5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 4)

Vanessa was born into a broken world on November 3rd, 1989.

She was loved, but she didn’t love herself.

When she was 2, her father died in a motorcycle accident in Southern California.

Her mother was 21 years old with 2 small children, no job, no education and life became chaotic.

Sadness, anger and regret filled their lives, though no one ever talked about it.

Vanessa learned at a very early age to stuff deep hurts and play the part of a happy kid.

She played a lot of make believe, numbing herself to the reality of sadness, loneliness, pain and guilt.

Her other coping skills were eating too much and hurting herself.

Vanessa and her family went to church occasionally but her perception of God was that “He had a lot of rules that, if broken, would send me straight to Hell. The whole thing just wasn’t appealing.”

Her mother met a man and the family moved to Colorado and Vanessa felt like she was starting a new life with a new dad.

Everything seemed perfect until at the age of 10, she was molested by a 40-something-year-old neighbor, but she never told anyone about it, not realizing that anything out of the ordinary happened.

Vanessa’s mom got engaged, Vanessa’s mom got cancer, Vanessa’s mom’s new fiancé could not face the storm and he left.

Once again, Vanessa faced abandonment.

While her mom was getting medical treatment, Vanessa and her sister would stay up all night and began to drink alcohol and smoke marijuana.

They moved back to California and the partying intensified.

When she entered high school her life was spinning out of control though on the surface you would not know.

She was in honor classes with high grades, involved in water polo, swimming, school plays, dance class, journalism, a statistician for wrestling and assisting with school rallies.

Yet getting wasted, smoking weed and stealing prescription drugs became an everyday occurrence.

Vanessa began to sell marijuana and was arrested and had to do community service.

Her sophomore year she got pregnant and had a miscarriage, yet, this was not her bottom.

She began to get into heavier things and then she discovered the drug of her choice, meth.

While still putting on a pretty good show on the outside, her mom caught her doing meth and she revealed that her dad had completely lost himself in the meth pipe.

The night he died, her mom caught him smoking and kicked him out of the house and that is when he crashed his motorcycle.

Vanessa felt lied to and ran away and did not finish the last 2 months of school.

Her mother reported her missing, thus violating her parole, and she was arrested and spent 2 ½ months in jail and sober.

When she got out, she got accepted to college and had great intentions of being a good student but quickly got involved with alcohol and weed.

“My disease was much stronger than my ambition.”

Vanessa jumped around from one high to another and ended up in Las Vegas where her dad’s friend Ryan lived.

She moved in with Ryan and “I found my usual low-life crowd and began selling weed, coke and x. I was then introduced to the pimp and prostitution game.”

“They appeared to have it all; little did I know they were just great actresses. I got myself a pimp, who was also a drug dealer.”

“That day, I sold my soul.”

Things went from bad to violent to worse and Vanessa eventually left her pimp but she kept selling drugs and was re-introduced to meth.

6 months later, smoking meth daily, she lost everything, cut off her long beautiful hair and went into seclusion.

He mom called the morgue often to find out if she was alive.

“The toxins of the drugs were seeping out of my pores. I would pick at my skin all over my body. My once flawless complexion was constantly covered in sores. I spent my 21st birthday getting high in a closet.”

On the night of November 17th, 2010, someone turned Vanessa in on a $10,000 bounty.

It saved her life.

She got lost in the system, a blessing in disguise, and for 21 days she reflected on her life and her choices.

“I looked into the foggy jail mirror and saw a grimy creature I didn’t recognize. God told me in a faint, gentle whisper, ‘This is not what I want for you. This is not who you are.’”

That night she wrote a poem titled, “Surrender”, begging God to deliver her from this insanity.

Under house arrest she immersed herself into recovery and followed the rules like her life depended on it. And it did.

“One day, as I was contemplating what the God of my understanding was to me, Jesus appeared. I have always been a cloud watcher. There He was wearing the crown of thorns, like an image I’d had on a postcard as a child. He was smiling at me and I could see that He was so proud. I had more hope that evening than any other moment of my entire life!”

Vanessa learned that the root of disease lies in obsession, compulsion, self-centeredness and lack of faith.

She moved to California and arrived in Placerville with a new ankle monitor.

Her mom mentioned that her church offered several recovery groups.

Vanessa thought, “Oh great! They are going to shove religion down my throat.”

A recovery meeting called “Celebrate Recovery” was meeting that night and so they came to the church and Vanessa experienced something she had not experienced before.

“That first night at Celebrate Recovery, I felt warmth and a hope I didn’t recognize. Everyone was so welcoming and loving. I began to attend church services and I started volunteering. I soon realized that Green Valley Community Church was not a religious church about judgment or being better than, but it was a Jesus church about relationships and acceptance.”

”One thing I knew, I had finally found home.”

“I learned that God is a father to the fatherless. He offers grace and forgiveness and peace. I began to like myself.”

”I got off house arrest, I got to flip a sign at Easter reading ‘Road to Hell” as my old life and “Road to Recovery” as my new life.”

Vanessa is an inspiration and a miracle and now helps young people recover from their hurts, hang-ups and habits.

Celebrate Recovery and my church’s commitment to help those dealing with hurts, hang-ups and habits has once again drawn us very close to the heart of God.

Jesus stated that he clearly came to “Heal the broken-hearted and set captives free.”

When people say that God doesn’t do miracles anymore, then they have never been a part of Celebrate Recovery.

Our Celebrate Recovery program was started by a couple who was rejected by another church when they wanted to start the program.

The church told them that they weren’t sure they wanted people with serious issues and addictions coming into their church.

Their sad loss was our gain.

Celebrate started small and as the leadership grew, so did the program.

