Real Lives: The Story of Sherry

Meet Sherry

From the moment I walked into the Betel women’s home when we arrived in England, I felt warmth and acceptance. And, after spending 2 week of full-immersion in Spain, I was exuberant that I could carry on a conversation with people in my own language! I was never in my life so happy to just simply talk! (*insert knowing look*: this is a Big Deal) Yet I found quickly that I was definitely not the only talker there. The women in the safe home I was living in were just so happy and familial. So open and expressive. Definitely blew my British stereotypical view out of the water. (please, release from your imagination any Pirates of the Caribbean character types. and accents. just let go) They also were very very open about their lives and stories of their past. It was so full of pain and hurt and sin and God and Jesus and victory and purpose. I was overcome with the amount of pain and life-crushing experiences they had gone through and the joy in Christ that they recounted despite the life-numbing circumstances.

One friend in particular stood out to me from the others. My friend Sherry.  Yeah, she was pretty much the life of the party. Funny, always laughing, always joking, very open, full of conversation—you couldn’t help but love her. She was, I’d say, 45-ish years old and had such a strong Birmingham British brogue, more so than most of the girls there. Which to me added to her humor. For a moment it seemed like I had just met My Fair Lady. Her voice was raspy, her skinned stretched and leathery, and she was pretty thin. Personality: the wittiest of them all.

Sherry was such a hard worker and very quick to anticipate a need and meet it. She was one of the few women that had a permit to drive the large vans. I noticed when she picked up donations during the day that she would always put aside a special treat for the guests, or some herbal tea for someone sick, or some flowers for one of the girls’ birthday. She was just a gem.

My 3rd or 4th day there I was assigned to pick up donations with Sherry, so we spent at least 9 hours together that day driving around to the various food stores in Birmingham to pick up mostly food donations. During those hours together, we talked, laughed, learned about each other, encouraged each other.

And Sherry told me her story.

The Prodigal Sinner

I forget what the trigger point in her life was for drugs, but pretty early on she was hooked. Typically it begins with an entry drug like marijuana and then the unquenchable thirst for more—a bigger high, and safer low, resulting in a higher high. Often drug abusers will offset drugs so that some will give them super highs, but the higher the high, the harder to low. And to keep from crashing, they take another drug. So the body is on this extreme rollercoaster.

Sherry quickly got addicted to heroin, probably the worst drug addiction of have. Typically people on heroin do not live long because of the amount you must inject in order to keep getting the next high, and eventually you will overdose. Sherry was addicted for 20 years.

20. Years.

It destroyed her possessions, her career, her family, her sanity, and her life. Even to this day, the doctors cannot get to any veins to take blood except the ones on the bottoms of her feet because she had deflated them all with countless injections. Stealing money and possesstions at every opportunity, she was trusted by no one. Her family disowned her. Society rejected her. She was violent–  very violent, as she told me. No one could be around her and she was often in and out of jail or prison. Her life was in an unstoppable downward spiral.

She told me of the lowest, most despairing moment of her life. She had become so violent, raged and drug-ridden that she was arrested, put in a high-security isolated prison cell, and was wrapped in a straight-jacket that was made of a chain-metal type material. She said she remembered lying there on the cold, hard prison floor, and thinking,

“All I want right now is just something soft to touch. Just something soft.”

Yet nothing was. Not her straightjacket, not her skin, not the floor. It was at this point she prayed to God. She said, “God, please kill me. Please—please kill me.” There was no hope.

To her surprise and chagrin, she didn’t die. It made her angry—“God, why didn’t you kill me?” She did not want to live anymore and this one request He did not grant.

The Prodigal God

Yet, it was at this point that God took the broken, destroyed pieces of her life and started building something new, something beautiful. Impossible? You may think so, but God is so good at what he does.

He led her to a Christian, Gospel rehab where she met Jesus. He brought her out of the miry, muddy disgusting pit and set her feet upon a rock and gave her a new song in our mouth, a song of praise to our God! He freed her from drugs, from violence, from her past, her idolatry. What an awesome God! What victory!

Sherry continued to tell me that she met a great Christian guy at church and they soon got married and had a beautiful ceremony, got a home, and began a family. They soon had a daughter and then a son. They had a nice little house, a good church, and a real family. Life couldn’t get any better.

Slow Fade

Yet, over the course of several years, the slow fade entered. There wasn’t a certain day or time where she remembered setting God aside, but slowing, one choice at a time, her and her husband didn’t hold Christ as closely to themselves as they used to. Church became more of a duty than joy. The marriage began to look more and more selfish. She said she began believing that she could handle everything pretty well on her own, and that’s where the slow fade began.

Over the course of a few years, the beautiful, godly marriage that they once had fell apart and he left her (I believe) for another woman.  It was at this point that she turned to alcohol as a release and it became her idol. The next drug. For the next year or two she wasted her days again and again on alcohol to free and numb herself from pain and reality.

