For over 17 years, Oasis of Love Ministries in South Clinton sheltered victims of domestic abuse, giving them a place to stay, helping them get back on their feet, and sharing the Good News of Jesus with them.
Janice Hollingsworth Wilson founded Oasis of Love in 1998 when she was in her 60s.
“That’s what the Lord laid on my heart to do,” Janice Wilson said, “and I just needed to do it.”
She didn’t have much money, but many generous churches and individuals donated which helped her pay for a building with room to house six women and their kids who were escaping domestic abuse. At first, Janice rented this building, but soon her daughter and son-in-law bought it for her outright. There was also a charity that donated furniture to her residents—as much furniture as they needed. Janice also talked about the six board members for Oasis of Love who helped her greatly.
Wilson said about her residents, “I drove them to doctor’s offices… and took them back and forth to jobs if they needed.” Women tended to stay at Oasis of Love for around four months while Wilson helped them find a job. When they were ready, they would move out into an apartment, and Wilson would help them pay the first month’s rent.
“Probably the most rewarding part was to see them change their life,” Wilson said. “I wanted them to have a different life, not go back to the same thing they had.”
One such person whose life was changed was Regina Haynes who stayed at the shelter in 2011. While there, Haynes worked two jobs all while recovering from a prescription medication addiction. One thing that impressed her the most was how Janice was able to connect different ministries to work together.
Haynes said, “Because of Janice’s ministry at the Oasis of Love, many other ministries came together for a greater good to glorify God…” Haynes referred to this as “Kingdom connections.” Regina would go on to earn her master’s degree, and years after moving out, she even returned to work for Oasis of Love as the resident manager.
Another former resident also shared her story. Around 2007, Dana Smith left an abusive relationship in Florida, travelling to Tennessee with her twin sons.
“We didn’t have money or a place to go,” Smith remembered. “All we had was my car.”
Her mother knew about Oasis of Love and suggested that she go there. Smith did, and she said the shelter was the best thing that ever happened to her.
One memory that stands out to Smith is when her sons were nearing their birthday in the shelter. She didn’t want them to have bad memories of their birthdays when they grew up, but she didn’t have enough money to celebrate. Fortunately, Janice ended up throwing them a little party with a cake and presents.
They still talk about that birthday, Smith said.
Both Haynes and Smith fondly remembered the church services held in the shelter every Sunday. There would be a different pastor each week who spoke not only to the 6 residents and their children but also to 10-20 others from outside the shelter who enjoyed the services enough to attend.
The shelter closed in 2015, but Janice is still actively serving God. Since it’s so hard for people to go to church with COVID, she’s now hosting a church in her home.
Janice Wilson made some close friends at the shelter who still visit and call her years later, including Regina Haynes and Dana Smith. She often runs into former residents who continue to thank her for all she did for them. She is a woman who has touched many, many lives.
Perhaps Haynes said it best, emphasizing the effect Janice’s ministry has had on others.
“Her ministry has caused a ripple effect that has become a tsunami wave,” Haynes said. “Long after Janice has gone home, her legacy will live on through the many lives she has touched.”
If you or someone you love is facing domestic violence, call the Knoxville Family Justice Center at (865) 521-6336. If you are not in East Tennessee, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, open 24/7, or you can ask your doctor for the phone number of a local hotline in your area.