Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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Meet the Women of SPA

Dannah Gresh: Destiny understands firsthand the wounds that can come from living in a broken family.

Destiny: When I moved back in with my mother, she didn’t really care about much of anything because she was too high or too drunk to care, so I started running around with guys. One day my boyfriend said, “Do you want to try this?”

Dannah: Today we’ll hear how Destiny and others broke free from the cycle, through Jesus. And a word to parents: if you have little ears listening nearby, you might want to keep them busy elsewhere. 

This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Lies Women Believe and the Truth That Sets Them Free, for August 17, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh.

This month we’re considering stories of redemption. We looked at the life of Rahab, a woman with a past, who chose to follow the God she’d heard about. This week we’re fast-forwarding about three thousand years, and we’ll be hearing from women in our own day—women who will readily tell you about the fresh start they’ve been given! Nancy?

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: I never, ever get tired of hearing stories about God’s redeeming, transforming power! We’re going to get to hear some of those today. Now, each of us has our own story. No two individuals are exactly alike, but each child of God, each believer in Jesus, also has a story that is similar to that of every other Christian.

All of us start out in this life as sinful human beings desperately in need of a Savior. And then, even though the details may vary from person to person, the Spirit of God wakes us up to see our needy sinful condition, and then He points us to the wonder of who Jesus is—the One Who came to this earth, lived a sinless life, and died the death that we deserved, in our place. Then He was raised from the grave and ascended to heaven, where He lives to intercede for us. 

The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of repentance, the willingness to turn from our sin, and faith, the willingness to place our trust completely in Jesus. That’s what we call the gospel—the Good News!

It’s always such a joy to hear the journey that God has brought others on to bring them to that same place of repentance and faith in Jesus. A few years back I first heard about a ministry that serves hurting women here in our local community.

A group of ladies showed up at a Revive Our Hearts recording session. When we asked the women to introduce themselves, they told us that they were from The SPA Women’s Ministry Home. Now, I think that’s a brilliant name for a ministry, right? Who wouldn’t want to be ministered to at The SPA?!

As it turns out, SPA is an acronym for Spiritual Personal Adjustment.

This ministry reaches out to women who have struggled through abuse, addictions, you name it. They offer biblical counseling and practical help teaching the ladies important life skills. They give them a safe community of friends and relationships and, best of all, they give these women the Word of God.

Recently, several of the women from the SPA ministry in Elkhart, Indiana joined us for a chapel service here at the Revive Our Hearts headquarters. I think you’ll be encouraged!

Carrie: I want to share a little bit about SPA Women’s Ministry Homes and introduce this ministry to you, but most importantly I look forward to you having the chance to hear our ladies’ testimonies. I really want to introduce you to Christ in a new way through their stories, and just how God is working in their lives.

Our first graduate, Mary Russell, is here today. She graduated almost twenty years ago and continues to be just such an important part of this ministry. I’m going to turn this over to her and she’s going to share a little bit about her journey and what God has been doing in her life . . . and still is doing!

Mary Russell: Thank you, Carrie, thank you. I thank God that I’m alive, for His grace and His mercy, because for almost twenty-six years of my life I was in drugs; I was in alcohol; I took pills. I grew up in a family of ten. My mother was an awesome mother, a hard-working woman, and my dad was a very abusive alcoholic—emotionally and physically.

I just thank God for His grace and mercy today because, first of all, I’m alive after growing up feeling rejected, feeling abandoned. I loved my mother, but we raised ourselves, even growing up in fear, because we never knew when our dad was going to come into our bedrooms.

I did not know that a praying mother such as my mother was . . . She didn’t know everything that was going on in the house while she was gone, but God’s grace and His mercy was upon us.

So I grew up not knowing who I was. We didn’t go to church very often, but when my mother didn’t work, we went to church. There was something about going to church and just being in that presence, that I felt that I didn’t even really know what that was. I just knew I liked being there! It was just something about being in the house of God, even at a young age.

As I grew up, I started looking for love in all the wrong places. I had no direction. I didn’t know who I was, so at fifteen I got pregnant. I was a baby just having a baby. I did not know anything, really! So, therefore, at the church that I was going to I felt more rejected. That was the beginning of when I left God’s people, when I should have been staying. 

