Restoration Ministries - Harvey, IL
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Testimonies

Renee Siekierzynski   •   Cyndi DeAngelis   •   Elizabeth Roldan   •   Hollie White
Corine Avery   •   Marlana Bolden   •   Patricia Brooks

Renee Siekierzynski

Three years ago, I begged and pleaded with God for help. I didn’t know what to expect. What I received was the open doors of Restoration Ministries and Tabitha House.

Let me give you a brief background. I was raised in a Christian reformed home and went to Christian schools. I am forever grateful for this and believe this formed a backbone within me. My father was a deacon in our church; my mother did everything from a coffee break leader to secretary. My home and friends were filled with God centered people. The reason I am telling you this is because addiction can seep in anywhere.

When I was 16, I was hospitalized for the first time for bulimia, depression and alcoholism. My family was forced to deal with the fact that we needed outside help. After a few weeks in the hospital, I came home and life seemed to be “normal”.

I graduated high school and attended beauty school that fall. I then began a career that came to naturally to me. I loved doing hair, I could be myself, and I was successful. My clientele soared.

At 22, I married my boyfriend of five years, but I felt trapped. Soon after getting married, a coworker offered me cocaine. I didn’t like it all, but five months later it was part of my party lifestyle. I was drinking and partying on a regular basis and I blamed it all on the fact that I was depressed because I was so unhappy in my marriage. After only ten months, I left my husband and got divorced.

At the same time, my career was going great. I received a raise, moved into my own apartment and went on vacations to Canada and Miami. At this point, my true friends knew what was really going behind closed doors. I began using cocaine. Although I thought I had everything under control, I was so misled. I was able to conceal my addiction, or so I thought! I tried to stop using cocaine, but I always went back to it.

The day after I came back from Miami, I met Jeff, the man who would become my husband. It was love at first sight. After two months of dating, we were in the “I love you stage” at six months we moved in together and 18 months later we had our first child, Christopher.

I was now a stay-at-home mom and I had a very hard time with the adjustment. Although my mom and mother-in-law were at my beck and call, I wanted to prove to myself that I could be mom. We found out I was pregnant again soon after Christopher’s first birthday. This time we had a girl, Cathrina. Instead of being filled with joy, I was overwhelmed.

The craziness of drugs and alcohol took over. I spent my 30th birthday in a 30-day rehab program. I really thought I would overcome my addictions, but the program wasn’t enough. I was in a vicious cycle – in and out of AA.

After my second DUI, I attended so many AA meetings that I practically lived at an AA Club in Chicago Heights. I was searching for God and grasping at whatever I could.

Life kept coming at me and I couldn’t deal with it. My mother was sick and passed away. It happened during a sober time for me, but three weeks after she passed, her death set in and I starting drinking again. I lived on vodka and cocaine, but when money became an issue, I narrowed it down to vodka. I was averaging more than a fifth a day.

I couldn’t eat and I couldn’t function. I was checked into hospitals to detox, and then I would leave and walk home. I was so embarrassed by what my life had become, that I just I drank more. My last doctor’s visit detailed a bad report of my liver. The doctor told me either I stop drinking or my liver stops working, but I couldn’t stop alone.

It was at this time that the pastor, who baptized me, and married my parents, preached at my dad’s church. He asked my dad how I was doing and my dad filled him in on my struggles with alcohol and cocaine. He suggested I come to a Christian AA program at his church. I was desperate so I went, and I found out I loved it.

A wonderful man Dave Allen mentored me there but he saw that this program wasn’t enough. He talked with Jeff, my dad and me and asked if I was ready to commit to a long-term program that could get through to me. He told us all that it was a residential program and I would have to live there. I fought this with all of myself, but this is where God wanted me, and we all know what God wants, God gets.

I was so desperate for change, yet so afraid at the same time. I had two children I had to leave behind. I had to have faith. Dave assured us that God would work out all of the details – our finances, who would take of my kids, etc. He set up an interview at Tabitha House and told me to have my bags packed because I wouldn’t be coming home. After a long interview, I was accepted and it was a relief. Actually, my first full day at Tabitha House was the day of this luncheon and I was amazed by the wonderful testimonies that I heard and all of the people who were there.

After six weeks at Tabitha House, I was asked to serve as the receptionist at Restoration Ministries. This was a huge responsibility, but the staff saw so much in me that I didn’t see in myself. After four months, I felt things were going well and I put pressure on myself and made myself believe that I needed to be home with my kids who were just four and six at the time. I so wanted to be a mom and thought I had learned the basics. I thought I had learned enough, so I went home.

God showed me quite quickly that I hadn’t learned anything and I needed to be back in Tabitha House. And so, four weeks to the day that I left Tabitha House, I was begging at the door to get back in. This time I was willing to do whatever I had to do. I was ready to stay as long as it took and do whatever it took. I couldn’t live that life of alcohol and cocaine anymore.

I was welcomed back with open arms – with so much love and acceptance – with patience and peace. The Holy Spirit was so thick, I couldn’t help but surrender. I was at Tabitha House for two years and those two years molded me.

At Tabitha House, we had amazing women including Tabitha House graduates come in daily to share God’s word and wisdom. We were so blessed to be in the company of such strong believers.

