By Vernon Hills
At just 5 years old, Marissa remembers fighting off one of her mother’s boyfriends, who was aiming a shotgun at her mother’s head.
Her alcoholic mom was so consumed with parties and boyfriends – Marissa was used to fending for herself.
She next remembers her grandparents picking her up at the airport, and thinking, ”My mom kept my brother and sent me away.”
A few years later Marissa’s heart took another blow when her grandfather became ill. Her grandmother was overwhelmed and sent Marissa back to live with her mom and older brother – leaving her surrounded by addiction.
Her sense of abandonment, of not being good enough to keep and love, drove her to begin taking drugs, too – she just wanted to fit in.
Although she graduated high school, got married and had two beautiful children of her own, drugs would eventually steal everything she loved…
“I never in my life felt so alone, surrounded by people.”
She thought her drug use was under control, and only recreational – but the next few years would lead to disaster.
First, her husband went to jail, so she and her children moved in with her mom. Then her uncle died in a horrific accident right in front of their home.
A short time later, Marissa moved out after an argument with her mom. Three weeks later, her mother was found dead.
“That was the beginning of the end,” Marissa says. “I was really, deeply looking for people to love and love me back. But it was all bad, because they were all people who were into drugs.”
Now homeless, Marissa couch-surfed and lived in foreclosed homes with her children.
“I look back and think: ‘how did I live like this? And with my children?’”
Marissa’s wake-up call came when she was arrested and lost custody of her kids. At first, it wasn’t enough to keep her sober.
“I found that addiction can be stronger than a mother’s love,” she says, with tears in her eyes.
But then she decided she could not lose her family for drugs, again. “I knew I needed help.”
That’s when she called Shepherd’s Gate.
You provided HOPE for their future!
When Marissa first came to Shepherd’s Gate, she thought she would immediately be reunited with her kids. But it would be months before she regained custody. Marissa was heartbroken but motivated to work hard, so she could be ready for her kids when they came to Shepherd’s Gate.
This summer was so meaningful to Marissa and her kids. After learning about Jesus at Shepherd’s Gate, Marissa and her kids were baptized together and reunited as a family. “This Christmas will be the best one we’ve ever had!”
She is so grateful for people like you: “This place is an amazing gift of God — everything they give, from the roof over my head, to the food, to the God-centered staff — it’s the perfect place to pick up the pieces of your life.”
Thank you for caring about women like Marissa!
You’re making a lifelong difference in her life — and in the lives of her precious children.