Becky Shaffer, the founder of Saving Grace, knows personally how hard it can be to transition successfully to independent adulthood, especially without support from one’s family.
That is because Becky grew up in a dysfunctional family with a chronically absent father and a mother who were emotionally disturbed and “either violently abusive or in bed asleep.” She quickly learned that she could, however, depend on God to be her daddy, so she prayed and talked with Him daily.
After a rough childhood, Becky was placed in a children’s home at age 12. When she graduated from her Christian high school, she was expected to leave the home and move on. With no better idea of a place to go, she went to college, “mostly because I needed a place to live,” she said. She referred to that first semester as being “in survival mode.” She quickly got into a romantic relationship and by Christmas that year she was married and expecting her first child.
Becky says she is thankful for how they have experienced God’s blessing on their marriage and family. When Kent and Becky were about two years into their marriage, they became house parents at a children’s home in Oklahoma that took in troubled teenage girls. During their ministry to these girls, they began to see a pattern—these girls were not ready to face life on their own as adults.
Years later, Becky found that God was planting a bigger dream in heart: a plan to help more young women in transition. Her dream began with a folder full of research on her computer called “Rebekah’s Hope” and culminated in the creation of what is known as Saving Grace, Inc. Originally Becky thought they would start her idea for an independent living program at the children’s home in Oklahoma where they had been working. But in 2008 they moved to Northwest Arkansas to take a much-needed break from their full-time ministry.
Even though they had moved, she still couldn’t shake the idea. Finally later that year they began to pray with their small Bible study group and their pastor for direction and clarity.
Their prayers continued until one day in January 2009. Becky said, “Kent and I prayed together before heading our separate ways to work, and we asked God to send us a sign if this was really what He wanted me to do. I went to work and was visiting with a customer, and we began talking about our similarities in working with abused and neglected children over the years. I shared with her my dream of doing a transitional living house. A few hours later she came back to the store in our break room and had a large sign that said “Amazing Grace.” She shared that she felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to bring this to me. She did this not knowing what Kent and I had prayed earlier that morning. I took the sign to Kent, and we cried and prayed together — having no idea what God was about to do!"
With little more than a dream in her heart and a file on her computer, a month later Becky called the Center for Nonprofits—an old hospital that had been turned into offices for non-profit organizations—and asked about available office space. To her surprise, she found out that the Center was less than two miles away from her home. Once the Center heard her idea of ministering to young women, they asked if she had time to come look at the old convent space where the nuns used to live. When she and Kent arrived at the old convent building, Becky quickly realized it “couldn’t have been more perfect for what we are doing. It was amazing and perfect; handpicked by God.”
The old convent has 14 resident rooms—each with its own sink—and four full bathrooms to share on the resident side. In addition, it provided a large living room, utility room, pantry, office space, and a “chapel” that is now a computer lab.
With the help of hundreds of volunteers from churches and organizations around Northwest Arkansas, and with much of the lease of the building given to Saving Grace by the nonprofit they were leasing from the first year, Saving Grace was quickly becoming a reality. They prepared the building for its first residents, gathered a group of people to be the founding board, and were approved for their 501(c)3 in a near-miraculous six weeks. It seemed that God was quickly and powerfully blessing Saving Grace.
Born from the dream of a young woman from a broken home, today, Saving Grace is a beautiful reality that continues to reach out to young women in Northwest Arkansas.