There were times we were in tears, times we laughed. It was safe. It was so safe. For the first time in years, I wasn’t afraid.

I can remember it like it was yesterday, the times we stayed up till 2 A.M., sharing God’s word, praying for each other, praying over the house. We shared our fears and dreams. My time at Tabitha House was the most memorable time of my life.

While at Tabitha House, I was blessed to be part of the After-School Program. In a way, it connected me to my children. I also was able to experience a wonderful course called Hope and Healing. It helped me so much with forgiveness and acceptance. I have taken those lessons throughout my life.

While I was in the second phase of the program, Jeanette Goodman, our amazing director, had asked for one of us to step up and help guide the Phase One women. I felt a calling to do this and was able to oversee the new ladies when Sandra, our house leader, wasn’t available.

In the third phase of Tabitha House, I was able to go back to work. At Tabitha House, I did the girls’ hair and still loved it. But I was worried about getting back into that salon atmosphere and being around my old life-style. I also wondered if this is where God wanted me or if I should just start a whole new career.

After a lot of prayer and counsel, I felt I was ready to return to this business. I found an opening for a receptionist at Artistix Salon in Homewood, where I used to live and party. I had to take a train and a bus to work every day. However, I knew I was supposed to work there, I prayed about it constantly, yet didn’t know why.

On my second day on the job, my boss, Christine, confronted me. She was wondering why I had to take public transportation to work and she had heard about my history from my former clients who were now coming to her salon. It wasn’t that I lied; it was just I was a new person and didn’t include details of my old life on the application or in the interview. What a blessing though, after I shared with my boss that I was living at Tabitha House and all of the details of my addiction, she told me she felt I was called to be there. Soon after that, she helped me renew my cosmetology license and promoted me to stylist. Christine and my co-workers have helped me grow, and because we are so open, I have a huge support system there. I am so blessed to be a part of her team and her family.

Now that I had a job, I was now ready to graduate and move out of Tabitha House. In my new life, I knew that I couldn’t move back in with Jeff without being married. I would graduate in two months and I needed a place to live. Jeff didn’t want to get married. He wanted to see how I would function without the structure of Tabitha House. I was disappointed, but I could see his point. During these two months, I prayed and prayed, and my House Church prayed and prayed for this situation to work out. After a lot of prayer, I brought up the idea of co-parenting and I would live in my own apartment. Although money would be tight, this is what we all agreed would be best.

But a week before my graduation, Jeff out of the blue, said “I will marry you. Will you marry me?” I knew it was God. It was so random. He also asked if we could do it soon.

What does “soon” mean. Well in my book, it meant a week and a half. We planned a wedding and a graduation in ten days. See Tabitha House graduations are held at Spirit of God Fellowship’s Wednesday night church service. I graduated first and then Dr. Sullivan married us. It was such a blessed night. We had our children there, our family there, and our church family. My House Church decorated the church so beautifully. It was a graduation of so many things, a celebration of freedom, God’s love, His blessing and our new life.

Since then, I have been an active part of Tabitha House and Spirit of God Fellowship. I still do the residents’ hair and I am starting to do devotions twice a month at Tabitha House. I attend Spirit of God regularly and my house church. Jeff and I bring our children to Family Worship on Sunday mornings.

I have an amazing support system with my mother-in-law Judy who has been my sounding board and was instrumental in raising my children during my addiction and while I was at Tabitha House and still helps me on a daily basis. My sister-in-law Katie is like a true sister to me. They are my family and my closest friends and I love them.

My husband is my best friend. I can’t imagine a day without him. And my children are amazing! Christopher is in fourth grade now and Catherina is in second. Both are on the honor roll. Catherina took classes at Restoration Ministries’ Summer Art Program and is now taking dance classes. Christopher plays baseball in the Homewood Baseball League and I was able to go to every one of his games last summer – which is a huge deal for me and for him. Both of my kids have adjusted well and I’m finally being the mom that I’ve always wanted to be.

My life has not been without difficulty or strife, but it is truly blessed. And I consider myself a miracle!

I see God’s blessings daily in my life. Thank you for supporting Tabitha House. Thank you for supporting me.

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Cyndi DeAngelis

My name is Cyndi DeAngelis, I entered Tabitha House in January of 2009. I’d like to share with you what led me there.

I grew up in a back woods area of central Ohio. Some would think “the country is a wonderful place to raise a child” but when that child’s memory banks are littered with visions of watering the marijuana plants that were strategically placed in the garden among the tomatoes, or stealing bottles of Uncle Porky’s homemade wine, or worse yet, the sexual molestations, well, that makes for a very rough start. Even though I was raised in a family of six kids, I still felt so alone and ashamed of the things that were happening to me. In 4th grade, I was told I was adopted, which only multiplied my feelings of displacement.

As a teenager, I began to seek acceptance through outside sources like smoking pot, drinking alcohol, and promiscuity. I had no idea that the hole I felt inside me was God shaped, and He was the only one who could fill it. My drug use progressed to popping pills like xanax and valium and then moved on to dropping acid and eating mushrooms. I had found an ultimate escape hatch from reality in the land of hallucinogenics.

