My name is Alora and I am a mother of two beautiful children, Anastasia and Mark. I’m married to a
wonderful man, Mark. In April of 2021, our lives got kind of flipped upside down. My husband and I, along with my parents, started living together sometime in 2019. My mother watched our children if we had to work or I was in class. We had been living in this home for almost a year when the landlord offered to sell it to us, so we bought the house together. We were fixing it up and making it cozy. Everything was going great, well, we thought it was.

In April 2021, my father started acting weird towards me and my husband, and we couldn’t figure out why. We were getting ready to go to New York for my best friend’s wedding. Before we left, Mark and my father got into a fight.
When we got back from our trip, we found out that my father had moved out and left my mother there so she could take care of our kids when need be.

Everyone was miserable. My father’s plan was to move my mother out and give us the house, but at that time we couldn’t have a”orded it. Things were so turned around for everyone, we just decided to up and move to Georgia to be near Marks family. In April 2021, we moved to Georgia. We tried for weeks to find a place to rent, but with how the economy is, and us not having jobs, it was hard to find something cheap enough, or even available was hard to come by.

We finally found a 3 bedroom 2 bath mobile home in Acworth. We were paying around $1650 a month just for rent plus utilities! Mark found a job quickly, but I was having a hard time finding one that wasn’t paying minimum wage or just slightly above. We also didn’t really have childcare options and there was no way we could a”ord daycare for either of the kids.

Weeks would go by where we didn’t know what we were going to do for food or diapers or even just the basic essentials. I had found a couple food banks in the area but you could only go certain times of the month and only were allowed to go so many times in a month. I was trying to feed a family of four and my two dogs. At this point I hadn’t started working yet either.

Living off of Mark’s income was not easy at all. I believe around June of 2021 I found Encompass Ministries online and I called and set up an appointment to come in and get groceries. I hadn’t really read online about the fellowship
program, and it wasn’t mentioned on the phone. I remember driving there, nervous as can be and honestly ashamed. I was ashamed that I couldn’t find a job and help support my family. I know Mark felt the same way about not being able to provide enough. We were so down on our luck we didn’t know what to. I remember walking in the door with my almost one year old at the time. He’s wasn’t happy about being in the stroller and his crying and frustration was making me even more nervous. Then I heard my name and I look up to see Ms. Faith. She had a mask on, but I could see by her eyes that she was smiling at us. She made me feel welcome.

We went up into the room with the groceries and sat down and started talking. She asked me about my situation, and I told her everything. I could tell that she wanted to help us as soon as she could. She started telling me about the fellowship program. Ms. Faith explained how she would create a monthly spreadsheet for me to input my monthly bills and what our income was every two weeks. Then told me about the other spreadsheet that’ll add up everything we spend a month on just bills. It would calculate our debt-to-income ratio basically. She then went on to explain that we would do weekly zoom meetings to go over said spreadsheets. After she went over all of that she asked if my daughter would need school supplies. She did because we couldn’t afford them. Ms. Faith told me to send her an email of the list of things she would need and she would do her best to get the items for her.

After all of the talk, Ms. Faith said okay, go shopping now. There was so much food to pick from and I wasn’t told there was a “limit” to how much I could get. In my head I was thinking “Other people may need this more than me so I shouldn’t take too much.” It took everything in me to feel comfortable enough to take enough food for the week. I got things I knew my kids needed and what my husband would like. I didn’t even worry about myself. I was more concerned about everyone else.

Before our first zoom meeting, Ms. Faith wanted me to write up a list of all our bills and credit cards and the interest rates of the cards so we could input everything in the sheet. She also wanted the minimum payments and roughly what our utilities were every month so she could put them in the budget spreadsheet to see what our #nances looked like every week. After entering all the information, Ms. Faith asked me “How are you surviving?” I didn’t have an answer for her because we were hanging by a thread. She couldn’t believe we had gotten by with so little. I don’t even know how we were doing it.