I just didn’t understand. So after that fifteen years of my life having known a little bit about God but not really, I went to a group of people that accepted me. They said it was okay that you’re pregnant, you’re having a baby. So I stopped school.

I’d been drinking. I drank some, but I stopped long enough to have my child. I went and got a job because that’s what you do. The father was not a part of my children’s lives. But God still was with me. I didn’t realize that then, but I do now today, that God was with me. I ended up getting up with the wrong group of people; I started getting in trouble.

After I had my child, I started drinking more, started drugging more, and then the next thing you know I was dancing in the nightclubs, because I had no other source of income. And then I had another friend, before I ever left there, that was in the street life. So I kind of had an introduction to that kind of life.

One thing led to another. The first charge I had was forgery. The drugs increased, so I started stealing, lying, breaking and entering, selling drugs, doing whatever it took to try to feed that monster. I started going to jail several times. The judge didn’t know what to do with me.

I’d been to about ten treatment centers, because even they saw something that I didn’t see or I didn’t know, because I didn’t even think I had a problem! I’m going to tell you, that’s how being in a vicious cycle . . . That’s the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting different results. I was there. I lived there.

There were several times they called my mother because I had overdosed. Thank God for His grace! I was able to get back up, went right back out there doing the same thing. Then I got pregnant again. I was in the rehab hospital for about six months during one of my pregnancies because the doctor was afraid I was going to use.

And he was right, I would have, especially with my last son, because I didn’t even know that I was pregnant! I felt hopeless; I thought I’d never be or do anything, like my dad used to say when I was younger. He just said a lot of mean things, a lot of by-words. I thank God, though, the last ten years of his life he got saved, he got delivered! I thank God for that!

I thank God that I was able even to forgive him, because unforgiveness and bitterness kept me in a vicious cycle. I kept asking myself, “Why do I keep going back out, using?” I had unforgiveness in my heart, I had anger in my heart. And God, He just kept trying to get my attention.

All those times I went to jail, I didn’t realize God was saving me from myself. I didn’t realize that He was answering my mother’s prayers! She would tell her friends, “I sleep so well when I know that she’s in jail!”—because I wasn’t out on the streets. I’ve been shot; I’ve been stabbed. I thank God for His goodness and His faithfulness and that He loved me so much!

So this last time that I went to jail—twenty-one years ago, in Michigan of all places, too! I said, “I’ll never come back to Michigan.I’ll never do nothing wrong in Michigan!” I tell my girls, tell my ladies all the time, “Nobody do nothing wrong in Michigan!” But I thank God that He showed up and He met me there!

I cried out to God and said, “God, I been twenty-something years. I can’t continue to live like this!” When I cried out to God to help me twenty years ago, He did. All those things that were hidden in my heart, God delivered me! I learned what God’s will and plan and purpose for my life was. And I thank God that I’m still able to be a part, to walk alongside ladies . . . to bring hope, to bring encouragement, to point to Him, because He is the Truth; He is the Light; He is the Only Way. I found freedom in Christ!

Brittany: I was the newest SPA girl until yesterday, when we got a new girl. I’ve only been there three weeks. I’m a very nervous person, so bear with me. My name is Brittany, and I am thirty-one years old. I have made my life difficult for too many years. Just recently, I figured that out. I’ve been an addict since the age of thirteen, getting in trouble with the law at fourteen. 

I struggled with sexual abuse from eight to ten; I started using alcohol and marijuana to ease the pain of being molested and to fit in with the in-crowd, or whatever that is. I’ve chased the high into some pretty sketching situations throughout my life, from making and dealing drugs to being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

I’ve been shot at; I’ve been threatened; I’ve been hit. My own mom doubted I’d live to see my twenty-first birthday. I tormented my mother, not on purpose, but with addiction, anger, and unknown mental health issues. I was a very aggressive and angry soul!

In November 2013, me and my ex-boyfriend, Chris, were in an hour-and-a-half police chase which ended with Chris losing his life. For a long time I blamed myself, and would continue to use when I would get out of jail and prison to ease the pain of the loss—when all it did was mask the pain. That didn’t help at all.