At the age of 20, my family came out to Chicago for a funeral, and that is where I met my biological mom, and then later on, my two brothers. At first I was angry, wondering how she could abandon me and leave me out in the cold to be devoured by wolves, but we talked and she explained her situation at the time to me and I was able to gain understanding and forgiveness. She now plays a key part in my life as not only a support person for my recovery, but as a loving mother to me and grandmother to my children. A beautiful example of God restoring what the locust had eaten.

I had my first child, Aric, at 23 years old and was a single mom by the time I was 24.

We moved out to Illinois when I was 25 and haven’t been back to Ohio since. It was soon after that when I met my best friend for the next twelve years of my life…crack cocaine. I had four more children as my progressive downward spiral continued. When I gave birth to my youngest son, Raymond, it was discovered that he was born with cocaine in his system, the hospital called DCFS, thus opening the door to a new chapter in my life. The caseworkers didn’t want to separate our family and relentlessly tried to get me to complete an outpatient rehab. They gave me several chances, and I tried three different programs, but the addiction was too strong. By December of ’06 all of my children were removed from my home, that’s when life got really dark. Not being drunk or high was far too painful to bear, so I did everything I could to stay intoxicated, including lying, stealing, and prostituting. I hated myself and I hated my life and everything it stood for. I knew there was no hope for ever getting my children back and tried to commit suicide, believing that would set them free from the burden that was me.

In March of 2008 is when God stepped in and opened the doors for me to save my life…He sent me to prison. I had gotten a DUI in the spring of ‘06 and although the court system tried to simply give me probation and chance after chance to do things right, I couldn’t submit to doing what they asked. They kept giving me court dates and I kept missing them. I’d go to jail for days or weeks at a time because of the warrants, and the cycle would continue. They finally got tired of plating with me and sentenced me to a year in prison. They took all of my collective time on this case into consideration, and told me I would have to serve 61 days in a state correctional facility.

When being transferred from county jail to state prison the only thing you’re allowed to take with you is a bible, so I got one for the sole purpose of writing down addresses and phone numbers that I wanted to have.

You have a lot of time on your hands when you are sitting in a cell, so I opened that book and began to read it. There was hope in there! In Mark 2:17 Jesus says “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.”

You have no idea how much that verse changed my life. That was me, the sick sinner, and someone has been out there searching for me to save me, not only my life, but my soul.

I began attending Bible studies because I was thirsting for more, more love, more light, more knowledge of this man who died for me.

I was released from prison in June and although I went back to that same crowd of people who were still drinking and drugging, something was different. It didn’t hold the same thrill and when I would use, the conviction were relentless.

I had made the decision during my incarceration that I wanted to pursue regaining custody of my children. I told my mom this and she began researching in-patient rehabs and found Brandon House, which is a 90 day treatment facility. I entered the program in September and began learning about addiction and how it works and what drives an individual to repeat destructive patterns.

While I was in Brandon House I attended Monday night Bible study which is led by Barb Sullivan and members of Harvey House and Tabitha House. Her teachings were amazingly understandable to me and I was hearing the Gospel as I never heard it before.

When I reflect on that time I see Barb taking my hand and placing it into the hand of Jesus.

I knew that 90 days worth of treatment was not going to fix 26 years worth of sickness, so I began searching for an aftercare program. I knew enough to know that only God could save me and I needed something faith-based, the doors of Tabitha House were opened to me.

I entered this sanctuary in January of 2009 and discovered a love that I never knew existed. The peace in that house was overwhelming. The dedication of all the ladies that come daily to pour out their wisdom and compassion is plain to see. If you’re searching for mercy and grace you don’t have to look very far because it’s all around you.

Tabitha House is a place of God’s love and protection. It’s a safe place where you can feel comfortable in being vulnerable, a place where God Himself, by His own hand, massages into your heart the anointed oil of His healing power. We learn that we are daughters of the King and all of our sins are forgiven. We can shed the skin of shame we have been held captive by and instead, clothe ourselves with the robe of His righteousness.

For me it was an 18 month retreat. We are given job functions in the home and at Restoration Ministries Thrift Stores to help us build up confidence, to see firsthand that we can be productive. I kind of fell into being the cook at Tabitha House, which I ended up enjoying tremendously.

One day when a staff member was giving a tour she came in when I was preparing a meal and said “Cyndi you would be perfect to cook for our Kid’s Café Program!” When the new building was opened in June 09 I was asked to make not only the kids meals, but also dinner for the guys of Harvey House. I had never cooked for so many people before and was terrified. I obtained my food service and sanitation license and with lots of prayers from myself and others, dove right in and embraced the situation. During all this time Jeanette Goodman, the Tabitha House director, was working closely and patiently with me and the DCFS people.

I was having regular visits and phone calls with my children and one by one, knocking out all the objectives the caseworkers wanted me to complete in order to insure the return home of my children. When I entered phase three where we are able to join the work force, there was talk of me being hired on as the cook for Restoration Ministries, I remember Dr. Sullivan coming to me and asking me what the desires of my heart were concerning this and I expressed to him how much I wanted to be on staff. In March of 2010 I was hired.

I graduated in July and while in Tabitha House, had been able to save up to rent a small apartment. The next thing I needed was a vehicle not only to get to work, but to make the required number of visits to my children that were mandatory per DCFS. A ‘Mom Van” complete with a “I Love My Family Decal” on the back windshield was donated to Restoration Ministries – Thank you Kelly Cavarretta.

