Vanessa Olivares didn’t have the easiest upbringing, but has persevered through many trials most of us can’t imagine, and since reconnecting with Christ, has a new outlook on life.
She grew up in Massachusetts where her parents were in and out of prison. Eventually Vanessa and her siblings were taken away from their parents, split up, and raised in the foster care system. She later moved in with an Aunt, but the bad habits of her parents and the foster system followed her. She eventually got out of an abusive relationship by moving to Central Florida to find her family.
By age 20, she had a son, was doing drugs, spending all her money, stealing from her reconnected family, became a victim of human trafficking, and eventually went to prison herself. Unfortunately the facility she went to didn’t have Kairos, it did have Bible study which she participated in, but didn’t feel that full connection to Christ. However, she was able to rededicate her life to God and be baptized. While incarcerated, Vanessa decided to put in the effort to make the life and spiritual changes she had so often promised herself and others.
Upon her release in 2007, she requested a Christian based transition home, in hopes of truly finding a sustained connection with God, as she had on and off since her youth. The Christian transition home was able to give her the guidance and direction to live her life as a Christian in actions as well as words. While attending church, she joined a group called Hope for the Healing Woman. It was through this group that she was first introduced to Kairos. Kairos Inside was not in the facility she was incarcerated in, but she was able to attend a Kairos Outside Weekend as a Guest along with her sister. It was a life altering event for Vanessa, as it gave her a sense of purpose and a group of women who could fully understand her feelings, lover her for who she is, and to help take the hurt away.
Vanessa and her sister were so moved by the Kairos experience that they not only served as Kairos Volunteers the next Kairos Outside Weekend, but that they had their mother attend as a Guest as well.
With this renewed closeness to God and a direction for her life, Vanessa is now leading the Hope for the Healing Women church group, volunteering with Kairos Outside, and looking to share her experiences with inmates via Kairos Inside.
“Getting involved with Kairos has changed my life, knowing the concept of sisterhood and working together, showing God’s love to the broken, and the agape love that I received on that Weekend was overflowing, spoke to my heart, I had to be a part of it. If the ladies feel that much agape love, I can’t imagine how much God’s love must be.”
Upon her release, she got a job at a cleaning company and parlayed that experience to now owning her own cleaning business with her husband, doing commercial and residential cleaning for the past 8 years all across Central Florida, including the Kairos International headquarters. She credits her success at business to doing all jobs with love, no matter the pay or situation.
Her ultimate goal is to create a sanctuary for women coming out of incarceration, to help God heal their wounds and welcome them to the family of Christ.
When she goes through hard times, Vanessa takes comfort in the words of 1 Peter 5:10, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” She is encouraged that with any suffering, God is granting her the strength to overcome that challenge and become a better person overall.
Vanessa was courageous enough to share her story with the entire Kairos Family during the Kairos Virtual Annual Conference during the General Session. Her testimony is available to view here.