I only tend to get into trouble when drugs are involved. I recently found a place in my heart where I am ready to heal and grow and finally show that I know which path to take. It took a complete change of heart on my part to even be where I am today. (I’m going to take a pause from that.) 

My mom tried to get me in the SPA years ago, and I was like, “I can’t do that! I can’t live a life of just Christianity! Like, I can’t listen to my own music! I gotta listen to Christian music!” 

But God opened my eyes, and I saw the SPA women’s ministries as a path I needed to take and finally be able to live. I am blessed by the opportunity to be in the amazing program and change my life for good.

I got this little book when I was in prison, and it’s called Touch Points for Women (Gift Edition), and God put on my heart last night that I need to share this little part. It says, 

Timing of God: Many times God will intervene in your life in a special way, as He has done throughout history. Watch for those times and then praise God that you can play a part—even if it is a small one—in the movement of God in this world.

It was just like that was meant to be. I’m shaking, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here and share my testimony. This is the first time I’ve shared it. I’ll turn it over to the next person! (applause and cheers from SPA ladies)

Destiny: Good morning, my name is Destiny. I’m doing two things a little differently this morning: one, I actually wrote out my testimony (usually I just wing it) and two, I’m wearing shoes! (laughter)

I was raised in the church from the time I was old enough to walk. My grandma would drag us from church to church Sunday morning, Sunday nights, Wednesday Bible study. Both my parents were alcoholics and were in and out of my brother’s and my lives.

I remember one time we lived with my parents in Kentucky. My dad came home from work, and he was already drunk before he even got home. His dinner wasn’t hot, and so he started screaming at my mom. Then he punched her so hard in the face that he split her nose in two and blood splattered all over the living room wall.

I’d seen an Indian spear we had for decoration, and I grabbed it out of fear he was going to hit her again. I grabbed it and stabbed my dad with it right in the shoulder. That was just one of the many things we had to go through. So my grandparents pretty much raised us.

My grandma was a pastor, and she worked full time. While she worked we stayed home with my grandfather, which at the time (my grandmother didn’t know) while she was at work, my grandfather was abusing me and my brother and my younger cousins. 

My brother had MMR (that is Mild Mental Retardation) so, needless to say, he was very slow in thinking. My brother was also younger than me, so I felt the need to protect him. When he would do something wrong, I would blame myself. Instead of my grandmother and my aunt beating on my brother, they would beat on me instead. 

I would get so tired of the physical abuse so I would try to escape by going to stay the night with my cousin at my aunt and my uncle’s house. But when I would go there, my uncle would sexually abuse me when my aunt went to sleep. I would try my hardest to be asleep and not get out of bed at all after my aunt was in bed.

When I was about twelve years old, me and my brother were playing in the alley behind my grandparents’ house. I watched my neighbor walk back and forth, talking to himself for a few minutes. Then he decided to pull out a gun, load it, put it to his head and then take his own life—right in front of me and my brother.

After several failed attempts of me and my brother trying to run away, my grandma took it as I was just trying to be rebellious. She couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to be there, and she separated me and my baby brother and sent me to my dad’s to live.

Leaving my baby brother behind in the house with the monsters, I was devastated! I felt like I had abandoned him. I was determined to get back with my brother. After several months of my dad’s anger, alcoholism and excessive drug use, he didn’t want the responsibility of a child anymore, so he decided to finally give me back to my mom.

Well, my mom was also an alcoholic, and she would pretty much do any drug that came her way, in a certain sense. I think she was trying to mask her pain because of the abuse she had dealt with from my father for sixteen years. When I moved back in with my mother, she didn’t really care about much of anything, because she was too high or too drunk to care.

I started running around with guys and, one day, my boyfriend said, “Do you want to try this?” And I said “yes” just to fit in. That was my first time smoking meth. It all went downhill after that. From the time I was fifteen to sixteen, I started smoking meth every day. Then one day at my friend’s house, I met a new drug dealer/my new boyfriend.

