Victoria and her husband moved from Uganda to the United States several years ago for their studies. He went on to join the military, and she went to school for medical assisting. They spent time at Fort Bliss in Texas, where he was stationed, and had a daughter, Darlene, now 6. After he left the military and their family settled in the San Fernando Valley, Victoria’s husband started traveling more and more.
“He kept disappearing on us,” Victoria said. “He would go back to Africa—he said he was investing for us. He always said it was my family too, so I should support. I thought I was helping a team member who was trying to invest for us, trying to make a vacation home for us and the kids if we ever go to Africa. But he was really on his own team.
“The distance just grew and grew and grew. He was just doing his own thing. One day, he just got up and got all the money from his business here and didn’t pay any rent and just went back to Africa.”
His departure came just a few months after the couple had their second daughter, Danielle, now 1. “It was traumatizing,” Victoria said. “If I didn’t have God, my mind would be … Every time he did something, I’d say, ‘I’m strong. God will deliver me.’ It kept me sane.
“It was a bad relationship. But I was like, ‘No, I can’t fail in this marriage. My mom and dad did not make it. I have to make it.’ So I stayed and stayed. He became verbally abusive, and my 6-year-old would say, ‘It’s OK, Mommy, he doesn’t know Jesus.’ He’d just look at us and say I brainwashed my kids. But she’s right. He’ll know Jesus one day and he’ll repent.”
Victoria moved in with a friend in May before finding the Mission in October. “Every step I see there is something to learn there,” Victoria said. “We aren’t really supposed to have a bad journey, but there are some things God allows for you to learn from. We prayed, and my pastor told me about this place. God is always on time.
“When I got here, I saw people praying before food, and I was like, ‘What? This is like home!’ Everything is clean, my kids are happy! There are just two of them, so they are always lonely. When my 6-year-old found other kids here, she was so happy, saying, ‘Oh my gosh, mommy, I have friends!’”
Victoria has been touched by the staff’s compassion. “It’s been a really good experience for me, especially because I was from a bad marriage. I wasn’t hurt, just disregarded. When you get here, they say, ‘If there’s anything you need, just let us know.’ This is how people talk in here,” Victoria said, incredulously. “It’s something new for me. There is nothing like peace of mind.”
Victoria has worked at a senior living facility since 2014. She is looking for a better-paying job and a one-bedroom apartment to share with her daughters. The Mission’s partnership with Operation HOPE has been especially helpful for her in looking deeper into her finances and credit history. “I’ve just been working, planning, praying … and trying to raise these kids,” Victoria said with a smile.
“I’m just so grateful that someone came up with such an idea (of the Mission),” Victoria added. “I just want to thank everyone involved with this place. It is really meeting peoples’ needs. And if you really have a good attitude, you’ll get out of here, make a life for yourself, and then come back here and serve! That’s the attitude that I’ve learned from it.”