Welcome to our blog! We will be blogging about current events from a Christian Persepective, expanding on our weekly message, or just blogging about interesting items we feel could be relevant to your Christian walk. Check back often and feel free to leave us a comment on each entry! God Bless!

Ashley Richie The Mercy House


A Chesterfield mother is now in jail after overdosing with her 6 month old baby in the car.

Sara Wawrzyniak was found July 13 in the 2300 block of Turner Road after police were called for a reported overdose. The child was not hurt, but Wawrzyniak was charged with child neglect.

New Life For Youth, which offers recovery programs, says Wawrzyniak was just blocks away from help. New Life for Youth's intake center is located on the 2500 block of Turner Road.

"It's sad that she was a block away from hope, and we know that if she had driven a little farther and parked in our parking lot, that someone could have reached her," said Ashley Ritchie, director of New Life For Youth's Mercy House.

The Mercy House offers a one-year program that focuses on the mind, body and soul of those struggling with addiction.

"It's a holistic perspective," she said. "When you've been in years of addiction, you need a total reset. You need to learn to get up in the morning, learn to do your chores again, learn your vocational training, because it is equipping them they leave our program."

They offer clothing, food, counseling, job training and even parenting classes.

Ritchie knows well how beneficial and transformation the Mercy House can be.

"I was a mom that was addicted to heroin and there's nothing that stops you," Ritchie said. "The grip of addiction is something you can't explain unless you've been in it."

After being arrested, and spending four months in jail, Ritchie says she knew she needed to change her life. She graduated from the Mercy House in 2012, and is approaching almost 8 years clean and sober.

"It's knowing that the resources are out there, and knowing that it's more than a 30 day treatment--you need extended services, it's a lifetime," she said. "It's not just for 30 days, it's for the rest of your life, you are learning to overcome it without using drugs or alcohol to function."

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, resources from SAARA of Virginia can be found here:

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By Mark
December 30, 2016



Sometimes we want to be alone.  We want to find a place where there’s nobody around so that we can have some peace and quiet.  After a long day at work dealing with everybody else’s troubles, we just want a quiet place where we can think, even for just a few minutes.  After a day of chasing the kids around, there are few things as comforting to a mom than some time relaxing in a warm bathtub.  Being alone for a little while can be good for the heart and soul.  But there are other times when being alone is painful and scary. 

Sometimes we find ourselves all alone, and not by choice.  When that happens, we can feel abandoned, forgotten, or unwanted.  I recall a homeless man who frequented an alley in Downtown Richmond, behind the parking deck where I parked my car while I was at work.  He would stand in the alley several yards back from 5th Street and watch for people passing by.  Sometimes as people walked by his alleyway he would shout at them loudly.  He rarely said any recognizable words, just a loud yell.  He never did anything to harm people.  I never saw him pursue anybody.  He would just shout at them.  I wondered about his behavior for quite a while before a thought came to me.  I wondered if he was shouting just to see if people would respond.  Maybe he felt all alone and didn’t think people even knew he was there.  Maybe seeing people jump from being startled by his yelling gave him assurance that they did hear him.  Most people, myself included, had always walked past him on the street, not saying a word to him and avoiding eye contact, pretending he wasn’t there.  Aside from people’s startled reflex to his shouting, this lonely homeless man had very little interaction with people.  Despite the hundreds of people who passed by him each day, he was certainly a very lonely man. 

When a person becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, they can feel alone too.  Even when they are surrounded by friends and family who care about them, they can feel isolated.  They can feel distanced because they are no longer the person they were before their addiction took them.  The person they were has been bound and taken prisoner inside their own body.  Something else controls their thoughts and actions.  They can only watch as they find themselves doing things that they swore they would never do.  The thing that has taken over their body does hurtful things to the people they love – and they can do nothing to stop it.  Because they know that their family couldn’t understand what they’re going through, they avoid them and spend more time with other addicts who do understand.  And together they continue to submit to the craving that is slowly killing them.  When they finally muster the strength to stand and fight the addiction, they look around to find nobody who can help them.  They are all alone and without hope.  Like the homeless man in the alleyway, they wonder if anybody can see them.  “Does anybody who could help me even know I’m here?”

The team of directors and staff at New Life For Youth do see them.  We do understand.  Our residence homes are run by men and women who once felt all alone and captive to their own addictions.  They know the hurt and the loneliness because they had the same experience.  But after enrolling at New Life For Youth, they discovered the love of Jesus and His power to break the chains of addiction.  And now they have a passion to share that love with others who struggle with addiction.  An addict can feel very lonely.  But they don’t have to.  God understands their situation and we understand their situation.   Because of generous contributions from our supporters, New Life For Youth is here to help addicts find their own new life – a life of hope and a bright future.  New Life For Youth makes a difference!