She knew God and the Spirit of God resided in her, yet how could she get freedom when God had already saved her life before? How could God accept her after her obvious and blatant abuse of His love and grace?

Grace Unending

Through a friend she found out about Betel and went there to be free from alcohol abuse and her sinful, independent lifestyle, and God graciously gave her her life back in Him. Over and over she said to me,

“You know, one time is enough for God to forgive me and welcome me home, but even when I turned away a 2nd time, he still took me back! I cannot thank Him enough because I deserve to be on the street right now, yet I am a child of the King! I don’t know when God will allow me to live a ‘normal’ life again and to have my children back, but I have such a greater real sense of my need for him. I can’t make it without him and I think about Him all the time. Even today, he’s just been on the mind the entire day—I can’t get him out of my mind!”

My Story?

This is the point where I basically sat back and said, Wow—oh wow. I’m thinking, what really have I to share about my testimony after that? And yet… my story has just as much God in it. She was saved from her idolatry, I was saved from my idolatry. I struggle every day to love God, and so does she. Different stories, same God, same Cross. It was at this moment that God brought to mind the lessons from Tim Keller’s book Prodigal God, and I shared with her that in that story, she would be considered the worldly son, and I would be considered the Pharisaical elder brother. Both abused the Father’s gifts, one through open rebellion, one by self-righteousness. Yet both are equally sinful and estranged from the Father. And the Father shows grace and forgiveness to both. It’s a story of a prodigal, extravagant God.

When we said goodbye, my heart was so full and so was hers. Amazing how in such a short time God can knit hearts together in the common bond of Christ. Last I heard, Sherry was still living in Betel and her son had come to live with her. I pray that she stays strong in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and that He would keep her until the day of His appearing. Can’t wait for the reuniting!

Real Lives: The Story of Carli


loud, exuberant, expressive. What a character! She was so mischievous. You could see it in her eyes constantly.  Very much her own person and quite frankly always laughing and joking. Loved being the center of attention.

That description, seemingly light-hearted and cheerful, was actually just the outside-Carli. Inside she was empty, just nothing but ashes. I could see it. Turmoil like that cannot be hidden. Even in her jovial demeanor there was something fearful, perhaps even bitter hiding behind that mask.

We connected immediately. She liked being loud. I liked being loud. Naturally, we became friends. But I sensed immediately that there was something more underneath that show. As much as I needed to be careful with the questions I asked, especially concerning the sensitive nature of the people we were living with, at the same time I didn’t want to shy away from questions that may lead to God-opportunities that transcend language barriers.

One of the first few evenings in Madrid we were chilling in the living room and talking. I told her about my family, general info about myself and life (“first semester Spanish, come to me!” … by the way, I think when you know a word in another language, when it suddenly comes to mind, you feel you must immediately talk about it or miss a prime opportunity to converse, no matter how random the topic. Problem is, words like gato, pantalones and baño don’t deceptively slip into any natural conversation by a long shot.)

… Anyway. I told her information about my life, and I then asked about her life. I tried to listen carefully as she started telling me her story, eventually sharing how she came to Betel. I saw her painful discomfort yet willingness to open up. She had been sent to prison for a 4 year sentence, yet after being there 2 years, the prison said she could finish up her last 2 years in Betel if she agreed to stay there. It’s very common for one’s drug addiction to become worse once living in prison, and Betel has a wonderful reputation with the prisons. Her boyfriend lives in Madrid, I believe. She has 2 daughters, both of whose names were tattooed on her arm. In sudden excitement, she went and grabbed a picture frame (one of her few possessions) that had the pictures of her boyfriend and 2 daughters. Her eyes were shining at this time. As I came to find out throughout my stay, she is pretty much cut-off from her daughters and the life she truly wanted, yet had thrown away. One choice at a time, she entered a life of whole-hearted idolatry that stole her family, happiness, and true freedom.

Carli liked me and I found she wanted my attention and approval, though I’m not exactly sure why. I normally sat by her for breakfast, across from a Bulgarian woman that had just arrived. I wanted to have a meaningful conversation, but that was pretty much impossible with the language barrier. I learned to pretty much rely on prayer and non-verbals, like smiling and kindness.

Carli got to see her daughters ages 4 and 6 at church that Sunday for the first time in 6 weeks. This was a huge moment for her and you could tell by her jittery actions. It her daughter’s birthday. Betel allowed her to spend the afternoon with her mother and daughters, but had to come back in the evening. When she arrived at the house, she looked so depressed and was moody, not interested in talking. Her outgoing spirit was completely deflated. At these times I felt she avoided me, along with everyone else, and was depressed and pessimistic. Yes, even angry.

