Biatriz Larez knows what it's like to struggle to feed her family.
A few years ago, the single mother and her three young children made do in a crumbling, two-bedroom mobile home.
She worked an hourly, low-wage job as a custodian.
"It was paycheck-to-paycheck living," said Larez, who was born and raised in this Eastern New Mexico town best known for its peanut and dairy farms. "It wasn't great."
But her economic—and spiritual—outlook changed when a friend introduced her to Hope Haven, a faith-based duplex community built by New Mexico Christian Children's Home.
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For up to four years while single parents go to college or develop careers, the ministry associated with Churches of Christ offers free rent, utilities and internet.
The families receive canned goods, nonperishables and meat through the children's home's commissary. They have access to a clothing closet.
Donors shower the children with birthday and Christmas gifts.
"Who doesn't like that?" said Bill Marshall, the program's director. "It relieves them of financial pressure to the tune of $18,000 to $22,000 a year."
But with those benefits come expectations: No smoking or drinking. No physical relationships. No guests of the opposite sex, except for relatives.
And for many, this is the big one: The entire family must attend church services three times per week.
That includes Sunday morning and Wednesday night assemblies at the Southside Church of Christ, within walking distance of Hope Haven.
Plus, New Mexico Christian hosts a Sunday night gathering specifically for the 39 single mothers and their 73 children. The program is at capacity and has a months-long waiting list.
"We don't judge these ladies. We take them as they are," said Marshall, a minister for 30 years and a former group home houseparent with his wife, Judy. "However, they sign an agreement that they are going to live a different standard here."
Since the ministry accepts zero government funding, no regulations preclude that mandate.
"You can't force anyone to believe in Jesus and be baptized," Marshall said. "But we can ask them to come to church where they're going to hear about that."
Photo credit Christian Post