Karina Lahood never wanted welfare, but because she was afraid she would lose custody of her five boys when she suddenly became a single mom, she felt compelled to go on government support.
After two years of striving to overcome her circumstances, Karina worked and earned enough to pass the wage threshold and get off food stamps, Medicaid and all other government support.
Ironically, through her hard work, she was worse off than when she got free benefits. She had to continue to build her business to make it into the clear.
“They make it so easy to stay in that system,” Karina says. “Jesus said that the government would be on his shoulders. I didn’t want the government to support me. I said, ‘Jesus I need you to rescue me.’ It’s a generational system. God doesn’t want you to depend on the government. He wants you to depend on Him.”
Many Christians believe that Christ’s mandate to care for certain vulnerable segments of the population should be carried out by government. Others, including Karina, see government usurping God and the church in the role of charity. When it comes to social care, the government is notoriously inefficient, they say.
“The government gives you so many benefits. If you’re not motivated, you will be stuck in the system,” Karina says. “In any life crisis, we become paralyzed in the system, you go comatose, you become a frog in the kettle.”
Today, Karina Lahood is a proud business owner placing foreign students in caring homes where they can sleep, eat and practice English with an American family while they attend language school.
Her life has been a long lesson of learning to lean on Jesus. Anna Karina Elisabeth Wilson was born to a Swedish immigrant homemaker. Many years later she realized she had a Christian heritage in Sweden; he grandmother was a Pentecostal Christian with a heart-to-heart relationship with Jesus.
Karina and her two sisters grew up playing on the “Tarzan swing” dad hooked up on the one-acre property in Arcadia, California. Dad was always busy running a taxicab business. Only later did Karina find out he was a functional alcoholic.
Her family only went to church occasionally and Karina wished it was more often, but when a half-sister came to live with them, Karina learned to smoke pot from her while in middle school. She excelled at swimming but without parental support, she dropped that and fell into rebellion.
“I was an emotional mess in high school,” she admits.
When representatives of the California Conservation Corps came to her high school, she got hooked on their logo: “Hard work, low pay, miserable conditions and more,” she says. During the summer, she rode a Greyhound Bus to Angels Camp, California, where she worked environmental projects and responded to natural and man-made disasters.
The next year, she got her GED and joined a fire-fighting crew in the mountains. They cut fire lines, attended to fish and game hatcheries, tagged salmon, picked cones and dug fence holes in the Stanislaus National Forest.
One friend drove drunk off a mountain road and died.
Sin demanded more and more of her attention. She had two abortions.
Karina became a successful sales and marketing representative. Her scarred conscience from the abortions led her to Christ, but her walked with Christ gelled later whe Karina was invited to live in a Christian home with a the pastor and his wife and their six children.
“I couldn’t understand how someone with six kids wanted to have someone else live with them,” she remembers.
In 1994, she married and started her own family. It was a picture perfect family with a house and a dog, but it was not to last.
Karina and her husband divorced.
“I felt betrayed, rejected and angry,” Karina remembers. “I had no vision. I only wanted our boys to feel loved and secure when my world was crashing.”
That’s when she fell into the welfare system. On the one hand, she’s grateful that the government kept her from dire poverty. But on the other, she felt trapped. She held convictions that government aid was not good. But as she strove to get off welfare, her benefits were cut. For working to not be a burden to society, she was found herself unable to pay health insurance but didn’t qualify for MediCal.
There was not transition program, no weaning-away, no incentive to move into work. Only because of her convictions, she kept working and finally made it out of the ditch.
She had been introduced to hosting foreign students who come to America to submerge themselves in English. Eventually, she worked this business until she opened her own agency. During peak season she works 15-hour days to painstakingly coordinate and oversee so many details, but it pays the bills, and Karina credits God.
“I work from Son up to Son down,” she quips.
She has gone from broke to investing in her own mutual fund.
Michael Ashcraft provides for a living while doing Christian journalism by selling a KAG cup on Amazon.