We were Victims

Posted by Union Gospel Mission Feb 1, 2014 7:00:14 AM

You showed us the love and power of the gospel. You broke the cycle.


“I used to be one of those teenagers who just didn’t care about anything. I went out and did bad things, and I hated everyone. On top of that, I used to think that no one loved me and that no one ever would. I mean, my dad basically abandoned me…I was in a deep, dark place and had no idea how to get out.” – Ashley, 17

Chris - We Were Victims

Ashley’s dad, Chris Kent, disappeared from her life when she was little. “When I was using drugs, that’s what was important to me. My daughter wasn’t important, and she knew that.”

You have probably read the research – men and women who were abandoned, abused and neglected as children are more likely to abandon, abuse and neglect their own children. Victims grow up to be perpetrators. The wounded wound others. Unless. Unless the cycle is broken.

The majority of the men and women who come through the doors of the Union Gospel Mission suffer from the adverse effects of childhood trauma. Many of them have children whom they have drawn into that same trauma.

 Chris and Ashley

Ashley’s dad, Chris, had been out of her life for almost a decade when he entered UGM’s LIFE Recovery program. “I was so unhealthy that I was destroying the lives of everyone else around me.” He intentionally tried to stay away from his young daughter so that she wouldn’t be impacted by his drug use, but his absence had its own impact.

Five years ago, Chris quit using and started the hard work of turning his life in a new direction. Part of that work was facing the pain he had caused his daughter who was, by that time, making bad choices of her own. A teenager, she was behind in school, rebelling and dabbling in the occult.

“I didn’t feel I had the right to tell her what to do or give her advice…or even to be her dad,” Chris said. Still, he reached out. He apologized. He let her know he cared, and he invited her into relationship. “There was a lot of resentment. She didn’t know if she could trust me.”

Ashley and Chris - Love and Power of the GospelAshley decided to take her dad up on the offer to go with him to family church camp. It wasn’t that she was excited about camp or interested in God, she said, she just wanted her dad to pay for her. He had never given her anything, so now she was going to get what she could.

“I was determined not to like the experience,” she said, but she looked around and saw people who were happy, people who had something she wanted. A crack opened.

“That doubt I had welling up inside me – about whether or not my dad was truly changed and if he actually did love me – dissipated…and I knew that my past was no more.” (Read more of Ashley’s story in her own words.)

Christian and her girls

Christian and Kids - AddictionChristian came to the UGM Center for Women & Children directly from jail. “I started using drugs, spiraled out of control, ended up just living in total squalor, losing my kids, hit rock bottom, and then spent two years in and out of jail.” Her two youngest daughters, Caitlin, 15, and Kara, 13, were in foster care for two years and then moved back with their dad. Just recently, they came to live with Christian at the UGM Center. The three of them, all new believers, are getting to know each other again.

“I think this is probably the most stable they’ve ever been,” Christian said. “Where they just feel like every day is going to be OK. Back then, it didn’t matter if I wasn’t using drugs, I was using alcohol or food or…This is the most stable they’ve ever been.”

The stability, the community and the shared hope in Christ are bringing healing. “Love is the foundation,” Christian said. “It’s breaking the cycle.”

Heather and her children

Heather and Children - AddictionHeather woke up one day and realized she was exactly like her mom – an addict, in and out of jail, separated from her children. How could this be happening? She had sworn never to be anything like her mother…and yet, she realized, she had no idea how to be anything else.

Heather also came to the UGM Center for Women & Children from jail last July.  Since that time, she has regained custody of her children and is learning how to be a mom to Sierra, 9, Arianna, 8, Kayley, 5, and Randy, 4. Part of that learning process is assisting the children in their own recovery.

Sierra, Heather explained, is getting the chance to be a kid. “She was very ‘parentified.’ She has a mom soul,” and as the oldest, she had stepped in to care for her sisters and brother. “She wanted to love and nurture them, but she also wanted to boss them around. We had a lot of battles at first about who was going to be the mom.”

Even before they were separated, Heather explained, “I smoked a lot of pot. I didn’t care about cleaning or anything like that. I didn’t play with them. I didn’t interact with them really. I just…wasn’t a mom. Sierra was. Sierra stepped up for all that.”

During one battle, Arianna told Heather straight up: “You’re not going to be able to handle us; you should just give us back.”

Kayley demonstrated her anger in very physical ways during her early months at the Center: “hitting and kicking and biting and pinching and scratching and saying very, very mean things.”  But what used to be a daily occurrence hasn’t happened in well over a month.

Randy wouldn’t show any affection toward Heather when he first arrived. “He wouldn’t give me a kiss for almost two months, butHeather - Powerful God when he finally did, he kissed me over and over and over again.

Make no mistake; Heather still has her work cut out for her, but she said what’s healing her kids is “seeing a healthy, happy me…And Jesus.

“Sometimes we’ll have quiet conversations about how they felt about things and stuff, and those are the moments that I feel closest to them because then I can apologize and they really know I’m listening and not just waving them off or brushing it to the side.

“It’s hard, I’m not gonna lie. It was overwhelming at first, but this is my purpose. My purpose is to be a mother for my kids right now.”

In his book Storyline, Donald Miller writes: “The most dangerous person in the world is a person who does not understand how powerful God made them to be. These people recklessly destroy because they think they’re invisible and they don’t matter, but the sad and happy truth is they do matter. They matter to everyone around them.”

Your involvement with UGM is helping to restore families in such a way that each member has a sense of his or her value in the eyes of God. And when people understand how much they matter, that the world needs their contribution, the cycle of victim turned perpetrator is broken.

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Topics: Youth Outreach, Restoration, healing, women, family, children, staff, featured, Men, family breakdown, Isaiah 61:3, reaching the poor, redeemed

Click here to see all articles for the February 2014 issue.


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