Oregon Stories: I am no longer afraid of loving God

Story provided by Portland Rescue Mission

A few years ago, Erin was completely broken. She had been clean and sober for a while, but her soul was mortally wounded. She still thought like an addict, felt like an addict, and lived like an addict. She knew that any small stress in her life would tip her towards relapse. “I didn’t know how to live normally. I was scared I would go backward, but I didn’t know how to move forward.”  A decade earlier, Erin was struggling to support her three children. When life got too difficult, she turned to methamphetamine. She lost her job, her apartment, and her two older sons when their father took them away.

After that, Erin had to make ends meet for her and her daughter, Kyla. Erin would “hustle, steal, rob, whatever I had to do.” That lifestyle barely paid the bills, and it molded Kyla into a fearful, insecure child. After years of this perpetual brokenness, Erin and Kyla moved to a shelter—and just in time.

Just after they arrived, Erin was shocked to learn that she was pregnant—seven months pregnant. Because she’d been on drugs for years, her body didn’t show any normal signs. Eight pounds and 11 ounces later, miraculously healthy baby Nevaeh was born. This child had been spared from the effects of Erin’s drug use.

That’s when Erin came to Shepherd’s Door, our women and children’s ministry center, and made an earnest plea. She admitted she didn’t deserve assistance from anyone—she could never earn back the time she’d lost in addiction. But Erin had a baby and a 9-year-old who Putting Recovery to Workneeded her. She wanted to live. And she needed more than sobriety. She came to us looking for hope.

That first day, Erin walked down the hall at Shepherd’s Door to a room with two beds and a crib, and she knew she was home. Kyla says, “My mom started to change, and people here were being nice to us.” Kyla witnessed Erin’s healing from years of childhood trauma and abuse, and she got her own childhood back. Through diligent counseling, Erin was able to talk about growing up in the shadows of her siblings, escaping her abusive stepfather, and believing God was scary and legalistic.

“I assumed I was going to hell. I walked in that identity to the best of my ability.” Erin’s childhood years had shaped her entire life. From the very beginning, she’d counted herself as second place, and she didn’t know that she was a loved and cherished child of God. Drugs eased that pain. At Shepherd’s Door, with trusting counselors and lots of prayer, Erin painfully confronted those memories.

But the story doesn’t end there. After Erin graduated from New Life Recovery Ministry in March 2010, she began serving as a Children’s Center Assistant GRAD, working with infants, toddlers and pre-K children at Shepherd’s Door. She’s helped with billing and staffing, and she continues to see her daughters grow in this nurturing environment every day.

The work has stretched her in completely new ways. “When I was a resident, I had to focus on myself. Now I get to serve others.” Staff and volunteers see Erin’s progress every day at Shepherd’s Door, and she constantly reminds them of God’s grace and redemption.

Erin hopes to start work soon in case management for teens with addictions. She has an apartment for her family where, as Kyla puts it, “Mommy cooks really good.” Aside from feeding her family, Erin cherishes her daughters’ childhoods and seeks the Lord’s direction for their lives.

The brand-new Erin, confident Kyla and energetic Nevaeh are a strong family. They rely on God as they lean on one another, and they look forward to the promises He fulfills, each and every day.

Portland Rescue Mission has  a tireless commitment to breaking the cycle of homelessness.

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