TUSTIN, Calif. Rita Viselli has a message for single moms: Give God a chance. If you let Him, God will take the pain in your life and use it for good for you and your family and friends. A second-generation single mother, 49-year-old Viselli is passionate about reaching single mothers and their children with the good news that changed her life.
Seven years ago the Orange County resident launched Isaiah 54:5 Ministries Inc. Based on the verse that begins..."For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is His name," Viselli said she is reaching women who may not feel welcome in a local church body.
"The church has an awesome opportunity and responsibility here," she said as she explained the need for volunteers who will partner with Isaiah 54:5 Ministries.
The outreach to single moms includes a dinner and Bible study on three Friday nights each month and annual special events. Viselli is seeking volunteers to help set up the ministry's upcoming Mother's Day outreach on May 2. She also needs ongoing help with the children's program during the Friday evening Bible study held at Pacific Church in Irvine.
"There is a ministry for everybody, but there is nothing for the single mom. They don't fit," Viselli said, talking about a life circumstance she knows too well. "The church doesn't know how to reach out to them. I think their concern is that they (churches) would be condoning a lifestyle."
Viselli explained that she felt compelled to do something for single moms after turning to Jesus and feeling hope for the first time in her life. Beyond her own status as a single mother, her painful childhood gives her a special empathy for children reared by single mothers.
"I was and am a fatherless child," she said. "For years I wondered what was wrong with my life."
Viselli described her father as a small-time mobster who left the family when he entered a witness protection program. She remembers the last time she saw him when she was 5 years old. For a time, Viselli and her four siblings lived in state-run orphanages. After returning to live with her mother she was molested by a family friend who was a caregiver while her mom worked as a nightclub singer.
"I didn't know that God loved me," she said. "I thought he hated me because of all the things that I had done and the things that had been done to me."
Missing the father
Looking back on her life, Viselli said she recognizes that she grew up with a brokenness experienced by many children who do not have a father present in their lives. They question God's love because they are fatherless.
"They feel that there is a part of them that is missing and it is their father," she said. "It is the way children feel."
Viselli, who works as a financial consultant for local hospitals, cited statistics from the Annie E. Casey Foundation that show 30 percent of children in California are being raised by a single mother.
"I am not your typical child of a single mom. We were raised in extreme poverty," she said of her upbringing. "I've gone through the very worst that the child of a single mom faces."
As a teenager, Viselli turned to alcohol and later to dealing drugs and using cocaine. Her downward spiral continued until she ended up on the street.
"My life was so out of control," she said. "I had a $400 a day habit and I did what was necessary to support that habit."
A turning point for Viselli came at age 32 when she received a card containing a written prayer asking for God's help. She began to recite the prayer each day, wondering if it could really work.
"One day, through a series of events, God by his Holy Spirit led me to Jesus," Viselli said in her written testimony printed in "The Lamppost," a monthly newsletter for single moms.
At age 38 she returned to the classroom and earned a degree in accounting from Cal State, Fullerton where she was a scholarship recipient and president of the honor society.
Viselli said single moms struggle with loneliness and fatigue and they need to get plugged into a group where there are others who understand their circumstances. She views the growing population of single mothers as a mission field opportunity right here, for her and every other Christian.
"If I can get them here once then they will see there are others like them," she said. "They have to know that God has promised to be a husband to them and a father to their children."
Shelly Jones met Viselli when both were single mothers attending community college.
"I was a single mom for nearly 10 years," Jones said. "It is something we pretend doesn't exist as much as it does."
She said that because Viselli has has had so many different things happen in her life she is able to relate to women no matter what their situation.
"There are many different circumstances that make a single mom," Jones said. "Her ministry helps all types of single moms."
Jennifer Miller is a working mother of three children under 12. She explained that the Isaiah 54:5 Ministry Bible study taught by Viselli has made a positive difference in her life over the past year because it helps her apply Scripture to her situation as a single mom.
"She has a style that is straight to the point and very precise," Miller said. "She knows the Word of God and when people have questions she can refer to it. I have gotten a lot of answers from going to the Bible study. It has provided renewal and replenishment for me."
And that means a lot, to any mom.
For more information, visit the Web site www.singlemomsministry.org or call (714) 679-8567.