It was a short time back when I was speaking at Emmanuel College that I met Heidi. Heidi shared her story with me. With her permission, I wanted to take a moment to share it with you…
“My dad walked out on us when I was two years old. I never knew him being at home, he was just someone I remember going to visit. My mom eventually remarried an amazing man of God. I loved him and how he treated my mom.
I started experimenting with alcohol with my sister and brother when I was 12 years old. I remember it being “normal” for me to be alone and drinking at that age. By age 14, my drinking had increased so much that I began blacking out from being so drunk. I had nights that were so bad that I couldn’t even remember.
When I was 15 years old, my stepdad was going away on a hunting trip. I remember telling him goodbye on Friday and then on Saturday he died of a heart attack. I remember getting the call that he wouldn’t be coming back home from the hunting trip. I became very angry at God. I was hurt and couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t have a dad – I had lost two. My anger manifested in even more rebellious actions. I tried to settle and fill that loss and emptiness from not having a dad through bad relationships, popularity, drinking, etc. After my stepdad died, I entered into a relationship with a man who I later found out sold drugs, and got me selling and using drugs. HE gave me a drug, telling me it was something other than what it was. After I snorted it up my nose, I found out it was heroin. Later that year, the relationship ended, and I was again devastated.
By the time I was 17, I was selling enough drugs that I could afford to use them on my own. I had become a master at manipulating and using people. I got to where I didn’t like the idea of “family” and I didn’t even want to be around friends. I soon entered into another relationship with a man who shared an interest and love that I had — running. He helped me to continue to get drugs and money. At 18 he introduced me to IV drug use of heroin. The “gray area” in my life kept getting wider and wider. In Fall 2011, I was high from IV heroin use for 11 consecutive days. In spite of all of this, I was a high school cheerleader making good grades. However, my mom knew that things were getting out of hand. It had become obvious that I didn’t care anything about my family.
On Dec. 22, 2011, I left home after writing my mother a one-paragraph note telling her that I could not follow her rules anymore and that I was leaving. However, on Christmas morning (three days later), Mom asked me to come home and stay. I went home that morning, but when my sister tried to give me a hug, I turned around and ran out the door. I thought, by making the decision to leave, I was fixing my problems. I no longer had to lie about using drugs since I wasn’t at home, I could just do it and not have to hide. I dropped out of school and began writing fraudulent checks against my mom’s bank account, and stealing with my boyfriend. For three months, my mom didn’t know where I was or if I was even alive. I later found out that she would drive around Huntsville all night long looking for me and praying.
I don’t want to minimalize Hell, but the place I was living seemed like what I thought Hell must be like. It was so dark inside.
I had a job making good money, but I spent everything I made buying drugs. I couldn’t even save $2 to do laundry. I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor with just one single sheet. I had gotten down to 92 pounds, had no energy, and was passing out due to my severe bulimia. I had no money for groceries, and sometimes wouldn’t bathe for seven days at a time.
One day, my boyfriend and I went out for a run and decided to rob a drug dealer. We did, and got some pills and money. However, a few days later, they came after us. We were in our apartment and I was high on cocaine and heroin. Three guys came in wearing ski masks and had guns. My boyfriend told me to stay in the back room no matter what happened. I thought I was going to die. I stayed in the back room and remember just punching a pillow repeatedly. I prayed to God, telling Him that I was not ready to die. I knew that my life was not in order and I couldn’t die.
Eventually, the robbers left, and my boyfriend came in and told me that we had to leave. I was so confused and paranoid by the drug use, I even considered going to Mexico to get away from these people. We knew they were serious, and that they would be coming back.
Three days after my “prayer,” the tires were slashed on my car, I was evicted from my apartment, and had lost my job. God was trying to speak to me, but I wasn’t listening. I still didn’t think my drug use was “that bad”, and I justified it in my mind by comparing it to how bad my boyfriend’s use was. I thought I would never get as bad as him.
My boyfriend mentioned Teen Challenge and I thought he was crazy. I said, “NO WAY!” He left, and I remember God saying to me that I was killing myself and didn’t even know it.
In March 2012, I called my family and told them I needed money to go to detox. I didn’t even apologize to them or talk about anything other than that I needed the money. They paid for short-term detox, and I stayed 28 days and got clean. But even though I was clean, I had no joy in my life. I was incredibly miserable, horribly sick, and very confused. I had serious health issues from how I had abused my body, and didn’t even know what “normal” was anymore. My mom knew I needed long-term help, and the Holy Spirit used this as an escape for me. I was scared to be at home. I knew heroin couldn’t be beat in three weeks, and the people I was running from would find me again.
My mom took me straight to Teen Challenge of the Upper Cumberland. I was amazed when I got there. People were talking to me about how I could have joy again, and I was mad because they had joy and I didn’t. After being there for 18 hours and gotten some sleep, I woke up and was ready to leave. I was convinced this program wouldn’t work for me. Even back then, I knew that I was dealing with spiritual warfare. I was fighting spirits of shame, guilt, sickness… everything. I told the pastor that I wanted to leave. He said that he knew I wanted to start using again because I could do that and get away from all of my issues. I had one staff member tell me that things were going to get worse. I called my mom and told her I was leaving. She told me that if I left, she’d have me arrested for the check fraud. She said she would have the police waiting for me outside when I checked out. She told me she didn’t care if I hated her for it because at least I’d be alive. Then, the thought of the “prayer” that I had prayed telling God that I wasn’t ready to die returned to me. I made the decision to stay at Teen Challenge.
