By Steve McRee
Our brave founder, AliceAnn Cantelow, went to be with Jesus Sunday, August 22nd at the age of 91. She passed peacefully, surrounded by her family.
“We find that we need to stay close to [the women] to keep them on the right track, so we need to have a more permanent residential program.” AliceAnn Cantelow
31 years later AliceAnn’s vision of a “Refuge for Women and Children” is now a reality. She once asked me how we expected to build an entire campus with no money. I told her, “The same God who started Shepherd’s Gate will complete it.”
And He has.
Shepherd’s Gate currently has two campuses, in Brentwood and in Livermore, with the combined capacity to serve almost 100 women and children. No longer an emergency shelter, Shepherd’s Gate is a place of refuge. Residents stay anywhere from 12-18 months as they and their children are restored by the healing love and power of Jesus Christ, recovering from addiction, domestic violence, poverty and homelessness, and can begin to rebuild their lives.
It’s amazing to think that Shepherd’s Gate would never have existed if not for the obedience of this one woman, who had only been a believer for a few years.
At the age of 59, AliceAnn had a fun retirement planned – and a dream of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Even at her age, I have no doubt that she could have accomplished this rather ominous trip! But God interrupted her plans and spoke to her about His dream of providing refuge for homeless women.
“Help the homeless. Provide a place for those who are weak, tired, oppressed, left out in the cold, to come and know God, heal, be transformed, and live anew.”
This was not on her radar, nor her desire, but AliceAnn submitted to God’s calling – praying for Him to lead the way because she had no idea how to do this. Suddenly homeless women began arriving at her doorstep.
As that first humble cabin filled up, AliceAnn moved to Portola Avenue and Shepherd’s Gate was born. AliceAnn continued to follow God’s leading, and dreamed of building a sanctuary with a long-term program where women and children could have plenty of time to heal, while learning the skills needed to have a successful life. This was her dream and is now her legacy.
Today, Carla, myself and all of us at Shepherd’s Gate honor AliceAnn’s brave obedience to God’s call on her life and promise to build on her legacy by helping broken women see themselves as valuable, and by recognizing everyone who walks through our doors as “made in the image of God.”
The strong foundation laid by AliceAnn in those early years is what continues to uphold Shepherd’s Gate now. We have a strong community partnership that provides for the women and children through their generous monetary gifts, volunteering and donations of food, clothing and other items.
And it works! Since 1983 Shepherd’s Gate has served over 11,000 women and children and 89% of program graduates do not return to the life they lived before entering the program.
So many women and children have had their lives transformed by the healing love of Jesus as provided by Shepherd’s Gate, but so many more are still out there.
AliceAnn’s life will be celebrated at Shepherd’s Gate, 1660 Portola Avenue, Livermore on Tuesday, September 1, 2015 at 1pm. The family encourages gifts in her memory be sent to Shepherd’s Gate at shepherdsgate.org/donate.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:12-13
AliceAnn is the embodiment of this verse and her example is a call to all of us who would think to ourselves “but I am just one person, how can I help so many?”
AliceAnn is proof that one life makes a difference. As she once wrote of herself:
“My tombstone could have the words “God used her.” Some people don’t like the word “used.” But I know what I would mean by it. It would be a good thing!”
Indeed He did.