7 years later, hundreds have overcome, healed, found God and been baptized.

When you go to a Celebrate Recovery service, ours is on Thursday nights, what you experience is what real church should be.

Each service includes true celebration, safe relationships, honest assessment, humbling confession and gut wrenching transparency and a sense of freedom and purpose that is contagious.

It is about as pure of a church as you will find!

We have now started “The Landing” which is Celebrate Recovery for teenage and college students.

It is a safe landing place for students to come and heal, build healthy relationships and start good habits.

Every church should help people overcome.

The 4th thing every church should and must do is be fully committed to “Celebrate Recovery.”


Vanessa’s life scripture is from the book of Lamentations where the prophet Jeremiah says, “I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness, the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed. I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—the feeling of hitting the bottom. But there’s one other thing I remember, and remembering, I keep a grip on hope: God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up. They’re created new every morning. How great Your faithfulness! I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over). He’s all I’ve got left.”

For more information about “Celebrate Recovery” go to… http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

Or respond on this post
Or email me and we can talk burkeyk@gvcconline.net

7 thoughts on “5 Things Every Church Should Do (Part 4)

  1. I’m sitting here reading this on 8-9-2012 celebrating 2years 7 months of sobriety and crying tears of joy and happiness. GVCC celebrate recovery was the very first “AA” meeting i have ever attended back in December 2009. I’m sad to say i was not sober then but i got a glimpse of what GOD had in store for me. I checked into the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation center in San Francisco two weeks later. I have experience the miracles GOD has created for me. I was also baptisted by you and scott on Aug. 28th 2011. I came up from that water the person GOD has intended me to be. I’m so inspired by stories of young people experiencing GOD’s grace and mercy. Thank you for this blog today it was exactly what i needed. Stephanie Valdez

  2. Thanks for sharing Vanessa’a story. I was there the first night she attended Celebrate Recovery and have been able to watch grow and her life change. She is an incredible inspiration! Her story is a real story of redemption and grace. ..lives change at Celebrate Recovery! ..thanks for your support!

  3. thank you for telling her story again she is truly a miracle and i am honored to be called her friend and i am truly blessed to be part of celebrate

    • Vanessa is very special to our family. I first met her, when we both participated in (her first) Easter service, where she was a “sign holder”, and I was part of the choir.

      Some time later, my son Alex, early in recovery, met this “great girl” at church, and we soon realized it was Vanessa, and welcomed her into our “family”. Last Fall, when Alex relapsed, Vanessa had recognized the signs and stepped back from him……knowing. KNOWING, with everything in her being, that God and sobriety HAS TO COME FIRST.

      My heart was broken for Alex, because he seemed to be doing so well (at that time), and I had stopped expecting “the phone call”. My husband came into the bedroom one evening and simply said “Alex is in jail”, and everything crashed around me. We REALLY thought he Had It this time, but evidently, he still had to learn that he couldn’t do it “Alex’s” way.

      Next time we were at church, I was singing, and from the stage, I could see Vanessa & her mom, in the congregation. I told my friend Kristen, “I have to get out of here as soon as service is over” because I didn’t want to talk to them.I was hurt and embarrassed (did Alex jeopardize Vanessa’s sobriety? I didn’t know, and didn’t feel I could handle that) I didn’t want to fall apart at church (as an aside,what better place to fall apart?).

      God had a different plan. I grabbed my purse from the back & tried to sneak out the back door, but turned around and ran smack into Vanessa. We just looked at each other, no words, then we just started hugging and crying. I felt more arms, and it was Vanessa’s mom (she loves Alex, too). We all stood there & cried for our Alex, who hadn’t found his way, yet, and this young girl, who had already experienced far more than any girl should, was comforting me, and telling me that Alex just needed this “last lesson”.

      I could only tell her how proud I was of her, for protecting herself, and I know it was difficult, because Alex and Vanessa care about each other very much. But not MORE than God, Not more than sobriety.

      Alex has turned a corner, and has been JOYFULLY clean for almost 8 months now (he has his own story to tell). He and Vanessa still care about each other, but have set up boundaries in their relationship, to keep each of them safe, and to put God first. They both serve in the Landing, and spend time together, but usually with other people around, as well, because they know that is best, for the time being.

      Vanessa is a blessing to our life, and many other people’s lives and we are so grateful that God brought her to GVCC, and to our family. We love you, Vanessa!

  4. Thank you! Its easy to become ungrateful in my wonderfully blessed life. I forget how God completely lifted me from the wreckage into His grace. Being reminded of where I come from is always uplifting. All for God’s glory! Thank you & thank Green Valley for loving each person exactly where they are, without judgement. And thank you for always promoting Celebrate Recovery. It truly is God’s program! I am blessed to be a part of it 🙂

  5. Thank you Ken for using my story & for blessing the world with your blog. Thank you GVCC for loving each person who walks through the doors of the church & sits in those awesome orange chairs exactly where they’re at & for exactly who they are. Thank you for promoting & 100% supporting Celebrate Recovery. It is truly God’s program & it is a joy & an honor to be part of it!
    It is so easy to become ungrateful, even though I live a truly blessed life. How quickly I forget where I came from. It is key to remember how I got where I am today and to never forget that it is God’s grace alone that has lifted me from the wreckage. I needed this.
    Thank you Pauline for being an amazing friend and always lifting me up. Thank you Cherie for the wonderfully kind words & story. I love you guys oodles too!
    And thank You, God, for being a God of 2nd, 3rd & infinite chances; a God of grace & mercy; a healer of the broken.

  6. Amazing story, Vanessa is a true inspiration to all of us of the power of healing in Jesus Christ! proud of her so much. God Bless

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