In Teen Challenge we had to work through study guides that were based on biblical principles. The booklets were to help you renew your mind. After being in the program for a week, I was working through one of the study guides and there was a section that was a “Statement of Faith”. You had to read it and sign it, acknowledging that you couldn’t do this alone, and admitting your need to surrender to Christ. So, sitting in my little cubicle, on March 26, 2012, I started crying and finally surrendered my life to Christ (I wrote the date and time in my bible). I knew I was literally minutes from death. God began moving in my life, and for the next few weeks, any time I read scriptures, heard songs, or sang hymns, I could not stop crying.
After a few weeks in Teen Challenge, we were rewarded with a “field trip”. The staff told us there was an evangelist named Damon Thompson that was going to be at Abba’s House in Chattanooga, TN, and that we were going to go. On Sunday morning, April 15, 2012, we pulled in to Abba’s House. After church, we visited Teen Challenge in Chattanooga, and came back to hear Damon that night. I remember Damon tried to preach on how to have faith and kept having to stop. Eventually he quit trying to go on and just opened up the altar for people needing healing. People began running to the front. I had heard about healing and knew that God could do it, but didn’t think He could heal me. I was still being told by Satan that I had done too much damage to my body and would be diseased and sick forever. I knew He could do things like heal broken bones, but I believed the lie of Satan that he couldn’t heal me.
I fought it for 40 minutes, but finally jumped out of my seat and started towards the altar. The closer I got to the stage, I could feel a “thickness” in the air (it’s the only way I can describe it). When I got down front, I fell to the ground. I don’t even remember if anyone touched me. I remember that I was shaking on the ground and felt like I needed to hold on to something. Then I started feeling wave after wave coming over me and knew that it was a “washing” of the Holy Spirit. I remember there was a woman praying over me and I started gasping. When I finally stood up, I took a deep breath, and for the first time in years I was able to breathe normally and deeply. I felt a sense of freedom. The oppression and depression was lifted from me that night. I don’t know what happened, but I know I had encountered God. I was healed that night and my body was restored!
When I visited Abba’s House, I walked out a different person than I was when I walked in.
On April 24, 2012, I left the crisis center and moved to the Appalachian Teen Challenge. It was like a time of getting to be alone on the mountain with God. I really began to deal with so much stuff over the next 13 months. I worked through the issues I had dating back to my dad, eating disorders, drugs, etc. I met the Christ who had pursued me for 18 years — the Savior whose face I had repeatedly spit in — and got to know Him on a personal, intimate level.
After being in the program for seven months, I began to feel like I was being called into the ministry, but I didn’t even know how to “talk like a Christian.” All I knew was I was a dying shell of a person, and Jesus saved me. Ecclesiastes 11:1 became so important to me…
“Cast your bread upon the waters, For you will find it after many days.”
I started applying for internships and jobs through Teen Challenge and got calls and had very good interviews, but never could get a job. I graduated from Appalachian Teen Challenge in May 2013. I couldn’t move back home because I didn’t want to be exposed to the same things I had left. My aunt graciously opened her home in Wisconsin to me. I began researching non-accredited schools and online programs because I didn’t think I could do a typical college education due to my past. I never really got a good feeling about any of the schools I researched. It was then that a friend of my mom’s told her about Emmanuel College. I looked them up and saw that they offered a degree in Christian Ministry, which is what I felt I was called to do. I prayed for three days about Emmanuel and received an incredible peace about it. I applied and was accepted.
In Fall 2013, I enrolled in Emmanuel College. I was allowed to walk on to the cross country team and earned a full scholarship. I was able to run again for the first time in such a long time. I used to be so “dope sick” that I would lay in bed for days without enough energy to get up unless I had a needle in my arm. I was so weak that I couldn’t pick up my chair in my counseling sessions. Now I’m able to run just a crazy number of miles every single day and I love it.
I am now a sophomore and was recently elected by the student body as Miss Emmanuel to represent the school. It’s still hard to believe that I’ve been given a second chance and I’m here. I’m blown away that I’ve been recognized by staff and alumni for service projects and asked to represent the school because of my character.
I know that it’s not over. I’ve been able to deal with why I’ve experienced the things I have in life. Philippians 1:12 has become one of my life verses…
“But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel… .”
I know that God is no respecter of persons, but I’ve learned that neither is Satan. God used amazing circumstances to save me.
I still have the bulletin from Abba’s House from April 15, 2012 in my Bible. I didn’t know what had happened to me, but I knew something had and I didn’t want to forget it. I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing, but I have such a passion now. All I want to do is show helpless people that there is life in Christ, and He can give help and grace.
I give all the glory to God!”
As you read this, our Summer Collide event is getting under way at Abba’s House (July 10-12). If you need a touch from Jesus, now would be a great time to come to Abba’s House and get in on what God wants to do in your life. Damon Thompson, Ronnie Phillips Jr., Chris Brooks, Rozario Slack, Heartcry, Rick Pino, Bryn Waddell, Heidi, and others are speaking and leading worship at this life-changing event. If you would like to be like Heidi, and find out the difference Jesus can make in a life surrendered to Him, PLEASE join us. For more information about Collide, visit this link.