One morning I left for work early and stopped by Einstein Brothers Bagels.  I bought two cups of coffee and a few bagels and brought them with me to work.  In the alleyway behind the parking deck, I met the homeless man and offered him coffee and bagels.  We talked together for several minutes.  His name was Rodney.  As we shared breakfast together, I learned that Rodney had once been a talented musician.  He enjoyed sitting outside one of the nearby churches and listening to the choir director practice on the piano.  He told me about the different places where he spent his days and nights.  Sharing coffee and bagels became a routine that Rodney and I shared together once or twice each week for several months – until one day when he never showed up.  I never saw Rodney after that and I don’t know what became of him.  But I do know that after we started sharing breakfasts together, I never heard him shout at people passing by. 

Please, consider helping New Life For Youth reach out to the young men and women who feel alone in their addictions.  Your donation will help keep our homes heated and our pantries filled with food.  A monthly donation will help us care for a young person for the year they spend in our program.  Your continued support will literally save a person’s life.  Show them that you hear them, that you see them, that you care.  Together, we can break the bonds of addiction and give hope to the hopeless and give them a new life.  Please, help us.



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November 29, 2016


Brittany had been abused.  The hurt was always there, she couldn't get away from it.  Like so many others in her situation, Brittany turned to drugs to help cope with the pain.  But when she tried heroin for the first time, she found herself captive to a new and powerful addiction.  She could not live without the drug.  She could not say No to its pull and she could not save herself from its destruction.


Brittany came to the Mercy House, New Life For Youth's home for women, and found sisters with similar histories and struggles.  Some of the young women at the Mercy House are students who, like Brittany, are working to overcome their addictions.  They are clinging to the hope that they can have a new life - a life free of addictions.  Others at the Mercy House have graduated the program and have been clean for years.  They have devoted their lives to helping other women to find the new life that they have.  These young have learned that they are valued beyond price by their Savior, Jesus Christ, and they work to share that truth with each new girl who comes into the program.

Now, more than half way through the program, Brittany is filled with joy and hope.  She dares to dream about her future.  That joy and hope shine like a light through her smile.

"Before NLFY, my life was a crazy mess. My life was in turmoil and I went to a very dark place. I was a victim of sexual abuse and turned to drugs to deal with it. I say, “was” because I’m not a victim anymore. I am a VICTOR now! The Mercy House saved my life and I found deliverance through the love, mercy, grace & joy of knowing Christ." - Brittany

This #GivingTuesday you can help New Life For Youth provide a safe home and loving care to other women like Brittany, who are crying out for someone to save them from addiction, someone to offer them hope for a new life.  Please, DONTATE now.

Click HERE to learn more about New Life For Youth.

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Kevin's Story
By Mark
November 29, 2016


Kevin grew up in an average middle-class family.  He was athletic, involved in several different sports activities, and was popular with his classmates.  But after he suffered an injury during a game, he was prescribed opiates to help with the pain.  With each pill he took, Kevin grew anxious about renewing his prescription before he ran out of pills.  When the doctor would not renew his prescription, panic gripped him.  He needed more pills in order to get through the day.  Kevin was addicted to pain killers.  With no hope of the doctor renewing his prescription, he turned to the easily accessible alternative - heroin.


Kevin knew that heroin was destroying his life.  His friends no longer wanted to be around him.  He didn't want to leave his home except to find more heroin.  All that he had had and all that he was before his sports injury were all disappearing.  Kevin had exchanged his bright future for a prison of addiction.  He felt as though someone or something else had taken over his body and was making decisions now. Though he hated heroin and what it was doing to him, he had no power to refuse it. And when he did manage the strength to fight the urge, the pain of withdrawal was more than he could bear.  The only way to stop the pain was another hit of heroin.  And the cycle continued, taking his life from him and eventually leading him to an overdose that nearly killed him.

Then Kevin learned about New Life For Youth. He knew it was a Christian faith-based ministry and he remembered the Savior he had heard about as a child.  He put his hope in Jesus and came to the Ranch, New Life For Youth's home for men.  Kevin has renewed his relationship with Christ and has been clean for several months now.  His new passion is to warn teenagers about the dangers of opiates.  It only takes one try to become addicted.  And the pain of addiction last much longer than the pain of a healing sports injury.  He wants people to know ugly truth about the pain and desperation that come with heroin addiction.  And because of the hope Kevin now has of a new life free of addiction, he has the rest of his bright future to shout that warning call.

