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!

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.

June 23_ First month reflections

NOTE: the following posts are, shall we say, post posts. I wrote the posts or recorded them in the past month, and now I’m posting them post post. Follow me? Good 🙂

June 23

Here I am, in the London-Stansted airport, and for the first time on this trip pretty much by myself with many long hours ahead of me to wait for the flight to Verona, and from there to Venice. So time to catch up on that blogging!

A couple descriptors of the past month:

The people: kind, welcoming, encouraging, restored, passionate

The church: humble, driven, Cross-centered, loving

The scenery: stunning, age-old, historic, enchanting, diverse

The weather: warm and perfect (Spain), chilly and moody (England)

The schedule: intense, busy, structured, unpredictable

That last point about the schedule is the reason I really haven’t been constantly blogging or updating other social media. I rarely have internet access, and the few times that I do, I’m usually with people or I’m kinda flying through and don’t have time to really think through anything or say it the way I’d like to. So forgive me for delayed or abrupt messages!

Now I must say, I have had a very unique experience with Betel in so many ways. Because of the nature of Betel and their daily jobs, I have seen parts of Madrid, Birmingham, and Nottingham that tourists would never see.

I’ll upload a few video journals where I’ll talk through my experience and perspectives from the time of recording, and then separate videos for the pictures where I’ll walk you through places I’ve been and people I’ve met and any other random experience in-between!

And just so that you have a quick overview of where in the world I’ve been for the past month, I’ll give you the run down:

May 22: Washington, DC- met up with Jonathan and Christy Matias (church planters of Grace Church of Alexandria) and stayed with them until the next morning. So good to see them again and catch up, hear about their adoption process, share our common affinity for Nacho Libre quotes, you know…

May 24: Fort Washington, PA- USA WEC headquarters, which is in a castle. Like a real castle built a long time ago (I forget how long, but if I remember, I’ll let you know). Our team Loretta, Mike, Chris and I went through preparation training.

May 25: my birthday. Just had to throw it in here. Celebrated with a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha frap. The real deal.

May 26: flew out of Phili on the red eye, arrived in London Heathrow, and then proceeded to Madrid. We arrived at Betel around noon and really didn’t have any sleep the night before. Despite our exhaustion, we drank some intense Spanish espresso and took a tour of the international facilities, went to their evening service at 8:30, and once we got home (10:30ish) we ate dinner. Let me repeat. We. Ate. Dinner. At. 10:30pm. Hello Spanish culture!!

June 1: I went with a small team from Betel to the drug camp of Madrid, known as the drug trafficking center of Europe. If people want drugs, namely heroin, they come to Madrid. It was surreal. Something that you only see in movies or documentaries. Yet so sad. The rich businessman and the poverty-stricken HIV-infected buyer alike come here. We set up the van and offered food, drink and a word of hope to those that are ensnared. I came to learn that most drug addicts hate their lives; they would actually prefer to die; they do want freedom. But until they love Jesus more than the drug they will never have victory. Betel goes there almost every day to love them and point them to Jesus. Some of the leaders actually used to live there before they came to Christ.

June 4: our team took a day trip to downtown Madrid and saw all the major Plazas, streets, shopping, centers, historic buildings… there really was just so much to see! The busyness of it all reminded me of New York City, yet Madrid is pretty hilly and everything in general is much older than cities in the US. All the windows, doors and porches had black wrought iron and the architecture was very intricate and ornate. If you want a big city feel coupled with rich history, go to Madrid.

June 8: Toledo. Oh you can just not beat Toledo. I could go back and spend weeks there! It’s like you stepped back into time 400 years.  Not commercialized like Madrid, and though there were still tourists, it felt so open and free for me to enjoy the stone roads, narrow buildings stacked next to each other, ancient structures, fortresses, art, cathedrals, towers, bridges, rolling hillsides… I could not get enough. I loved it! And there’s a path that circles Toledo (which is basically a fortress on a hill) and you could walk or bike around. Next time.

June 10: Flew to London where we were picked up and taken to the Betel Britain headquarters in Birmingham. This headquarters was actually practically given to them by Cadbury, like the real Cadbury! He is a Christian, and when he saw what Betel was doing and how they are making a difference in society, he gave them several buildings. And you know what this means—Cadbury Chocolate World was 5 minutes from our house!

