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The drive to the Nashville Rescue Mission seemed to take forever. As the pastor drove, Arlene sat quietly in thought, her mind filled with fear and uncertainty, asking herself, “How did I get here?”
Arlene describes herself as the “black sheep of the family” and was often told she would never amount to anything. “Growing up, I never felt loved. I never felt like I belonged. Sometimes I wished I was someone else,” she says.
20 Years of Abuse
It’s not surprising under these unfortunate circumstances, Arlene sought love in all of the wrong places, leading her into a 20-year abusive relationship. “I thought he loved me,” shares Arlene. “I had no idea what love was.”
“My life was in shambles. I was sad. I was hurt. I started drinking to numb the pain,” says Arlene. “As things got worse, I turned to cocaine. I couldn’t hold a job. I kept trying to quit, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t like myself. I thought God was punishing me. I felt like a failure.”
With no hope, Arlene attempted suicide several times. Filled with rage and anger, Arlene eventually decided she would kill her abuser, as well as herself. She took her kids to her mom’s house. She bought some gasoline and some matches with the intention of ending the 20 years of pain she had suffered.
God Whispered Her Name
“I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live. I heard someone call my name and tell me I didn’t have to do it,” says Arlene. “But no one was there. A few seconds later, the phone rang. I was so startled and in shock I answered it.”
On the other end of the line was a pastor whom Arlene had known for many years. In fact, Arlene recalls cursing him many times in the past. Yet he was always consistent in demonstrating love and compassion towards her. The pastor said to her, “God placed you on my heart today. Are you okay?”
Arlene was speechless. This “angel of God” told her she didn’t have to live this way, and things could be better for her. He told her about the Nashville Rescue Mission and offered to drive her to Nashville.
The Journey Begins
Once Arlene got up the nerve, she decided to give it a try. Leaving her seven children with her family, Arlene packed up her things and started on the journey that would forever change her life.
“When I arrived at the Mission’s Hope Center,” says Arlene, “I was told I needed a relationship with God if I wanted to turn my life around.” But her view of God was greatly distorted. Arlene felt God was punishing her, and she never believed she would be good enough. Her counselor tried to show her through the words of the Bible that God loved her and truly cared about her. “I was stubborn,” says Arlene. “I wasn’t buying it. In fact, I became even more determined to prove to my counselor that she was wrong.”
“I was resistant. I was so used to being looked down on and made fun of, I had a difficult time being honest with myself, much less my counselor,” shares Arlene. “But over time, I began to see that everyone truly cared about me and loved me.”
“The most beautiful thing to me was their expression of love,” says Arlene when talking about the staff at the Hope Center. “I was also greatly encouraged and inspired by the volunteers and how they would bring genuine love, hope, care and concern for us.”
Love Changes Hearts
These acts of love and kindness began to crumble the wall that Arlene had built around herself. “My counselor shared a verse with me out of Hebrews, chapter 11 that changed my life,” says Arlene. “It says, ‘He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.’ I started seeking Him with my full heart. Once I did, He changed me and my heart.”
In Romans 8:1, Arlene found her new identity in Christ, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
“I asked God to forgive me. I began to pray He would help me love the way He loves and He would help me to see myself the way He sees me,” she shares. “The more time I spent with God, the easier it became to tell Satan no.”
A Life Worth Living
After graduating the life-recovery program, Arlene thought she would be heading back home, but God had different plans for her. “He changed my desires,” says Arlene. “Instead of asking ‘why me?’ I began saying ‘please use me.’”
“God is using me!” exclaims Arlene. “My life is now worth living.”
This month Arlene will be celebrating three years on staff at the Nashville Rescue Mission. She has filled numerous roles such as Counselor, Case Manager and now Resident Advocate. “I love these ladies and since I was once in their shoes, I can relate to them. I love working here. I can’t see myself doing anything else.”
“God has healed me,” shares Arlene. “I used to hate my abuser. Today, I can pray for him. Instead of hate, I now have compassion.”
As a faithful supporter of the Nashville Rescue Mission, know your gifts are making a difference.