“It’s almost over,” Taryn told herself. She had driven this route between Phoenix and El Paso dozens of times before, but she had never carried this much over state lines. She was nervous. It was early morning when she pulled up to the drop-off location in the desert outside of El Paso. A group of men were waiting for her. As she had done several times before, Taryn got out and walked over to hand them the keys to her car. But instead of giving her a new set of keys for the drive home, one of them pulled out a gun and pressed it against her head. “He told me he didn’t want the car. This had never happened … I was terrified, I thought I was going to die! But then he walked me backwards to my car and told me to leave.”
Taryn headed back to Phoenix, shaken. But what terrified her more than what just happened was what was going to happen when she returned in the vehicle she left with. Not knowing what else to do, she cried out to God for a way out. Not long after, Taryn got an answer to her prayers. Outside of Benson, Arizona, in a car filled with drugs, she looked up to find red and blue flashing lights in her rearview mirror.
Taryn was born on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. Although many of us dream of being surrounded by lush rainforest and white sandy beaches, Taryn’s life has been anything but paradise. Her father was a drug-dealer, a member of a motorcycle gang and an abusive husband. Her mother fled to the mainland, leaving Taryn behind. Through it all she learned to adapt. But when she was 20 years old, life dealt her a blow that she simply couldn’t bear. Her 3-year-old son was taken from her in a fatal car accident. “It was too much,” Taryn admits, wiping away the tears. “After losing him I started numbing myself with cocaine and alcohol to deal with the pain.”
She followed her mother to the mainland in hopes of leaving behind the drugs and reminders of the accident. It worked for a while. She settled down in Phoenix, reunited with her mother, and had two daughters. But when she learned that her daughters were unhappy living in Arizona, she sent them back to live in Kauai at the advice of her grandmother. It was like losing her son all over again. “When they left, I felt like my whole world was gone. I started going out and finding all the wrong places and getting to know all the wrong people. I went back to using again. I got involved in transporting drugs.”
Not long after, life found Taryn pulled over outside of Benson in a car packed with illegal drugs. “I was carrying 82 pounds of methamphetamine and 52 pounds of marijuana when the police pulled me over. I knew at that moment that God was answering my prayers.” Taryn was arrested and was looking at a sentence of 10-15 years in prison. But God intervened a second time. Incredibly, an error in the paperwork submitted at trial reduced Taryn’s sentence to just 8 months!
Nearing the end of her sentence, sitting in jail, Taryn realized that she didn’t know what to do next. She couldn’t return to her apartment and a lifestyle that would get her killed. She reached out to God a second time. “I asked him, ‘What do I do? I need you, I need to find you. Where do I go?’ At that moment, a woman tapped me on the shoulder. She said, ‘If you need God, then you need the Changing Lives Center.’”
Taryn looked us up and sent a letter asking for help. We answered the call. “Tiffany [a graduate of the Phoenix Rescue Mission Women’s Recovery Program] came to visit me. I told her my story. She said that when I got out in July that I would have a bed waiting for me! The day I got out I left everything behind, my apartment, everything I owned, got on a bus and headed for the CLC.”
Thanks to your support, we were able to welcome Taryn with open arms and share with her the love of Christ. Just out of prison, she needed clothes, toiletries and shoes – you lovingly provided. You gave her access to counselors and staff who are trained to address more than just her addiction. They went deeper, to the root of the problem – helping her bring wounds from her childhood and losing her son out of the darkness and lay them at the feet of Jesus.
“This place has changed my life in ways I could never imagine. I realize now that I hardly knew God when I came here. I thought, ‘How was God going to ever forgive a sinful person like me?’ But thanks to the CLC, I’m a new creation in Christ. I’m not the same person I was when I walked in.”
Today, Taryn is a graduate of our recovery program, and has accepted a position in our intake department at the Phoenix Rescue Mission– to share the healing she has found here with the world around her.
“This place has been a blessing. Knowing what God has done in my life, I want to pass on that blessing.”
Thank you for the prayers and support that give men and women like Taryn a chance to find hope, transformation and a new future inside our doors.