It was perfect, but I didn’t have my driver’s license and I hadn’t had a one in 18 years. Restoration Ministries kept the van for me while with Jeanette’s guidance, I was able to get a restricted driver’s license. I also was ordered to get a breathalyzer unit installed in my van and I thank God every time I breath into it for giving me a second chance.

I was now able show the courts beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was ready to once again be a mother to my children.

Custody of my oldest son was awarded to me in October. What a glorious faith building day that was. Raven and David came home during winter break that December and finally, this past June, my youngest child, Raymond came home to stay!

But God’s blessings didn’t stop there. I am now married to an amazingly strong Christian man who loves me and my children like his own. We have recently moved into a beautiful home in Indiana in a fantastic school district. I now cook for Harvey House, Tabitha House and the kid’s program and so enjoy coming to work each day and continually being surrounded by God’s love that is so clearly projected at Restoration Ministries.

I have been called to train to be a facilitator for Hope and Healing, which is one of the many classes we are blessed to being involved in during our stay at Tabitha House. I am now able to give back to the girls as freely as it was given to me! I want to thank all of you donors for making this story of overcoming our circumstances possible. It is God’s love and your support that brought my family back together so from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.

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Elizabeth Roldan

Hello,

My name is Elizabeth Roldan and I graduated from Tabitha House in March of this year.

I arrived at Tabitha House in September of 2008 after 30 years of addiction. I started using drugs when I was 11. By the time I was 15 I was freebasing cocaine. During those years, I tried to stay clean. I was in and out of many treatment programs and actually overcame a heroin addiction only to become addicted to alcohol six years later. As an alcoholic, I was not able to function without waking up and taking a drink.

My life was typical of an addict. I had a series of abusive relationships throughout my addictions. I’d get clean and then start using again. It just was a vicious cycle.

Before I came to Tabitha House I had spent 4 months in inpatient Treatment – 28 days at Interventions and then three months at HRDI. When I finished those programs, I knew I still needed more help. And, I was homeless; I had no contact with or family support. I had made a complete mess of my life and I was so, so tired. I had no idea who I was anymore. The person I had become was only due to the bad choices I had made. But I always knew that was not who I was supposed to be.

I had been crying out to God. I knew of the Lord – I actually got saved years ago when I was in a treatment for my heroin addiction. But I had not been in relationship with God for years. I had no foundation. I could not hear from God. I thought that’s it. You’re done, not even God wants anything to do with you.

I learned about Tabitha House when I was in treatment at HRDI. While in that program I attended Monument of Faith Church and Graduates of Tabitha House had come to share at one of the services. My counselor recommended that I try to get into Tabitha House because she saw my desire to learn the Word and grow in Christ. I interviewed at Tabitha House and was accepted.

From my first morning, there sitting at the kitchen table at devotions I realized God had not only heard every one of my prayers, but He had answered them when the door to Tabitha House was opened to me.

This was my first revelation. God knows what I need. And I don’t. So I surrendered.

I knew I was incapable of making decisions and I needed accountability, guidance, love and discipline. Tabitha House teaches and gives all those things. I wanted and needed someone to help me. I had no foundation in Christianity.

Tabitha House and Restoration Ministries has walked me through this process. Sometimes with me having a tantrum in my head and only able at the time to be obedient.  Sometimes being obedient is all you can do. But in doing so I have been blessed immeasurably. I hope now, that these things I’ve learned are evident in my character.

The women of Tabitha House, the graduates, my counselor, my mentor, the body at Spirit of God Fellowship, and all of the volunteers who come to Tabitha House loved me at a time I did not love myself. They taught me the word and spiritual principals and supported me through the process of inner healing. & forgiveness. I was released from my guilt and shame. I am a new creation.

I have witnessed God perform complete miracles in my life. I have 3 beautiful daughters. Elaina, Melissa & Samantha. I also have 8 grandchildren including a set of identical twin boys that are 8 months old.  I am working on restoring those relationships.

Before coming to Tabitha house I had not seen any of my children in years. Due to my addiction I was never able to even be consistent in phone calls to them, let alone see them because my addiction had so much control over me.

During the time I was at Tabitha House I was able to start communicating with my eldest daughter Elaina, who’s 24 and my middle daughter Melissa, who’s 18.

But up until 7 months ago I was not allowed to speak to or have any contact with my youngest daughter Samantha who is 16. Her caregiver, who was her dad’s sister, would not allow me. At this point I had not seen Samantha since she was 11 years old.  It really seemed like an impossible situation. I prayed a lot it about all the time and sought counsel.

I found out my daughter Samantha was in a very bad situation. She had run away from home and after that her aunt had her put into a psychiatric hospital based on lies and false information. I needed to try to find some way to help her. I planned to go downtown to the Guardian’s office to see what I could do – to see if I could get guardianship now that I was finally sober.

The night before I was going to downtown, I received amazing prayer from the Elders at Spirit of God fellowship and before I left that morning, my sisters at Tabitha house prayed with me too.

When I got to the Guardian’s office, I filled out all sorts of legal documents necessary to approach the court just to obtain a court date.

The people at the guardian’s office were very helpful. However after explaining the urgency of Samantha’s situation they told me it was probably less then a 50% chance that I would even be able to speak to a judge and I probably wouldn’t get a court date for at least 3 months.