At the end of the meeting, we agreed on a time the next week to meet on zoom and go over the spreadsheet and how it worked. I was working at a dermatology at the time, and she was able to meet me after work, sometimes it wouldn’t be until 6-7 o’clock at night. We met every week though for several months. Every week after our meetings Ms. Faith would tell me to make a grocery list of ANYTHING that we needed.

At first I wouldn’t ask for much because Mark and I didn’t feel right for asking for too much. I think Ms. Faith caught on to this after to first couple of weeks because I remember her telling me that “Whatever you need, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Whether it be diapers, body wash, toilet paper, frozen goods, etc.” We were buying these things with the little money we did have. After Ms. Faith told me that, I sat down and thought about everything we needed. I had my husband go through the kitchen cabinets and see what pantry items we needed. I asked for laundry detergent, dish
soap and other things like that but in the back of my head there is no way we’re going to get any of these items.

The next day I went to go pick up our groceries after work and I kept thinking that I asked for too much, but they probably won’t have any of it anyways. When I walked in and saw all the bags of food and household goods, I wanted to cry. Ms. Faith had a box of diapers and a few packs of wipes ready for us, the laundry detergent I asked for and basically everything on my list. I was in such disbelief; I couldn’t do anything but say thank you repeatedly. There were even things I noticed in the bags when I got home that I hadn’t even asked for. I kept thanking God
repeatedly for blessing us with Encompass Ministries.

We continued to meet every week; we would go over the spreadsheet in our meetings. Ms. Faith would point out the
extra spending that wasn’t needed, like eating fast food, Netflix, little subscriptions that weren’t even needed anymore. I figured out a way to lower our cell phone bill, only by a few dollars, but those few dollars go a long way. We made the sacrifice of losing our favorite TV shows by canceling Netflix, and we still to this day don’t have Netflix back. We only use the streaming apps that our cell phone provider pays for, and we are okay with that.

Some months Ms. Faith would have to help us figure out what bills to pay and which ones to hold out on. It was always a hard decision because of the risk of late fees, but sometimes we just had to bite the bullet. There were evenings I would just sit on my laptop and play with the numbers of my spreadsheet to figure out which move was
the best so we wouldn’t be negative. There were a lot of weeks we would be negative, but it was always 3-4 days before pay day. As soon as pay day would roll around, all the money would be gone because it would be used to get caught up on late bills and try to pay as many current bills as possible to avoid late fees but leave enough money for gas in the cars.

It was hard to get Mark on board with this whole process. At first, he didn’t like hearing what Ms. Faith said because I think it hit his ego a little bit. Mark wouldn’t look at the spreadsheets and didn’t want to know how much money we didn’t have. Finally, after about three months, Mark started listening to Ms. Faith and started agreeing with the things she said. He finally understood her method to things and understood why sometimes you have skip payments and get caught up later.

Mark started a new job at the end of July and was getting paid more money. Then he and I were making the same amount of money, except he would get over time. I was only working at most 36 hours a week, so that hurt a little. I was miserable in my job, miserable with the way things were still going with our finances because it wasn’t getting better.

As we know used vehicles and RVs are selling for more than they used to. We have an RV that we left in Florida that my grandmother was living in on our property. After we moved out, she moved into the house. My little brother ended up moving into our RV and lived in it for eight months. He was making the monthly payment on the RV while he was living in it, so we didn’t have to worry about that payment. Since the market has been up, we thought about selling the RV because we could have profited off it. We decided to ask my brother to move out of it and we were going to bring it up to Georgia and live in it ourselves. My brother said he had a feeling it was going to happen sooner or later, and he moved in with my parents.

Before we even decided all this officially, we had been searching for lots to rent and all the places we had found were full. In November of 2021 I saw a Facebook marketplace post about RV lots for rent for $295 a month plus electric. Mark called immediately and left a voicemail. The owner called me back and agreed to show me the lots he had available. I jumped on it quick. I picked one and put down a deposit. A couple weeks later we were trying to figure out how to come up with the money to have the RV towed up to Georgia. Finally, we broke down and asked a relative for help and they happily agreed.

