Updated: Apr 19
Jericho Road is filled with stories of transformation, inclusion, community and growth. It’s no wonder that we see these principles embodied so beautifully in our Executive Director Hope Versluis. As her time as ED comes to a close this summer, we know that her legacy will be carried on well after.
After 14 years in Sudbury, back in 2009, Hope and her family came to Ottawa as her husband Michael moved into the leading pastoral role at Parkway Church, yet Hope was coming without a job.
Right away they were introduced to Jon Ruby at Celebrate Recovery and subsequently the Discipleship House, as that was part of Jericho’s recovery program at the time. During their time in Sudbury, Hope and Michael were involved with the local Celebrate Recovery chapter, as they noticed a need in the people of their congregation for healing from various addictions such as substance abuse, pornography and gambling. So when they came to Ottawa, they quickly got connected.
It was through Jon Ruby that Hope was introduced to Jericho’s founder - Ray Desmarais. She volunteered as a temp fill-in at Jericho Road while another staff took their holidays. At the end of those two weeks, Ray asked if she would want to become a House Supervisor at Jericho.
She straight up said no. It wasn’t what she was looking for. But she also knew herself; that in that position she would see things that needed to change and would be frustrated without a mandate to do that.
Our dear Hope is an Enneagram 1. In case you didn’t know by now.
A few weeks later, Hope was contacted by a member of the JR board, as they were looking for someone to start as the Executive Director, a new position that didn’t come with any blueprints.
This is when Hope stepped in and said yes. This leadership position was something that she was looking for.
“I enjoy working with others, but I also see in terms of policies and procedures. I have a heart for improving things. I saw that Jericho was in a position where it was stepping into it’s next chapter.”
In her first couple years at Jericho, it was all about those policies and procedures. Jericho already had a foundation, but as Hope describes it “It was like a mom-and-pop shop that was trying to get to the next level.”
One of the biggest challenges Jericho had to overcome in her early years was unifying operations.
“We were like a three-headed organization with addiction rehab, weekly Coffeehouse and long-term mental health support homes and those three things didn’t always work together. Now, we have streamlined. We know who we are and we
know what we do and we make no apologies about it. We help people move from addiction to connection."
However as Hope will share with anyone, her biggest reward has always been the people.
“My greatest accomplishments? Well that’s Kevin, Matt, Amy, Pam, Jonathan, and everyone else that has been invested in. It’s the individual people that have become the team of Jericho Road. We’ve gone from an organization that was led by a very caring Founder to now a team of people who are and live the Jericho Road ideal of community. We’re here for each other. Having invested in those lives, we’ve all grown so much."
This is truly the heart of Jericho, it is our people and our community. It is the ups and the downs, and to use a more ‘churchy’ term, it is the body of Christ.
“That’s one of the things that appealed to me. Here is a group of people who helping men with their drug and alcohol addictions. But it wasn’t just drugs and alcohol, there was a bigger picture, including the mental health side of things. There was a sense that there is more to life than what people were experiencing, there was healing of past hurts. I liked that. Jericho was about the healing of the person, the personality, the emotions."
It was in her 40's and what Hope terms as her midlife crisis that she really saw the need for this emotionally healthy spirituality in her own life. She tells us that she was so fed up and frustrated with her circumstances, realizing that there was no peace on her current path.
“I needed some answers to why my Christian life was not satisfying. I was hitting a wall in relationships and contentment mostly. Growing up in the church, being a pastor’s kid, being a pastor’s wife, you’re living in a community where the promises are the ‘Fruits of the Spirit’. But getting to midlife and realizing that there was no peace, and struggling with patience and realizing that I wasn’t particularly kind to those that are different than me. That's where Celebrate Recovery and the 12 steps came into my own life. I needed an experience, not just belief of God, and I needed to unlearn some things in order to move forward.”
It was that initial connection to Celebrate Recovery that eventually got her connected with us here at Jericho Road, and we are so grateful Since being here, Hope has been able to take that foundation of Discipleship and doing life together and helped us unify Jericho Road into what it is today.
“I have accomplished what I wanted to accomplish here. It’s stable, it has an identity outside of me. I can step away and it won’t fall apart. Jericho doesn’t depend on one person. I am not Jericho Road. It is it’s own entity. I see Jericho continuing to grow, by helping people come to be the best they can be. That will continue at Jericho Road and it will continue in my own life."
“We all belong, whether we are a little odd in our personality, whether we come with baggage – we all come with baggage. The legacy of Jericho Road is that ‘we’re all a little mad here’ as the Cheshire Cat of Alice in Wonderland would say. But we all belong. We’re perfectly imperfect.”
Hope, we can’t say thank you enough. You embody the principles of honesty, open-mindedness and willingness so well, and we wish you the best on your next season in life. For now, I’ll stop blowing smoke up your ass. We love you.