Many young men like Kevin are not able to contribute to the cost of their treatment.  But nobody is ever turned away from New Life For Youth because they cannot pay.  We count on the generous donations of our supporters to meet the needs of our Men's Ranch.  Please consider helping us by making a DONATION this #GivingTuesday.  Your donation will quite literally help save lives.


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During the first week of March 2016 it was reported that nearly 30 people in Metro-Richmond had died from needle

heroin overdose in one week.  During that same week, more than 80 young men and women were safe behind the doors of the residency homes run by New Life For Youth.  Among those young men and women were five new students who walked through those doors for the first time that same week.  They chose hope over heroin.  If they hadn't, their lives may have been added to the 30 that were lost that week.  At New Life For Youth, we consider every day that one of our students is alive and well in our homes to be a success.


Our residence homes were able to take care of those 80 students that week in March because our supporters made generous donations throughout the year to help us win this fight against addiction.  On this #GivingTuesday, please consider helping us by making a DONATION.  Help us give hope for  new life to young people who have no hope.

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November 28, 2016

Google the phrase, “Drug Overdoses in 2016” and you’ll get a long list of headlines from all over America. These are a few that were reported in the month of November alone.

21 heroin overdoses reported in Ohio in a day as state battles epidemicCNN – November 12, 2016

Portsmouth police respond to six heroin overdoses in in 12 hours -  WVEC ABC 13 – November 14, 2016

Heroin overdoses spike in Lake County, IL CBS Chicago – November 1, 2016 - Nine overdose deaths in one week

Drug overdose deaths in Maine now averaging 1 a dayPortland Press Harold – November 14, 2016

 5 overdoses, 3 fatal in Beverly [MA] Saturday -  The Salem News – November 20, 2016

The small city of Huntington, WV made national news in August when 27 heroin overdoses were reported within a four-hour period.  That same month, Cincinnati, OH experienced 174 heroin overdoses in just 6 days.  In March, it was reported that 30 people in the Metro Richmond, VA area had died from heroin overdose in just one week.  The November 19, 2016 edition of the Palm Beach Post reported that in 2010, heroin overdose patients were admitted to Florida emergency rooms about once every two days.  In the 2015, it was one every 90 minutes.   The problem is growing in every county in America, both urban and rural.  This is a national epidemic that is affecting every one of us.

Every day, more new stories are being reported across the country that only add to the numbers.  Unfortunately, numbers can become like white noise, and they cease to get our attention.  We hear them but they don’t register.  We move on with our busy days unaffected by the fact that so many are dying all around us.  That’s because numbers don’t tell the whole story.  They don’t tell how the people trapped in addiction suffer.  They don’t tell of the heartbreak a grieving mother and father feel after losing the fight to save their child.  Numbers don’t reflect the pain a child experiences when they discover their mom or dad unconscious or dead on the floor or in the car.  Numbers just don’t tell enough of the story to move most of us into action.

At New Life For Youth, we see the suffering first-hand and we work to keep people from becoming another number.  All our residential directors were once addicts themselves.  Each one came to New Life For Youth to get help and found healing here.  Each director has chosen to devote their life to helping others overcome addictions and discover a new life of their own.  They know first-hand the struggles their students are going through and they give understanding that few others could.  They offer hope from their own experiences.  At New Life For Youth, we fight against the numbers and for the lives behind them.

Here are some stories of lives that might have become more numbers if they hadn’t come to New Life For Youth. 

Kevin grew up in a normal middle-class family in Northern Virginia.  As he looked forward to graduation and considered his college choices, he had a bright and promising future ahead of him.  Then he suffered a sport injury and was prescribed opiates for the pain.  Within weeks, Kevin found himself dependent on drugs and trapped in a cycle he could not escape.  He felt as though something else had taken over his body and was forcing him to do things he didn’t want to do.  He never wanted to become addicted to heroin, but it happened.  And he could not save himself. 

Meagan was born into a household where drugs were used on a regular basis.  As a child she watched her mother and father both use drugs.  As she grew older she watched her sister begin using drugs.  It was only a matter of time before Meagan would start using the drugs that were being used by the rest of her family.  But when her sister died from an overdose, Meagan made up her mind to find a way out.  But, soon after coming to New Life For Youth for help, she received the horrible news that both her parents had died just hours apart.  The other young women enrolled at New Life For Youth became Meagan’s family and they helped her cope with the pain without the use of drugs.

Anthony was a single dad with two sons who counted on him.  The marijuana that he thought he could control led to other drugs, each more powerful than the last.  Then one day he realized that he could not walk away from heroin, it controlled him.  He could not live without it. 

