I NEVER thought I would work with kids, so I am constantly surprised by that… but it’s just a testament to how much God has changed me.”

Marissa has her own experiences with addiction, and she empathizes with the emotional struggles of our youngest guests. She understands what the parents are going through in this challenging season of their lives. Because of this, she can walk alongside those parents going through recovery, coaching them in the Nurtured Heart Approach® (NHA) that all of the Children Services Advocates use in the classroom.

An incident early in her career beautifully encapsulates the extraordinary person Marissa is. One day in the Children’s Room, amidst the hectic hustle and bustle, she noticed a young boy seemingly overcome with anxiety, so she guided him to the playground for quieter play. At first, the child secluded himself inside a playhouse, building walls around himself. Marissa then invited him to an impromptu tea party, filling little cups with sand. This curious sight drew the boy out of his isolation, and he participated. Marissa praised him as a good helper. “You think I’m good? I’m not good!” The words echoed his conviction of being ‘bad’ or undeserving of praise. Marissa countered with a simple but powerful statement, “You’re not bad! Bad people don’t share. This shows you have a good heart.” And after that exchange, his whole demeanor changed. He was no longer overcome with the anxieties he had once demonstrated.

This transformation underscores the effectiveness of our approach in fostering a healing environment. Yet, it had a more profound, transformative impact on Marissa herself as, at that moment, she found her calling–and she doesn’t take these moments with the children for granted.

The Nurtured Heart Approach® is a methodology that focuses on relationship building in an environment where a child’s inherent greatness and abilities are recognized and valued. It is a powerful tool for many children and families who find refuge at GRM.

“I feel that God has given me a soft heart,” Marissa explained, “particularly for children because they are so precious to God…”

As they are precious to us. And so are our exemplary Children Services Advocates at Gospel Rescue Mission. Like all our advocates, Marissa exemplifies our commitment to our youngest guests and their parents.