We got everything put in order and got the RV up here and moved in the day it was brought up, which was the middle of December. Now that we moved into the RV, we are only paying $287 a month for the RV loan and roughly $350 every month for lot rent and electric. We went from paying $1650 plus all utilities down to those small payments.
Yes, we now must get propane for out heater. When it was cold, we would pay about $60-70 a week to #ll up to 30-gallon tanks, now we don’t have to get that as much now that it’s warmer. Electric will go up in the summer, but we work five days a week, so the AC won’t be running all the time.

This move may have seemed crazy to some, but it was the smartest thing financially we could have ever done. Ms. Faith supported us through the whole process. She would ask every week how things were going and if we were ready, but she said it was a smart move. I agree that it was too.

Right before the move we were stressing about Christmas for the kids, because everything we had was tied up into the move. I had mentioned to Ms. Faith about how we were stressing about it and she told me about Papa Noel that the center does. Families from around the area adopt families in need and get the kids Christmas gifts. She added me to the list and sent me a list to wrote down what the kids need, wanted, what their sizes of clothes, shoes and diapers were. So I wrote down everything that they needed or wanted. About a week before Christmas Ms. Faith told me that our Papa Noel was ready. I was excited to say the least but of course I wasn’t expecting a lot because that’s just who I am. When I walked into the room where everything was laid out, I started to tear up. There was a table
full of clothes and toys and the !oor under the table was piled up too. I could not believe that one family did that for my family.

I thanked God really hard that night for everything this Ministry has done for us and keeps doing for us.

As I got more comfortable with the spreadsheet, Ms. Faith would have me “conduct” the meetings and go over the things that we probably shouldn’t have spent over the week. It made me feel confident in what I was doing. When you spend the money, you shouldn’t, it has a snowball effect. The more you spend now the less you have later. We would always get down to about $10-20 and sometimes negative before payday because we would stop and grab dinner on the way home or order in because we didn’t want to cook after work. We have now stopped doing that. We find whatever we can at home and get creative.

The kids don’t seem to ever want to eat what we do, so they are easier to feed with the simpler things because they enjoy it. If we do happen to stop somewhere and grab food, we get things off the dollar menu, no fries, or drinks. We always have our own drinks from home and the kids have a container full of snacks in case we don’t stop anywhere. We make sure we must spend the least amount of money while we are out.

Another great piece of advice from Ms. Faith was to start saving and I have started doing that. I set it up so I can’t transfer from one account to another. She has taught me so many different things to do and look out for when budgeting. Now I sit down every evening and go over my spreadsheet and compare it to my online banking account. I
make sure I haven’t missed any transactions that I may not have gotten a receipt for or have put something on the spreadsheet that I paid cash for that I had a receipt to. I now compare prices of things at different stores to make sure

I’m paying the lowest price for certain items. There are so many different things I do daily to try and save us money and not cause us to overspend on things we don’t need right away. Ms. Faith as of, I believe two months ago, said I have graduated from the fellowship program because I have done a great job on my budgeting and saving money. I have gotten us about 70% out of debt so far. Ms. Faith said I can handle it on my own now.

We do still meet every other month on zoom. I do still get groceries from Encompass Ministries from time to time because I am continuing to keep up with my spreadsheet and keep improving our finances. I send my spreadsheet to Ms. Faith almost every other week just so she can see that I’m sticking to our goals for the future.

If I had not met Ms. Faith back in June of 2021, we would probably have had to move into my in-law’s house because we would have gotten evicted and who knows what else. I cannot thank Ms. Faith and Encompass Ministries enough for all the help they have given me and my family. I know that I can keep meeting with Ms. Faith and always have her guidance as long as I need it.

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