I went into the court and approached the clerk with my request. It was June 3rd and she gave me a court date for August 30th. I explained it was an emergency and I needed to speak to the judge because of my daughter’s situation. I just could not wait until August 30th. The clerk told me to have a seat.

When I was called up before the judge, I do not even know what I said. It was not me speaking. God gave me the words to say… and the judge gave me a court date for the next day.

She also gave me an affidavit that I could serve Samantha’s Guardian in person to appear in court. This is not the way it’s done. The law requires that only a certified appointed person from the court can serve affidavits. I actually put my eldest daughter’s name on the affidavit because I knew her aunt would not even open the door for me.

While waiting for the papers to be drawn up a very young gentleman approached me, a stranger who was sitting at the other end of the court room, and he handed me 3 sheets of paper all containing prayers.  I believe he was an angel sent just for me.

The next morning, when I showed up in the courtroom, there was a new clerk and she could not believe the Judge gave me the affidavit to serve Samantha’s guardian. She was shocked and said that had never happened in that courtroom before! She even went into the judge’s chambers to make sure it was true.

Anyway Samantha’s aunt showed up in court and we all approached the bench and were sworn in. Now there are laws that all guardians - biological or not - have to have background checks done by the courts prior to receiving custody. But, I not only was given back custody of Samantha without any questions, they didn’t request a background check.

That was only God.  That is just not done in the state of Illinois in custody cases. Ask anyone who has ever been involved in a custody case. God moved so fast in this situation I could not keep up with him. It was a complete impossible situation for man, but not for God.

I then proceeded from court to the hospital where Samantha was. But they would not release her. I called 911 and the police came to the hospital. I showed them the papers and they spoke with hospital administrators and then they told me “Ms. Roldan your daughter Samantha will be right down.”

Since I was still living at Tabitha House I needed to find a place for us to live fast. I did have a job though. I was employed and had been employed by Restoration Ministries for 1 year at our South Holland Thrift Store.

I started at the store as a volunteer (with the other Tabitha House women) and after 18 months I was offered a job. And last April, I was promoted to Store Manager.

Next I found a great place to live. My mentor Nikki Jo Lopez and her husband owned a two flat in East Hazel Crest and needed renters at the same time I needed a place. So I moved into the second floor apartment and Cyndi another recent Tabitha House graduate who now has her children back moved into the first floor.

The only thing we needed now was a car!

In August, Ray Banks called me out into the parking lot of the store complaining about a car parked there - asking me whose car it was and told me that it needed to be moved.

I said Ray, “I have no idea whose car it is. It’s probably a customer’s.”

And, he said, “No. It’s yours and handed me the title and the keys.” What can you even say to that?

Restoration Ministries had just received the car, a 1994 Mercury Topaz, from a donor. We really needed transportation. It was an unexpected blessing that blew me away and no words could express my gratitude.

My daughter Samantha and I now are settled in our new home. Samantha attends Thornwood High school where she is a junior.

We are getting to know each other again. That is not without its challenges for both of us.

But today I have a foundation and His name is Jesus Christ. He is my Cornerstone and everyday I continue to grow.

It is because I had a place like Tabitha House to go to. I want to thank everyone here for your support of Tabitha House. Words cannot express the impact your generosity has played in my life and my family’s.

Thank you.

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Hollie White

Good Afternoon. My name is Hollie White and I was born on August 3rd 1951 delivered by midwife to Erbby and Eddie White Sr. in Joliet Il. I am a 3rd born of 5 siblings When I was 3 months old, my parents gave me to Mrs. Ruth Perry as a godchild.

As far back as I can remember I was a slave to this woman's rearing. See Mrs. Perry was a madam and ran a brothel in the red-light district located at the north end of town. I was exposed to every kind of evil you could imagine; drugs, alcohol, prostitution, pedophiles and you name it. Most of my childhood was spent cleaning up behind the prostitutes and other people who came through this place of transit.

When I was seven years old the paperboy who was 19 years old at the time raped me. I was so broken after that I started having memory lapses not knowing how to sort out what had happened. Even at this young age I felt depression not knowing or understanding what I was feeling, or what kind of future was in store for me. I even tried to commit suicide, but failed due to fear even then God’s grace saved me.

I lived as a slave until I was 12 that was when I met my two cousins who I attended school with. I didn’t know I was related to them, but they knew who I was. Turns out that my cousins didn't like my guardian mother at all because they saw how I was being treated, I believe that it was hard for my parents to believe what was happening to me because my guardian mother was very good at hiding the truth from people when it was in her best interest.

My cousins took me home with them after-school one day and I never went back to live at the brothel. I was finally with my family, unaware that the spirits of my childhood life were deeply embedded into my spirit.

I lived with my family for four years. Then when I was 16 I ran off to live with a young man who became my husband. After 11yrs. of marriage he wanted a divorce. That only added to my deeply embedded pain, so by the time I was I was looking for a way to cover up this tremendous and overwhelming sadness I once again was experiencing. That’s when I started to using drugs like marijuana, alcohol, speed, acid and pretty much anything that would take away the pain I was feeling. As my pain deepened my drug usage increased, I went on to using real hard-core drugs, such as heroin and cocaine and whatever else would give a feeling of euphoria.