Each of these young people would have certainly become another number reported on the local news.  But they refused to be remain slaves to the power of heroin.  They each came to New Life For Youth for help.  These three individuals are among almost 100 people who are currently enrolled at New Life For Youth and living drug free.  They are learning to rebuild their lives without drugs.  They are discovering a new life, the life that God has planned for them.  What's more, the young men and women enrolled at New Life For Youth represent more than 50 children who did not lose their mom or dad to drugs.  These young men and women did not become another number.   Instead, they are rebuilding their lives and their families and they're looking forward to the future with hope and optimism. 

The next time you hear about another person dying from heroin overdose, remember that they aren’t just a number.  That person is somebody’s child, husband, wife, or mom or dad.  Then please, consider helping New Life For Youth as we work to free as many people as we can from the bondage of drug addiction.  You can volunteer your time or you can make a tax-deductible contribution.  And we always covet your prayers for this ministry and for the young men and women God brings to us for healing.  Thank you for your support!

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Last night I had the honor of being at the premiere playing of the new movie, VICTOR at the Byrd Theatre in Richmond.  The story is based on the life of Pastor Victor Torres, who with his wife Carmen, founded New Life For Youth to help addicts rebuild their broken lives by first building a relationship with Jesus. Victor had been a gang member and drug dealer and drug user before finding salvation in Christ.

After the movie ended, all the students, staff, and pastors currently involved in New Life For Youth gathered below the screen to form a large choir singing praises to God for what He has done in each of their lives.  The image below shows part of that large choir.

NLFY Choir at Victor Premiere

As these people who have found a new life praised God, something occurred to me.  Even though the movie we had just watched was the story of Victor's struggles and his mother's determined prayers, the praise was all directed to God.  He was receiving every bit of the glory.  As they sang I recounted various scenes from the movie, scenes of Victor's mother on her knees pleading with God over and over again to save her son.  There were also scenes of Victor falling to the ground and crying out to God, "Can You hear me?  Are You there?  Save me!"

And then it hit me that while Victor and his mother cried out in anguish, God already knew that this moment of worship at the Byrd Theatre was going to happen.  I'm sure that God's heart ached with theirs as the bore that incredible pain.  But He knew that 50 years from then, He would receive this worship and that it could not have come to Him any other way.

Then I applied that thought to my own life.  I thought of my own struggles and prayers, those times when God seems silent or distant, those times when I struggle with doubt.  When we face our own struggles and hardships, when we are clinging to God with that last measure of faith and we feel like we can't hold on any longer, God already sees the day and moment in time when we will glorify Him because of what He has brought us through.  I hope that the next time I'm facing a hardship that I can remember this truth.  God already sees the praise and glory that I will joyfully give Him one day.  And He knows that on that day, I will be happy to have endured that hardship in order to have that moment of worship with Him.

May we all remember this and may it change the way we face our struggles.  Our worship is deepest after God has redeemed our worst situations.

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Silent Voices
By Mark
December 04, 2014

I first heard Trophies of Grace sing together in May of 2014.  It was the Spring Luncheon held under a large tent outside The Mercy House.  I was impressed by the fact that this small choir of girls was made up entirely of young women who were healing from brokenness caused by addictions and other terrible things.

The next time I heard them was at a supporters meeting held inside The Mercy House.  At this point, I had been volunteering with New Life For Youth for almost two years.  I had met some of the women who were singing in Trophies of Grace and I knew some of their stories.  This time their voices sounded so much more angelic, so beautiful.  Were they singing any differently, or was it just that I now better understood Who they were singing to and why?

Some of the girls shared their testimonies between songs.  They told stories about what their lives were like prior to coming to New Life For Youth.  Then they shared how Jesus saved them and the miraculous ways He had been redeeming their lives ever since.  When they returned to singing their voices sounded even sweeter, filled with a confident joy.  Hearing their soft harmonies, it occurred to me that none of thiTrophies of Grace Collages beautiful sound would have ever been heard had New Life For Youth not been there for these girls.  Each of these young women had been a prisoner bound in a life of addiction.  They didn't even know they had such beautiful voices, nor did they have anything to sing about.  If they had not come to The Mercy House, the world would probably have never heard their voices, and their lives would likely have ended too soon.

Everyday New Life For Youth is contacted by another man or woman who is trying to find a way out of addiction.  How many other beautiful voices are now silent behind a deadly wall of addiction?  Your donation to the New Life For Youth #GivingTuesday campaign will help another girl to discover her voice and use it to sing of Jesus' redeeming love.  Please help.

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