty to explore my own poverty with them was a huge leap of faith.”
Since Rebecca made that decision just a few years ago, her life has changed immeasurably, and she in turn has played a key role in facilitating life altering change in the lives of hundreds of others in McPherson County. While continuing on her own journey out of poverty and into a future story (which does not exist when you live in poverty, says Rebecca), she is working as Life Coach for Circles of McPherson County. Rebecca tirelessly builds the Circles Initiative, an innovative, high impact campaign to eliminate poverty, at the local level through education to individuals and community at large, facilitating and forming intentional friendships across class lines, and leading by example as a Circle Leader, a Getting Ahead course graduate who has made the commitment to actively work on their journey from poverty to sustainability for at least 18 months, with several Allies (intentional friends from the community) walking with them. In a little over a years time, Rebecca has completed college with a 4 year degree in Graphic Design, moved with her 3 boys into her first house that “isn’t on wheels” and is “roach free”, obtained a car “with low miles, that is all the same color, paid for and has never broken down on me one time.” She says ” I am no longer ashamed of how my boys are being raised because I know I am making choices today that will give them a sustainable future. I have an emergency fund and am working each month to pay off debt.”
    So today, as Rebecca crafts and lives in to her own brighter future story, she works just as hard to spread and facilitate what is possible to both others who are living much like she once did and to so many others, both locally and at the national level. She has shared her story and the Circles Campaign story in front of legislators at the state house in Topeka, Kansas and was invited on to the board of the National Circles Campaign as a representative of Circle Leaders across the country. She’s really just begun traveling the path of her future story, and there’s no limit to where she, and many others with her, can go! We love and honor you, Rebecca! Happy Mother’s Day!