Growing up in church, Jennifer knew the power of Easter. She knew that because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, grace, transformation and forgiveness were offered to all who would accept them.
So when life spiraled out of control and her decisions cost her the custody of her children, she knew there was a way back. Like so many prodigals before her, Jesus promised to forgive and welcome her back home, if she returned.
What she wasn’t so sure of was if her own son, Jace, would do the same.
When the Department of Child Safety (DCS) showed up at her door, Jennifer knew firsthand the terror and confusion her children were about to go through. She had lived it. When she was two years old, she too had been removed from her parents’ custody. Other than a short-lived, abusive, reuniting with her mother when she was five, Jennifer stayed in the foster care system and never returned to her birth parents.
It was a past she did her best to put behind her. She settled down, found a place of her own, had a son, and in 2010, she was hired on here at Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Changing Lives Center.
“I knew this place was being built and I thought to myself, that would be a cool place to work. I’m a Christian, I love Jesus, so I got a job here before any women moved in. I was working in the day care center, to help set it up.”
Then everything went sideways. After so many years of being suppressed, the scars of her past suddenly welled up inside and refused to stay hidden any longer.
“One day I just broke. I couldn’t mask those years and years of trauma anymore. I became clinically depressed. Then a friend introduced me to meth. It made me a different person. I was suddenly outgoing. I had energy. I loved it. I thought I could do everything. I thought I was a super mom… which was not the case, but that’s the way it was in my head. My son was three years old at the time.”
Not even her oldest son Jace noticed anything wrong, until DCS showed up at their door.
“I remember getting taken away to a facility,” says Jace. “I waited there for hours. Then a random family walked in, took me and put me in their car. I didn’t really know what was happening.”
It was a traumatic night for Jennifer on multiple levels.
“Growing up in foster care, you always tell yourself you’ll never let your kids go through that.”
Thankfully, Jennifer not only knew she needed help, she knew exactly where to find it.
“I should have come a lot sooner, but I was embarrassed to come back as a guest after being an employee. But that was just my pride. I thought I was going to come here and they were going to give my kids back to me right away. I was very wrong. It took a lot of work.”
Thanks to the support of friends like you, Jennifer was able to work through the trauma of her past, find the root, surrender it and put it behind her once and for all. Back on her feet, she found freedom from her addiction, graduated from our recovery program, and earned custody of her two kids, Jace and Jedidiah, nine months after she arrived.
“It was amazing to get them back. I’ll never forget that day. I know in my heart, from that moment on, I could never turn back. I can’t. Just looking at their faces, knowing what I put them through, I could never do that again.”
But just because Jennifer had changed, didn’t mean it was smooth sailing between her and her boys.
“When I got back, at first, I really didn’t want to talk to my mom,” Jace admits. “She wasn’t there and I thought that she left on purpose. I thought she wanted those people to take me. I thought she didn’t want me anymore, that she gave me away to someone else. It was hard to talk to her.”
But your support of our Changing Lives Center for Women and Children gave this broken family time to heal, time for God to mend the fractures and allow his Son to work in the hearts of Jennifer’s boys.
“God gave me the strength to forgive,” Jace says through tears. “I learned here that I could forgive because I was forgiven for my sins and I could forgive other people.”
That’s the power of Easter. Today, Jennifer has her own place once again and her two boys are thriving. She’s even rejoined the staff here as part of our R.A.P. (Rescue, Assess, Place) intake program team to help other families find the same kind of hope and healing.
“My favorite thing about working here is watching that transformation happen before your eyes. I’ve only been here for three months, but even in that short time, their faces change, their demeanor changes, their attitudes change."
"I gave a walking tour to a woman the other day and we came to the chapel and she says, ‘I don’t believe in God and I will not believe in God.’ She was really angry. Three weeks later she tells me, ‘I prayed in class today!’”
As we celebrate the gift that keeps on giving this Easter, thank you for the prayers and the financial support that continues to pass it on to those who need it most. On behalf of all of us, we wish you a very blessed and safe Easter celebration!