In a society that’s all too willing to discard people who can’t seem to get a handle on life financially, mentally or spiritually, Peggy Christensen was a lifeline from despair. A consummate caregiver, she offered hope and a hand up, along with a persistent message of Christian love.
The Flathead Valley lost one of its best last week when Christensen succumbed to cancer just days after her long-awaited shelter for women and children — appropriately named Peggy’s House — opened in Kalispell. Our hats are off to the many volunteers who stepped up to finish the 4,000-square-foot shelter in time for Christensen to realize her dream.
Some 20 years ago, Christensen and her husband Bob got A Ray of Hope rolling in the Flathead, offering a lay ministry for the homeless. They worked with the Christian Center and slowly built the program, giving homeless individuals a chance to get on their feet financially.
The ministry quickly expanded to include a second-hand store that began in Evergreen and eventually moved to the former Flathead Food Bank space near A Ray of Hope’s headquarters and new shelter.
Her message was consistent: “We try to give people a hand up, not a handout.” Once those she shepherded learned life skills, she encouraged them to give back, but never expected anything in return.
“We operate totally on faith,” she once told the Inter Lake, and added, “I swear God is my personal secretary sometimes because of the prayers that have been answered.”
Taking care of people was her life’s work. For three decades before starting A Ray of Hope, the Christensens cared for more than two-dozen foster children as they raised their own two sons. And they ministered to the homeless for roughly a half-century all totaled.
Christensen’s legacy will endure in the Flathead as the next generations follow her lead. We echo a well-known Bible verse: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” As one reader responded, “Heaven has gained an angel.”