Carli needs Jesus. She knows that. She participates in Betel activities and worship yet there is no true relationship and commitment to Christ. It’s been 6 months since I’ve seen her last. I fear that if she does not soon love Jesus more than her idols that she will forever turn away. Pray for her to turn to Jesus. Carli is 21.

Real Lives: The Story of Vina

I feel compelled. I met so many people, real people, this past summer whose stories blew my mind, rock my system of thinking, and gave me new eyes of understanding of broken, outcast people. So much so, that I honestly couldn’t talk about it much in the following weeks. I felt I really couldn’t communicate the amount of impact their stories had in my heart and life, nor could I fully explain what I saw and heard. There is no box I can place them in, and neither shall I try.

But I must tell their stories. I know that I met them on purpose, for a reason beyond my finite understanding. I have decided to change their names since this in published on the web. I didn’t want to because I felt that their name for me was emotionally and intricately tied to who they are and what they represent, but for sensitive reasons and love, I will adapt.

May these Real Lives open your eyes that there are real people around your real life every day. This is not specific to Betel. When Jesus by example served the broken and outcast of this world, He did so knowing that each one of us will have the opportunity to live as He did. If only we were aware. If only we opened our eyes.


Vina was one of the first people I met upon arrival in Spain. Her appearance: eclectic. worn. haggard.  Her body: abused. tattooed. thin. Her clothing style was, shall we say, gypsy-european. Perhaps a bit Bohemian. She often wore gaucho-type pants, printed shirt, sandals, and always with a pair of flashy sunglasses, usually leopard print or glamorous faux-diamond. Vina did not speak English, yet we had a unique connection. From the beginning, my Spanish was a roller coaster experience and I really struggled with communication. Certain people I could understand more than others. Most people could not understand me at all. Yet Vina always understood me and would clarify my broken Spanish to the other women to help them understand. She was smart and quick witted. Always kind and patient.

She loved Jesus—yes, that was obvious. When I watched her worship in church, she was oblivious to everyone else. It was as if she were pleading with God to come down and fill her. Her spirit was always eager to learn, her actions always filled with love and compassion, her mind always yearning for more knowledge.

I remember just 1-2 days after arriving in Madrid we were sitting outside the house in the garden (comparable to a front yard), and Vina just started telling me about how she came to Betel and how Jesus had changed her heart. I didn’t understand everything, yet… I got it. Her expressions, her emotions, her spirit—it rang true in my heart. She said, He is my Savior and I live for Him. She loved talking about her God, about her new life.

Vina was so beautiful to me. Her scars were simply grace-lines forever imprinted on her skin. Yet, she also seemed somewhat sad. Or perhaps, weighted down. Sometimes I would see her sitting by herself in the living room, and there was just a sad presence about her. No, not despair. Just, constant struggle. Like a heavy burden. I wanted to help, yet in many ways, I couldn’t. The effects of her past had taken their toll on her, and physically and emotionally she constantly struggled. I could see it. I would sometimes ask, Como estas, guapa? How are you, beautiful? She would usually reply in a way that let me know that she was struggling, yet some Truth was always present. Something bigger than her pain that gave her the strength and assurance to press on.

Vina is HIV positive. She also has several forms of Hepatitis, along with a long list of other medical issues. Everyday is a trial for her. What thoughts must go through her mind: How much more can I take of this pain? Will I develop AIDS? How can I afford medical treatment? I am really tired right now; maybe I’m contracting a new virus. Do I need to go to the hospital? How long will I live? God did forgive me, didn’t He? I know my past and its rebellion is nailed to the cross… yet I still feel it in my body, and will feel it for the rest of my life. Can not God heal? Why has He not healed me? He’s good…I don’t understand…but I know He’s good.

Always loving, always giving. I felt shallow when I observed her. What a beautiful woman. I love Vina. She has a special place in my heart—I connected with her in a way I didn’t with anyone else in Madrid. I wish I could’ve told her that.

I don’t know when I’ll see her again. I hope she is well, yet I know…

man, I hate sin. So destructive. damaging.

Oh but what an example of the hope of Christ, in the Gospel! A tyrant living in outright rebellion against the Creator, now worshipping Him with the hands once used to destroy her body. This is what made me awe-struck and I know I’ll never be the same. Do you know a Vina in your life? Go find one. It’ll change your life too.

June 5_ What is Betel?

After my first week in Betel of Madrid, I video-journaled my thoughts and understanding of Betel, which was already at that point awesomely overwhelming. Every day since then I found out more amazing details about how Betel functions and how they adapt to every culture and people group.

One thing stays the same, however, and that is the over-powering emphasis on the Gospel of Jesus. Only through the Gospel is there deliverance. Only in the Gospel are dependencies destroyed. The Gospel is the answer for every problem, in all ages, in every culture, for every addiction.

