“As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35
Kristin Evans didn’t do middle ground. When she was in, she was all in. Growing up, she was deeply involved in a church: ministries, mission trips, retreats.
What most people didn’t know was that her mom struggled with addiction, and their chaotic home life was a stark contrast to their Sunday morning one. The inconsistency was confusing for Kristin as a child, and when the brokenness in their home finally came to light, the church shunned the family instead of helping them.
“So I just completely went the other way, because I just didn’t understand.”
She started experimenting with drugs about age 13 and plunged quickly into addiction. “I never really knew how to dabble. It kind of went from zero to 100 no matter what the substance was.”
Kristin became the mother of two children, but her addictions repeatedly got in the way of her relationship with them. She could often hold a job, but still occasionally she was homeless: couch surfing, or living out of her car, or even just walking up and down the streets. She went through multiple treatment centers, but she never could stay clean for long.
Somewhere along the way, Kristin heard about Anna Ogden Hall, but she was put off by the length of the recovery program and the fact that it was Christ-centered. “I had never done anything faith-based. I spent a lot of years mad at God” because of what had happened in her old church.
Kristin eventually got burned out trying to juggle her addiction, work, and life on her own. When her daughter was taken away again, “I just kind of threw my hands up.” Nothing was working, and she no longer wanted to live unless life could be different. “I had to completely come to the end of myself and realized that had I done this program four years ago when I first looked into it, I would have been done two years ago.”
When she found out she was accepted into the LIFE Recovery Program, Kristin was finally ready to listen. “If there is a God, this is Him,” she said to herself. “I just kind of dropped my whole life and went to the shelter.”
She stayed at the Crisis Shelter for a few weeks before she could move into Anna Ogden Hall. In chapel, Kristin finally saw past her anger and met the true God who loved her to the uttermost. “I was overwhelmed with emotion and I just haven’t looked back since. He’s changed my life. I love the Lord because I know I wouldn’t be sitting here today without him.”
That moment in chapel started a new life for Kristin.
“I just had this moment of clarity, I guess I would call it. And I just knew that life could be better than it has been. And since then, you know, I dove into the Word, just trying to learn who God really is, and this place has helped me so much with that. Because of my upbringing, I was so skeptical. I didn't know what to think about this God. With all of our classes here and the staff and the volunteers, they've just really wrapped around each and every one of us individually, you know. They've met us where we're at and just helped us, helped me, learn who He really is.”
Kristin came to love her beginning Bible study class, taught by Phil Altmeyer. “Pretty much all of us were skeptical….but he always had an answer to any of our questions, and if he didn’t have an answer, he came back the next week with an answer. It really helped me learn who God is.”
Kristin has learned a lot through the program about how God designed her to live, from confidence in her identity in Christ to the practical parenting skills she needed to be a good mom.
But the hardest part of the program was she had to find a home church to get involved in. Past hurts made her hesitant. “I was scared, so I bounced from church to church to church.”
“And then I went to Christ the Redeemer. And they loved me.”
What did love look like? Full acceptance and integrity. “They meet me where I’m at. They know my background. They know that I’m at Anna Ogden Hall, and they go above and beyond what I need. They find out what I need, to wrap around me and help me. … They’re consistent and authentic, and I can relate with them. They don’t pretend to be perfect when they’re at church and be something completely different when they’re not at church.”
Kristin has been getting more and more involved in the church, participating in small groups and recently going to their women’s retreat, where she practiced praying her favorite scripture: Psalm 139. “His hand will hold me fast. No matter how high and low, his love is there and I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Through her mentor, her church friends, and the staff and sisters in the recovery program, Kristin is experiencing what God created the church to be: A family that brings Him glory by loving each other. That reality is slowly erasing the resentment and broken trust from what she suffered early in life.
In fact, Kristin sees God redeeming those wounds by allowing her story to minister to others. When she spoke recently at the UGM Auxiliary, she was amazed when people came up to thank her for encouraging them with her story.
“I’ve learned that whatever I’ve been through is being used to glorify Him. … I’ve been through a lot, but I really feel like God’s going to use it to help other people.”
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