Leadership is visionary. Great leaders have a great vision. This week’s guest blogger is a boundless leader with a tremendous vision. Ronda Paulson began with a vision and it’s coming to fruition, even as I write this post. Thank you, Ronda, for being my guest blogger this week.
I met Ronda Paulson many years ago when she was working for Kim Gurley, my massage therapist at the time. Ronda was always engaging and lively, sincere and compassionate, prayerful and modeling a great example of leading a Godly life. Ronda is a wonderful speaker and injects appropriate humor in her talks. I’ve been privileged to hear Ronda speak several times, the two most recent times being when she was the keynote speaker for Milligan College’s Leaders in Christian Service ceremony in January, and when she addressed The Monday Club at our last meeting in March, before we quarantined due to COVID-19. And I would be remiss if I didn’t say that Ronda was awarded one of the Leaders in Christian Service honors at the time. I applaud Beth Anderson, who has directed that program since its inception, for pulling that off!
Lottie Ryans became involved in Ronda’s current work last year. Lottie arranged for Ronda to speak to our book club last year. We read A Chance in the World by Stephen Pemberton, which went hand-in-hand with Ronda’s talk, since she is the founder of Isaiah 117 House.
Here’s Ronda’s more official and formal bio; you may be exhausted from reading it!
Ronda Paulson is a native of East Tennessee, residing in Elizabethton with her husband Corey, and 4 children. She attended Milligan College and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in Secondary Education. Ronda later went on to serve as the Spirit Coordinator for 13 years at Milligan College as well as served as an Adjunct Professor of Anatomy for 8 years.
Ronda serves as the founder and executive director of the Isaiah 117 House, a non-profit organization that provides a home for children to come to when the Department of Children’s Services has removed them from their home. The home provides a comforting, loving environment on what is an otherwise traumatic day for these children.
Ronda had the vision for such a home in 2014 as she and Corey were going through training to become foster parents. She uncovered the need and felt God call out to her to meet it. In 2015, Corey and Ronda received a call for their first foster placement and again realized the need for such a home as they went to meet their foster son at the back of the DCS office. She soon assembled a board of directors and created a mission and vision in the spring of 2017 and raised the money to purchase the first home that fall. Renovations began on the home as Ronda continued to spread awareness of what removal day looked like for a child and raise support for the ministry. The response from the community was overwhelming and Ronda quickly realized she could not continue in her role at Milligan and answer God’s call of this new ministry to her satisfaction. She resigned from Milligan in the Spring of 2018 and assumed the role of executive director of Isaiah 117 House. The house opened its doors to children in need in June of 2018 and, with a volunteer staff, has served more than 300 children to date.
But Ronda’s vision continues to grow as Isaiah 117 House opened a Washington County, TN and Greene County location in 2019. Isaiah 117 opened their first out of state home this spring in Vanderburgh County, IN. Currently there are 16 more locations in development as the Lord continues to open doors for Ronda and her board to walk through. The vision began as no child sitting in a DCS office in Carter County and has become a vision of no child in Tennessee, to child anywhere sitting in a DCS office awaiting placement
Let’s read Ronda’s words:
A Gift from my Daughter
This Mother’s Day I received a beautiful canvas from my daughter. Sophie hand painted my life verse Exodus 14:14, “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” She was so excited to give it to me and she beamed with pride as she explained how she worked in secret to create the perfect gift. As I stood back and admired her work, I realized this is not only a gift for me, this is exactly what the world needs right now. This is a gift that needs to be shared.
The timeliness of this verse may initially seem a little strange. For many of us, we have never been more still. We have spent more time at home, more time with family, more time being still than any of us can remember. The real question is, are your still in your spirit? Is your mind still? Are you at peace? Although as a society we are not physically moving, traveling, and going, many of us are far from still. Our minds are going a million miles an hour. Fear is creeping in and our anxiety levels are through the roof. We may be sitting on our couches, but our spirit is reeling. We are confused, scared and stuck.
So were the Israelites.
In the fourteenth chapter of Exodus, Moses is leading God’s people. The Israelites were in bondage for years. God sent Moses to Pharaoh and after much negotiation and a few plagues, Pharaoh agreed to let God’s people go. Moses was then called to lead God’s people out of Egypt and away from Pharaoh. At some point, Pharaoh came to his senses and realized he had just sent away all his slaves. He rallied his troops and they set out to find the Israelites and bring them back. It was not long before God’s chosen people found themselves trapped between an army of 700 chariots on one side and the Red Sea on the other.
God’s people began to panic. There was no way out. They were so scared. They were angry. They were trapped. Their minds were swirling. Their bodies were paralyzed, their spirits racing. They eventually call out to Moses in anger. “ Why did you bring us here? Why did you bring us here to die? We were better off as slaves than to die this way!”
And then Moses delivers what we now know as Exodus 14:14: “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.”
When there was no way out. When it seemed God had forgotten them. When the problem appeared too big for even God. God showed up in a way no one ever saw coming. God parted the Red Sea and his people walked through the waters to safety.
Mother’s Day was a new beginning for me. A realization that although my body is extremely still right now, my spirit is longing for peace. Exodus 14:14 is, for me, a reminder that I do not have to live in fear. I do not have to know the way out. There is a God who is fighting for me and He has a habit of showing up in ways I never thought possible.
This is also why Isaiah 117 House was created. We exist to serve children entering foster care. Removal day is a very traumatic day for a child. When children enter the system where Isaiah 117 House does not exist, that child is taken to an office space to sit and wait. In the middle of their own personal chaos they are surrounded by the chaos of a busy office and staff. Isaiah 117 House is a peaceful place where they can wait and be still. Why God works behind the scenes to fight for children He has never forgotten, we sit with them in that moment where it seems there is an army on one side and a sea on the other. We are there to remind them that there is hope even in the midst of an impossible day.
And so today, I share Sophie’s gift with you. I pray that your spirit may find peace. I pray that you take time to turn off the television, lay down social media, and allow your mind, body and soul to be still. I pray that this will become so much a part of our lives, that even as the world opens back up and even as our bodies begin to move again, our spirit will find a way to be still. I pray also that when you face those most difficult of days you remember there is always hope and there is always a God fighting for you
#RondaPaulson #Isaiah117House #MilliganCollege #LeadersinChristianService #LottieRyans #BethAnderson #AChanceintheWorld #StephenPembertonm #Mother’sDay #Exodus14:14 #Moses
Copyright May 29, 2020 by Rebecca Henderson and Ronda Paulson