By the time I turned 30, it seems that from that point on every birthday I had I was locked up in some jail. The drug life led me into a life of crime, just trying to survive and maintain my addiction. I'd found myself diving into all kinds of perilous situations just to keep from being dope sick, getting in and out of cars with strange men and taking all sorts of risks. The last crime I did was an armed robbery along with possession of a controlled substance, which landed me in prison with a 6-30 year sentence.

While I was in prison I attended the prison rehabilitation center. Trying to make the best of a bad situation, I went on to get my G.E.D. I got out after serving 4and1/2 years of my sentence with 3yrs probation. By the time I'd come out of prison one of my sisters was diagnosed with breast cancer, then another sister. I'd lost both of them 2 years apart. It wasn't long after that, my father was stricken with brain and lung cancer. 8 months later my brother died from a massive heart attack. So much death and more pain to add to the enormous hurts already inside me.

With all the lost I just didn't see any way out of my life of pain and misery, Then in 2001, I lost my mother and that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I didn't care anymore I thought that I was a hopeless case. I had vowed to die a drug addict.

It wasn't the danger or the risk I was taking with my life that changed everything, it was losing my soul to an eternal hell that ultimately brought me back to some sense. So I decided to give rehab another try. Through child and family services they helped me to find Gateway. I went there for 4mos.

But I knew in my heart of hearts that I wasn't ready for society or anything else. All I knew was the drug life I'd lived for 30yrs. So I inquired about a spiritual based program something long term. That's when one of the counselors at Gateway told me about Tabitha House. She made a call to a Mrs. Jeanette Goodman, and set up an appointment for an interview for me. I came to interview in November of 2007, but I had to have a surgical procedure done before I could come in. For the next 4 months I called Mrs. Goodman at least twice a week, to confirm my bed would still be waiting, At one point she had told me she didn't know if that would be possible. I in turn told her that God already made it so.

So in March of 2008 I arrived at Tabitha House. I was welcomed by two women Wanda and Kesi who just recently passed on. I was greeted with much love and care, a kind that I'd never known existed. That's when my life began to change. I started working in Restoration Ministries’ Thrift Store. At first I didn't like it, I couldn't understand why I wasn't getting paid any cash. I wasn't used to working without pay, but later I come to realize I was getting paid more than I was worth. Working at the store is where I learned to listen to God speak to my heart. I even began to enjoy going and doing whatever I was told. I grant you this it wasn't always that easy, but as time went on things inside began to come to the light.

I moved into phase 2 of Tabitha House's program and began cooking for the women, something I really took delight in. From that I learned that I loved to serve others, I made Tabitha House my very own. As time went on I moved to Phase 3 when I could seek employment. I must have beat the streets from one end of south suburban Chicago to the other, to no avail. I was getting so frustrated at not being able to find work. The pain of feeling unworthy, unsure, afraid and doubtful came flooding back. I began to want to run away and do what I knew best to do and that was to get high to cover reality, but God's grace found me again, and I got a break with a job in July of 2009.

But it only lasted until my past caught up with me. Once they found about my criminal record I was let go. So once again frustration and pain was trying to find it's way back to me again, only there was something different happening and that was faith in God, to trust that He already knew the plan that He had for my life. So God spoke to me again and told me to WAIT. And I did just that. So I went on serving at Tabitha House in joy and anticipation of what God was going to do.

In December of 2009 I was hired at Christian Community Health Center, I’m now employed at a branch center called Healthy Choices Wellness Center, which is an adult day care center. We work with mentally disabled people. Once again God has placed me in what I love doing and that is serving others.

If someone had of told me 4 years ago that I would be drug free saved by grace and employed I'd have thought they were crazy. But thanks be to God, Tabitha House and Restoration Ministries I'm living the life God intended. I am not only employed, I still serve at Tabitha House as a cook, housekeeper and where ever else I'm needed, I serve in Restoration Ministries’ food pantry, and I'm also a member of Spirit of God fellowship Kids Church program.

I wish that I could only find the words to describe to you just what being at Tabitha House has done for me and still doing each and everyday of my life Tabitha House is the greatest thing that's ever happened to me. I am so grateful to have been chosen to be in Tabitha House, I can't think of anything more I love doing than serving Tabitha House as it has served me.

Thank you.

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Corine Avery

Never in a million years would I have imagined that I’d be where I am in life today. Coming from 23 years of active addiction to the Director of Tabitha House was in my plans, but it was in God’s.

I remember sitting in Cook County Jail waiting to be sent to the penitentiary for the second time. I was 39 years old. I hadn’t seen my children in almost ten years. Both my parents had died. I had alienated my brothers and sisters and hadn’t seen them in along time, and I was a high school drop-out with no real work experience. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I just knew that I couldn’t go back to the way I was. I wanted to change, I just didn’t know how.

While I was in jail I enrolled in the G.E.D. program on the PACE school tier. I met a guy named Lumus Nichols or “Doc” as we called him. Doc was a counselor for PACE but he was also a graduate of Harvey House. He assured me that change was possible through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in knowing Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.