About one year after dating him I found out I was pregnant with my first child. So that day I stopped smoking meth until my daughter was about eleven months old. Then I was going through a divorce, and then my ex-husband got custody of my daughter, and I started smoking meth again every day.

Three kids and two marriages later, I got into some legal issues and I got sentenced to two years.But while I was in jail, about three months in, my husband of nine years decided to get some other woman pregnant, and he divorced me. When I got out of prison, he decided I wasn’t fit to take care of my son (which he was right) so he took him from me. 

I felt like my life had no purpose, so I wanted to end it, and I picked up a needle for the first time. That was the devil for me, because I started shooting up nine grams of meth a day. One day I found myself so sick that I couldn’t even lift my head. What I didn’t know was, my liver was failing and I was dying, so I spent the next few weeks in the hospital.

They told me if I didn’t get a liver transplant immediately and stop using drugs I’d die. So my mom got in touch with the prayer warriors and had over three thousand people praying for me. I came home without a transplant and continued to do more drugs. Then, in 2016 I decided to stop going to probation and got with a very abusive boyfriend.

He stalked me and beat me and my friends that I would go around with. Until one day he said he wanted to bury me, and he wanted my tooth as a souvenir. Then I got arrested, which was the best thing that could have ever happened to me! While I was in jail I felt like I had hit rock bottom and couldn’t go any lower.

So I finally got on my knees and cried out to God and asked Him to be with me and help me and guide me. And here it is now, two-and-a-half years later. I have had a great relationship with God. I have two out of three of my children back; I’ve been sober for two-and-a-half years. I have my own car, a good job, an amazing husband, five beautiful step-children, my own home.

I’ve never felt better, and I’m in perfect health! Thanks to God, I’m walking in the Light and living a great life. So God gave me the life, and the God-loving family I want. He has given me many blessings! I can’t thank Him enough for my health, my sobriety, my family and my life . . . and the SPA.

Since I’ve been at the SPA, I have realized that you can have fun being sober! They are my extended family. They’re wonderful, beautiful people, and they have helped me make my relationship to God a lot closer. (applause)

Nancy: Wow! Isn’t it encouraging to hear what God has done in the lives of these women? In case you joined us in the middle of our program today, we’ve been listening to some of the women from SPA Women’s Ministry Home. SPA stands for Spiritual Personal Adjustment.

You know, I’m thinking today about what the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 where he says, 

Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers [none of these] will inherit the kingdom of God.

You might be thinking, That’s not a very encouraging verse to read! That’s a whole bunch of negative labels. But listen to what Paul goes on to say: 

And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (v. 11).

Praise God for the work of transformation that He has done in each of our lives! That verse isn’t just for drug addicts or prostitutes. It’s also for someone who may be trying to be a perfect mom, or a social media maven, or maybe someone looking for identity in their church position.

Our true identity is defined by our relationship with Jesus, not others, and not by what we may have done in the past. And these sweet women from the SPA Women’s Ministry Homes are no exception!

Dannah: That’s exactly right! Anyone who has placed his or her faith in Jesus Christ can give testimony. I think of the slave-trading ship captain who was saved by God’s grace and became a pastor and songwriter, John Newton. 

He wrote these words: 

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.

Redemption is a theme that runs through the whole Bible, including in the life of the Old Testament character, Rahab.

Like John Newton, like the women of SPA Women’s Ministry Women’s Home, Rahab had done things in her past she regretted. But God still saved her from destruction. All this month we’re letting you know about the newest installment in our Women of the Bible studies produced by Revive Our Hearts: Rahab, Tracing the Thread of Redemption.

I really think it’s perfect for your next small group study, or it’s a good tool if you need something to work through on your own. There’s a six-part Women of the Bible podcast that goes along with the study, too. When you contact us to support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts with a donation of any amount, we’ll send you a copy of the new study on Rahab.

To give your gift, head on over to ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. Now I just quoted from the well-known hymn, “Amazing Grace.” Tomorrow you’ll hear a beautiful and surprising way that God used the words of that very hymn to work in the life of a young lady named Brooke. I’m Dannah Gresh, saying, “Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.”

Reminding you that everyone can be reached, even me! Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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