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Faces of Christmas: Diane Gonzalez

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Dec. 25--Diane Gonzalez doesn't think of herself as some sort of guardian angel. But she enjoys wearing an angel lapel pin -- and some people say she is a blessing to them.

"She always has an encouraging smile and she is a joy to work with," says the Rev. Larry Arce, CEO of Fresno Rescue Mission. "You can always see her compassion and love for others."

Several years ago, the one thing Gonzalez knew about herself was the "tugging in my heart" to help women down and out. So Gonzalez started inviting them to her Calwa home, where she provided a shoulder for them to cry on -- and breakfast and Bible study.

Four women attended the first gathering. From that humble beginning, Gonzalez's ministry recently became a nonprofit, faith-based organization called Fresno Women of Excellence. It now reaches more than 70 women at bimonthly gatherings held in 15 central San Joaquin Valley homes.

"Who knows what the Lord wants to accomplish through this budding ministry?" Arce says.

Gonzalez says the gatherings continue to address women's needs such as dealing with domestic abuse, homelessness, low family incomes and hunger.

"So many women out there are hurting," Gonzalez says. "When they come, we hope we meet all of their needs."

Gonzalez says she has learned to trust God with the ministry. For example, Gonzalez remembers a month when she and her husband, James, didn't have the usual $200 to pay for breakfast for more than 30 women in their home.

Then, the morning of a breakfast, a man arrived to prune a tree. He asked about the women: "What do you do here?"

After Gonzalez explained, the man went to his vehicle and returned with an envelope. He told her that he wanted to help the ministry.

Gonzalez didn't open the envelope until after all the women had left. Inside the envelope were two $100 bills. Gonzalez said she sat and cried.

When Gonzalez retells the story about the "tree man," she always quotes a verse in the New Testament book of Hebrews, Chapter 13: "You never know when you're entertaining angels."


Copyright (c) 2006, The Fresno Bee, Calif.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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