While acting somewhat as a mentor, Lumus shared with me about Tabitha House. I had previously sent out applications to a few facilities that housed women with my background so that I wouldn’t have to return to the same envi ronment that I’d just left. No one responded. Lumus had given me the phone number to Tabitha House along with a number where I could contact him when I was released from Dwight penitentiary.

I was homeless for 8 days when I left Dwight. I was feeling like I wanted to hurt myself. I felt like my life had no purpose and that maybe I’d be better off dead. But I remembered Lumus, so I gave him a call. I told him that if I didn’t get to a safe place where I could get some help that I was going to die. He told me that Jeanette Goodman and Jacki Rivera had been waiting to hear from me since I paroled out of Dwight. I called Tabitha House and spoke with Jeanette. Jeanette arranged for me to get a ride from the south side of Chicago to Harvey for an interview.

The first person I met was Ray Banks, executive director of Restoration Ministries. That was June 17, 1998 and I’m still very much a part of this ministry and Spirit of God Fellowship today.

I went through Tabitha House and successfully completed the program. I graduate on November 3, 1999. I stayed on for a while and was given my first opportunity to work through the ministry at Restoration Ministries’ Resale Store. I worked there for about 2 years and then I pursed a career in substance abuse counseling. I sent out some resumes and I interviewed for an entry-level counselor position at South Suburban Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse to work with women. They hired me and I stayed there for almost 3 years. While there I took the state exams and became a certified CADC and MISA counselor. From there I went to The Gateway Foundation where I worked with Adolescents and Teenagers.

I love children. Initially I didn’t want to work so closely with women. Even at South Suburban it took me a long time to get used to it. When Dr. Sullivan offered me the job at Tabitha House, I laughed. I just knew he was kidding. I got counsel about it, and I was told that it was a good idea. In my obedience to the counsel I’d received I accepted the job, and God bought the increase. I remember the first time I ever gave a lecture at South Suburban; I knew that there was no turning back and that this was what I was supposed to be doing. That is how I feel about being at Tabitha House. I have been given a new perspective along with a burning desire to help women in bringing a message of hope.

I love being with the Tabitha House residents. I love sharing with them. I often take my job home with me by calling them to make sure they know the schedules. Sometimes one or more of them come to mind and I‘ll call just to see how they’re doing. I love what I do. For me it’s not just a job, it’s my ministry as well. I don’t know how many people can actually say that. I remember my last night at Cook County Jail, I had a dream about working with addicts on an administrative level. Almost 4 years later when I walked into South Suburban, God bought it back to my remembrance. He did it again my first day at Tabitha House. I accept it not only as His will, but also as an honor to serve in such a powerful yet sensitive way (it’s not easy working with women).

 Along with my position at Tabitha House, I also minister and witness to the women and men detainees at Cook County jail. I’ve been a volunteer there for the last 4 years. I also have the privilege of carrying the same message of love and hope through knowing Jesus Christ to my own children. When I came to Tabitha House, I hadn’t seen my kids in almost 10 years. Now my 17-year-old daughter Caresse lives with me. I’ve lead three of my five children to the Lord and I’ve witnessed to the other two.

I have had the opportunity to live two lifestyles in one lifetime. I choose this one. I am very grateful to Restoration Ministries and Spirit of God Fellowship for not only investing in me, but also believing in the vision of me being able to overcome my past. I once heard Barbara Sullivan in quote this saying in a teaching: “There are two great times in a person’s life. One is the day that they are born, and the second is finding out the reason why.” I can honestly declare that each and everything that has happened in my life has prepared me for such a time as this. I am living my purpose.

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Marlana Bolden

I am grateful for the opportunity to share my testimony. I came to Tabitha House in 1999 and graduated from the program on February 7, 2001. I was born and raised in South Carolina. I got pregnant when I was 15. I didn’t want to tell my mom because I knew my dad would blame her. I definitely couldn’t tell him because I knew he was going to be so angry I was afraid to think of the outcome. Sure enough, my father did blame my mom. He wanted me to have an abortion, but my mom stood up to him for the first time and said that wasn’t going to happen. Because of this she packed our clothes and we left while my dad was at work. We moved to my grandmother’s home. When my dad found out we had left he was in a rage, I blamed myself for their breakup, but I also felt that it was a way for my mother to escape and have happiness.

My mom, sister and I lived with my grandmother for a little while and then we moved into our house. We started going to church on a regular basis, but by the age of 21, I had three daughters and had become very rebellious.

I strayed away from the church and I started hanging with the w rong crowd. I wouldn’t come home from work. My mom raised my kids because I wanted to party. This is when I started different drugs - first smoking marijuana then snorting cocaine. One night I went to a club with my boyfriend. He asked me to hide his gun in my coat, so I did. We left the club because we had some trouble with a group of guys. When we went outside these guys were waiting for us. They jumped my boyfriend and beat him up and then they threatened me. I remembered I had the gun so I took it out to scare them. It went off and I ended up shooting the leader of the group. I panicked and left the scene but later that night I turned myself in.

I got a two-year sentence and spent a year and a half in prison. This was 1981. You would think that my lifestyle would have changed, but it didn’t. Satan really had his hooks in me, because I wasn’t trying to know Jesus. I was out of my kids’ lives for 2 years, but when I came home after prison, I was back in the same situation, drugs and partying.