This is why I was able to be richly blessed and experience growth. The Gospel is for everybody and I have dependencies just like the Betelitos do. Actually, as I observed them, I was often convicted and shamed in my weak pursuit of destroying idols and lifting up the Cross in my life.

What makes Betelitos unique, in my view? They’re addicts, both past and present. Only the worst of the worst come to Betel. They have hit rock bottom. They’re extreme in their pursuit of drugs, alcohol, sex and money. They’re needy and they know that if something does not change, they will die soon (as several people personally told me this). They come to Betel to be free from addiction, yet they realize that the Cross demands more– they must completely give their lives. If they withhold anything, they will easily slip back into the former life, and they know that.

They literally know that it’s either Christ or death. Some cannot handle giving Christ everything, and they know they cannot just give a little, so they leave. Sin is too powerful to be half in, half out. But those that choose Christ find grace that is far exceeding greater and they live with just as much reckless abandon as they did before, except now they have a new Master, an ultimate King, a loving Savior.

They’re addicted to Jesus. And everyone knows it.

I realize now why these are the people that Jesus came to seek and the save. They know they’re sick. They see death. The decision may be intense, yet their passion is stunning because they know they’re needy and understand what they were saved from. Betel is literally a rescue shop within a few yards of hell.

If you want to know a little more about God’s work through Betel, read “They dance because they cannot fly”, which is a book I reference in the video.

So my suggestion: don’t run from the outcasts of society. They may act like they hate people, life and maybe even you, yet inside they’re dying for freedom, for love, for a Savior. They go to drugs to numb the pain, to be saved, to fill the empty hole in their heart, not realizing that they’re selling their souls to a fierce, controlling idol until it’s too late to turn back.

Thank God for Jesus. for the Gospel. Cause that’s they’re only hope. And that’s my only hope for release from the tailored idols of my heart.

June 5_ Betel Madrid, Video Journal

Here’s a video journal I recorded after I had been in Spain for just over a week. Jet lag and initial culture shock past, I basically just recounted some of my first impressions, though much had to be edited out because of time constraints. I mean, let’s all face it– nowadays it’s really hard to keep an attention span for a 30-sec deodorant commercial, which not only promises to protect you from sweat, thieves, and awkward conversations, but also gives you no-residue confidence to conquer the world as we know it.

I can offer you neither, so if you have the time, go ahead and listen to some of my first week experiences.


Well, I´m here. In Madrid. At the Betel Center with some unexpected web time!(by the way, Spanish coffee is reeeally strong)  And already just so excited and overwhelmed with what I have seen already, both in Phili and in Madrid. I can´t wait to share more in detail about things that are happening, but so much more important than any of the “doing” and “seeing” is the praying. It has been so encouraging and humbling to know the many people that have committed to praying for me and the gospel advance of this trip. Thank you from the bottom of my heart 🙂

And to give you a little more direction as to how you can pray, I´m going to attach a prayer list that my team leader Loretta Jackson (ironic name, right?) sent to us. We´ll be in Madrid for about 12 days and then will head up to Birmingham, England for about 10 days at the UK Betel center.

Recently God has been working in my heart through Colosians 1:9-12. Please pray these words above all other requests, as I also commit to praying this on your behalf. As awesome as this experience is, I already see my flesh and Satan working to distract me with petty things, and then I get caught up with how I could be distracted, … well, I need grace every day just as we all do. So pray I would love Jesus more than my sin.

“And so we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light.”

Specifics you can pray for:

When traveling…

That we will pass through customs and immigration lines without incident

&   That our plane will not encounter mechanical problems or trouble from terrorists

&   That we’ll make all our connections

Health and Safety

Protection from accidents, crime, natural disasters, terrorists, and dangerous creatures.

&   Protection from all kinds of sickness

&   That we’ll find time for proper sleep, rest, and exercise

&   That our food and water needs will be met by the Lord

Spiritual Watchcare

Good times of intimacy with Jesus in Bible, prayer and worship

&   Protection from dark forces in spiritual realms

&   Protection from discouragement, fear, and doubt

&   That we’ll demonstrate purity, humility, boldness, wisdom, patience, love for people, teachable spirit and the power of the Holy Spirit


That we’ll experience and express unity, love, good communication, patience, and spiritual gifts with the missionary team.

& That we can resist temptation toward jealousy, envy, bitterness, and pride

& That we’ll be granted grace for cultural adjustments, dealing with jet lag, being away from family and friends and lack of privacy.

& That God will grant us wisdom to design and implement effective efforts that will make a long-term difference here

Verses to Read as you Pray

Exodus 4:12; 33:14

Psalms 4:8, 19:14, 121:1-8

Isaiah 40:29-31; 55:10-11

Zechariah 4:6