By LUCAS STROUGH
“This is the beginning of something amazing.”
That’s what Rahab’s Retreat and Ranch founder Teresa Richenberger said about the direction her organization is taking at the Motorcycle Fun Run fundraiser held on Saturday, June 1.
The event began with a motorcycle ride at Marvin United Methodist Church in Tyler. The riders made their way to Rahab’s location on Stone Road in Kilgore for an afternoon of live music, kids’ rides and good food.
Rahab’s hosts multiple fundraisers throughout the year and the Fun Run will become a regular event.
“We’re going to start this as an annual one,” Richenberger said.
The fundraisers help support the mission of Rahab’s – helping young women transition away from lives in the sex industry, drug abuse or abusive relationships into self-sufficient lives centered on their Christian faith. Women who participate in the program can earn their GED, enroll in college or job training, receive counseling and raise their children while living at Rahab’s facility.
As the Gary Patrick Band provided live music, Rahab’s members and staff mingled with motorcycle riders while enjoying fajitas, Charlie’s Sno-Ball snowcones and checking out the row of motorcycles parked out front.
Richenberger took the microphone to tell guests her story and how the event would benefit the organization.
“I grew up here in East Texas. I can probably skin a squirrel faster than most men,” she said.
Even though she grew up in a small-town atmosphere, Richenberger’s life took a turn at an early age. Her father grew marijuana and she began experimenting with drugs and alcohol, becoming rebellious and turning to the party scene.
After moving with her mother to Houston for a fresh start, she ran away from home and ended up on the streets at the age of 16. She found a job at an exotic dance club at the age of 17.
“The manager never asked me for ID,” she said. That manager eventually pushed her into sex work.
“That was my life for 12 years. The drugs and the alcohol, I didn’t even know who I was.”
Finally, she found her way into a church, got saved, and moved back to Texas at the age of 35.
She met the man who would become her husband and then felt a calling to help others who had been in her position.
“God told me to open a home for women and children coming out of sex trafficking, broken homes, drug abuse. This building here had been vacant for 12 years. The city was about ready to condemn it. As I drove past here one day, there was a huge sign right here on the front. As I passed it, the Holy Spirit said ‘that’s your home right there for women and children.’”
Following some miraculous donations and plenty of hard work, Richenberger and others were able to transform the former nursing home into a facility where dozens of women have found self-reliance, faith and courage to transform their lives.
Several women present at the event had recently graduated Kilgore College and were pursuing jobs and further education.
As a non-profit organization, Rahab’s Retreat relies on donations, community support and fundraisers like the Fun Run to continue its mission.