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A growing heart: Single mom blooms at My Father's House

By Lauri Arnold
Photography by Lauren Hollon Sturdy

Savanna Allen’s life was beginning to look like her dreams. She’d completed her prerequisites and was starting nursing school. She entered into My Father’s House Lubbock, where Buckner was providing a place where she could focus on schoolwork and her 4-year-old son, Braylen Harris, as she worked toward the future.

In a heartbeat, the dream came crashing down. “I was listening to my heart, and it didn’t sound the way that it normally did,” Savanna recalls. “I was having shortness of breath and lots of pressure on my chest, so I just knew something was wrong.”

As a child, Savanna was diagnosed with rheumatic fever, a condition that led to a heart valve replacement at age 14. The valve from a human donor was expected to work for about 10 years.

“I was getting checkups; everything was fine,” she says. “But in February of last year, it just gave out, so I went to the doctor, and they didn’t let me leave.”

Allen spent the next week at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, where her aortic valve was replaced again – this time with a mechanical valve, which doctors told her should work well for the next 40 years.

Doctors limited Savanna’s physical activity, so she and her son spent six weeks with family in Lake Jackson, Texas. She planned to return to nursing school the following semester, but instead found herself in limbo and, for the first time, without direction. She had to pay for the semester she missed, and could not take out loans for the following semester. Savanna saw the doors to her pursuit of nursing close.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life; I didn’t have a backup plan,” she says. “I never thought of anything else that I would ever want to do.”

Seeking time to reflect, Savanna turned to an old hobby: gardening. From an early age, she spent a lot of time with her mother and grandparents in their gardens. As an adult, she grew plants regularly, often in pots stationed on a windowsill or near her doorway. As Savannah prayed, she sensed God pushing her toward a degree in horticulture.

By showing people how to grow food, she can help them learn about eating healthy.

“It’s just caring for people in a whole different way,” Savanna says. “It’s caring for people who are not as sick, and for the well, so that they don’t become sick, giving them the right things they need for their body.”

The first people Savanna is caring for are the women at My Father’s House, one of Buckner International’s seven family transition programs. She’s an inspiration to the other women on campus, according to Sharion Stephens, residential service coordinator for My Father’s House.

“I’ve seen a lot of adults who in later years have the difficulties that Savanna has faced,” Sharion says. “I think she has met these difficulties with such strength and with such stamina and such a good attitude.”

[caption id="attachment_9357" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo courtesy of Savanna Allen[/caption]

Savanna has drafted plans for a community garden on the My Father’s House grounds and is seeking donations for necessary materials. She hopes residents will enjoy the benefits of the garden for years to come.

“My main goal is to help educate the women on sustainable growing and how to save money by just growing your own fruits and vegetables, and how to cook different types of fruits and vegetables.”

Savanna now dreams of having a community-supported agriculture program through which she would offer “shares” of produce, and, ideally, items such as eggs and honey, to the public. She’s dreaming again. This time, her dreams are set to become reality.

“Watching things grow is just another beautiful example of how our labor isn’t in vain,” Savanna says. “We will see the harvest and our children will experience something beautiful. I feel like that can apply to everything in life. When it seems hard it only means that beautiful fruit is coming.”

Update: Savanna was able to obtain the materials for her community garden and it was built and planted at My Father's House in May.

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