“I didn’t know God to be a loving God or a redeeming God. I thought He was a punishing God,” Sarah says, reflecting on how she felt a year and a half ago.
After a decade of abusive boyfriends, a life-crippling addiction to methamphetamine, stints in jail, and giving birth to two children, she was lost.
She had grown up in a loving home, but no matter how much help her parents extended to her, she kept running into the arms of men, seeking approval and trying to find her identity there. By the summer of 2012 her family had done all they could, and it seemed there were no options left. But with a six-week-old son, Sarah made the hardest and most life-changing decision she could: she moved into Champa House.
“There was no more putting it off. I needed to start over. I needed to leave everything I had known – it was all unhealthy and toxic,” she says. She was reluctant because moving to Champa meant leaving her older, 7-year-old son in Greeley with her parents. It meant that anything that ever brought her comfort, however temporary, would be off-limits. No drugs, no parties, no boyfriends. Just a house full of women she didn’t know and a set of rules she was unfamiliar with.
But she still went. Slowly, she began to find freedom within the rules, and strength within herself. And most importantly, she found an unexpected love from those around her.
Chaplain Elaine Phillips was instrumental in Sarah’s journey of healing. “She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. She pushed me at rekindling my relationship with my parents, who I love spending time with now,” says Sarah.
She continues: “The whole staff has been so key in helping me. I came here feeling devastated and abandoned. I was oppressed by my choices and believed a lot of lies about myself. I think that just seeing the Lord in the staff here has given me the opportunity to be honest and vulnerable. They taught me that my identity is in Christ.”
When a woman is enrolled in the New Life Program, she’s matched with a mentor. Sarah’s has gone above and beyond the requirements of the relationship by taking initiative in Sarah’s life. “My mentor Lisa and her family have loved on me and my family. She is so awesome,” she says, finding it difficult to express her gratitude.
“The most surprising thing that has happened to me here is that God has truly changed my heart, although I am a work in progress. I struggled in my brokenness for a long time, but I eventually learned to forgive others, and mostly myself,” she says. She opens her Bible and reads the whole chapter of Hosea 2. She reads about an adulterous woman and a forsaken Israel: how God takes away all that they had made an idol, how they are no longer his people, how he will block their path with thornbushes.
She remembers her own idols: “All those relationships were idols in my life. Drugs were an idol, possessions, my job. I think of everything that I valued and put above the Lord.” She draws a comparison to her life and the lives of the other women at Champa: “If you come to Champa, you’ve lost everything. There are thornbushes all around you. There are rules and firm boundaries set in place to protect you.”
But she looks back down at the Bible and with tears welling in her eyes, continues at the end of the chapter: “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.”
“I believe God led me to Champa just as he led Gomer to the desert. When I got to Champa, that is where he began speaking tenderly to me. Looking back on my life I see his hand in everything. Little by little, he took things away from me, trying to bring me back to him. It was finally when I was left with nothing that I saw his love. He is slowly giving me things back and they are so much better because I see him in them now.”
After finishing a Legal Assistant Program in only six months, Sarah landed a job as a paralegal, fulfilling a lifelong dream to work in the legal field. “I love the people I work with. I love having responsibility. I think it’s hard when anyone is going through any type of legal issue. They need somebody that is going to be empathetic and guide them through the process,” she says, proud to be the person others can lean on.
Reprinted by permission of Denver Rescue Mission. Please read more of their stories at http://www.denverrescuemission.org/drm/stories/stories-joy