Guiding Light founder dedicates life to women in crisis

LIMA — Julianne Burk became a mother at 18 years old, an early lesson in judgment, resilience and perseverance that inspired Burk to start her own maternity home for young mothers a decade later.

“There’s a stigma,” Burk said. “You’re looked down upon. … You have this mentality of survival mode: It’s you against the world, and you have to figure it out.”

Abortion was never an option for Burk, who was working as a waitress and studying to become a nurse at Apollo Career Center. She became pregnant with her second child not long after having her first, inviting judgment from those who were meant to care for her.

“The doctor said to me, ‘See you next year,’” Burk said. “He put me in a category, a statistic.”

The conversation never left Burk’s mind, a reminder of how the world once viewed her. Burk turned her adversity into a ministry for women like herself.

Burk founded Guiding Light Ministries in 2013, remodeling her childhood home as a safe space for young expectant mothers to learn the life skills necessary to raise children.

She opened the Resting Place two years later. The transitional home originally housed postpartum women and their newborns after they left the maternity home.

Today, Guiding Light and the Resting Place welcome women of all ages in need of shelter or sober living.

The faith-based ministry is now focused on women in crisis: Domestic violence survivors, homeless women and those undergoing treatment for substance-use disorders. Burk estimates that 80% of women referred to Guiding Light Ministries are experiencing addiction.

The group homes provide each woman with her own bedroom, but women who enter Guiding Light Ministries are encouraged to attend church and share meals together.

Housemates attend cooking classes, financial planning lessons, support groups and Bible studies throughout the week, while women enrolled in recovery programs are expected to attend weekly alcoholics anonymous or narcotics anonymous classes in addition to counseling.

The ministry may soon rent a small step-down house to women who are transitioning into independent living but who are unable to afford or find housing of their own, Burk said.

Burk’s goal is for women to leave Guiding Light and the Resting Place with the life skills needed to support themselves independently, drawing from her experience starting a career and family after two unplanned pregnancies.

Her oldest son, 23, is now married and living in Dallas, while Burk’s oldest daughter, 22, is co-leading a missionary program in Australia.

“I must have done something right along the journey,” Burk said. “People sometimes have the stigma—oh, those poor kids are going to be in cultural poverty, generational poverty. There was success of pushing forward, and maybe not committing to the idea that government assistance is the way to go; education and relying on God is.”

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Julianne Burk founded Guiding Light Ministries in 2013 to support young mothers and women in crisis. Burk founded Guiding Light Ministries in 2013 to support young mothers and women in crisis.

By Mackenzi Klemann

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