June 14: Our team went to Nottingham to see the Betel there. No, I did not see Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, or any men in tights. Nottingham is lovely, though. While Birmingham is full of varying shades of green, rolling hills, Nottingham literally is a thick, dark green forest.

June 16: We went back to Birmingham and resumed working with the Betelitos. The system of Betel is so intriguing and the businesses are amazing. In Britain they have a furniture restoration shop, a gardening (landscaping) business and multiple consignment shops. Betel overall is 98% self-supported. Pretty good for a charity.

June 19: We left Birmingham and went to London where the UK WEC headquarters resides. And you guessed it—it’s in a castle. A massive castle. I don’t know what’s up with this organization and castles (Betel was just given a castle near Scotland), but I’m loving it! The next day our team toured London and it was simply enchanting. Buckingham Palace was exquisite and every historic building in general was massive and detailed. Trafalgar Square, Parliament, Westminster Chapel—it was all overwhelming with its texture and royalty.

June 21: I took a train down to Southampton right on the coastline and stayed with a mutual friend Demelza. It was lovely being right on the coast and I got to explore a bit and just take some time to reflect on the past month. Must say, I’m still processing.

So now I’m here, still at the airport, and wondering if it’s worth the money to buy a few hours to use the wireless. It may become necessary to make it through the night.

And thank you all so much for the prayers! It has been so encouraging to hear from many of you that you have prayed for this trip and me. There have been many highs and there have been many lows. Some things have solidified my faith, some things have thrown me into emotional turmoil, and yet many things have changed my life forever. And that’s a God thing for sure.


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

Great Expectations

At this moment I’m filling out pre-orientation documents that are getting to be a bit personal. hitting home for sure.

I know of many friends and family right now that, along with myself, are going through short-term or even long-term transitions and changes. I suggest that you go through these questions and answer them yourself. Often we go into new situations with pre-conceived expectations and have not even thought that perhaps they may not pan out as expected. Maybe we need to think more, at least even become aware in our minds that some things may turn out differently, even in the simple, every-day mundane activities.

Still thinking— how can this apply to other pursuits and activities in my life? I want to take time later and think through this as a possible tool for organizations and entreprenuering. If you know of any other tools out there that are similar to this, please let me know!

Great Expectations

Do you expect:

1.    to be bored?  What kinds of situations could produce boredom for you?

2.   to have a schedule set up for you?  to know what’s happening next on the schedule? to have a part in making the schedule? How do you expect to respond if it changes?

3.    to eat national food? Where would you expect to get this food?

4.    to enjoy the smells of the country?

5.    to have peace, quiet, and privacy? to sleep at night?

6.    to get sick? What type of remedies do you expect to be offered to you if you do get sick?

7.    to suffer? What do you understand “suffering” to be?

8.    to receive mail?  Or emails? to have access to the internet? How often?

9.    to have ups and downs? What makes you up and what gets you down? 
How do you get out of a down?

10.    to get along with teammates?  to get angry? How do you normally relate to a team?

11.    to be involved more in hands-on ministry? How do you expect to do this? 
Do you see daily chores as ministry?

12.    to accomplish anything? What is accomplishment to you?

13.    to be faithful in your devotions and prayer times?

14.    to encounter Christians with different beliefs? What to you would be a different belief?

15.    to be compared to the previous worker that was on your field?

16.    to make friends with nationals? How?

17.    to share Christ with someone? How do you imagine doing this?

18.    to be challenged spiritually? What is one area of your life you would like to be challenged?

19.    that God will change your life forever? What steps do you plan to take to make that happen?

20.    to be understood by friends and family when you return? How will you react if this doesn’t happen?

Video Journal 1 – April 22 “So, why are you going to Europe?”

Welcome to the first video journal! Hopefully, this is one of many to come. I plan on sending out video journals as often as I can throughout the trip, as well as variety of other information. I’d like you to see first hand what I am doing so that you can have a visual idea of what’s going on, who I meet, what I experience, what I’m learning, etc… Maybe I’m just a visual person, but I really feel that a picture is worth a thousand words. and you really don’t want me writing a thousand words. I struggle with basic vocabulary as it is.

So I’m hoping to keep these short and to the point. This first one summarizes how in the world I got to where I am right now and why I’m doing this– what my purpose is.

Questions? just ask. I probably have just as many!