My mom cared for my kids while I was out there crazy. I never was a mother to them. I ended meeting a guy who was in the Navy. We got engaged and moved to Chicago in June of 1988. But, it didn’t work. He became very abusive mentally and it reminded me of the way my dad treated my mom. As a kid, I remember swearing I would never let a man treat me like my dad treated my mom, so I broke off the engagement and left him.

I fell back into the same situation. I started smoking cocaine. I thought of myself as a functional drug addict -- “NOT”. I worked and went to see my kids twice a year at first. The last time I went home was in 1992. At the airport waiting to come back to Chicago, I remember my baby girl, who was 8 year old at the time, crying and screaming asking me not to leave. She said she was never going to see me again and that I wasn’t coming back. Little did I know that was true. It was ten years before I went back.

My addiction got the best of me. Crack cocaine became my god. Before I knew it, I was out there selling drugs to support my habit, something I said I would never do. In my addiction, I became pregnant with my fourth child, TaSonia. I just remember asking God, “Are you crazy? How do you expect me to be a mother to this baby? I smoke crack cocaine. I’ve never been a mom to my other kids. I chose crack over my children, my family even you God. So what’s up?”

At the time, I didn’t want the baby. I didn’t believe in abortion, so I tried to give her up for adoption and even sell her in the black market. But, God had a plan. Every time I would try to smoke cocaine TaSonia would cringe in my belly. She would fight the drugs, but I continued to sell and smoke drugs.

TaSonia was born with drugs in her system and was put into DCFS custody. For the first 6 months, I didn’t even try to get her back. DCFS referred me to a drug recovery program, but I stayed for one day. I told myself I wasn’t ready to stop using. I continued to sell and use drugs. I eventually was arrested and spent three months in Cook County jail. While I was there, I had some time to think about what I was going to do with my messed up life.

In jail, I met Lumus Nichols, who is a graduate of Harvey House. He works at Cook County as a GED teacher. He shared his testimony and it was so similar to mine. I saw how God changed his life. God had opened my ears and was opening my eyes. Doc told me about Tabitha House. I filled out the application in jail. This was in May of 1999.

I entered Tabitha House in July and I was more than ready. Tabitha House gave me a new foundation. God had begun a work. I was asked my issues and I said I needed Jesus and I wanted my family back. I wanted to be the mom I never was. The transition began and I was open. Tabitha House gave me hope. Everything that Tabitha House gave me through Jesus Christ was awesome. Character, accountability, council, teaching, mentors, walking, serving and mostly I was forgiven for my sin by the blood of Jesus Christ.

After Jesus restored and renewed a new Marlana, I was granted custody of my daughter TaSonia and my relationship with my children in South Carolina and my family was restored. While in Tabitha House I was able to go back home for my daughter’s graduation - my daughter who at 8 years old said I wasn’t coming back.

At Tabitha House, I was taught Christian parenting skills and learned how to be a mom. Another class I took was Hope and Healing. My drug addiction didn’t just come from hanging with the w rong crowd. There was something missing. There was a hurting - something that kept me bound to drugs so I didn’t have to face the pain that I buried. Hope and Healing allowed me to conf ront the pain, ask for forgiveness, forgive others and myself and to be free from this pain.

I also received computer skills and on-the job training at local businesses. This was God opening the door for my work place. I had some banking experience so my mentor asked the president of a local bank if he would give me a chance. He did and he hired me as a teller - a job with benefits. A couple from Spirit of God Fellowship trusted me and rented me one of their apartments. Restoration Ministries gave me a car that had been donated to the ministry. God had given me all that I needed in starting over.

After I’d been all settled, a new Christian and a working mom, there was still a skeleton in my closet that the Lord needed to remove. On my way to work one morning - I remembered that date so well April 1, 2001. At 7:00 a.m., I had just dropped off my daughter TaSonia at daycare when the police pulled me over and said that I was 5 miles over the speed limit in a school zone. I knew everything was going to be ok because I had a legal driver’s license, car insurance, a vehicle sticker, etc.

However, when the police ran my license there was a warrant out for my arrest. I was shocked because before they let you out of jail they do an extensive background check to make sure nothing else is pending even probation. That skeleton in my closet was 20 years old. I was in violation of my probation from my 1981 assault case and I hadn’t paid all my restitution.

The negative sinful lifestyle I thought I overcame, I had to face all over again with a lot more to lose. I was arrested and taken to Cook County Jail. The South Carolina police had 30 days to pick me up and take me back to South Carolina. But, if they didn’t come get me, I would be released. But I wasn’t thinking about that. I was just thinking that I would never see my baby again, but again God had a plan. I know if I hadn’t had the foundation and training I received at Tabitha House, I wouldn’t have made it through this. Also, God gave me the saints of my church who prayed and supported me.

I was in Cook County for 10 days and it was unbearable until God spoke to me. In jail, I saw so many women that I knew from when I was in my addiction. When they saw me, they said they had seen something different.

I realized that the Lord sent me back to jail to share the “good news” and when he spoke to me, the Lord said, “I’ve got you. The saints are praying, and I have heard their prayers, and will answer them. Don’t worry about your baby. Give her to me. Don’t you trust me?” So that meant even if I was going to be sent back to South Carolina it would be okay. I would have God’s grace.

God needed me to share the good news of Jesus Christ to the people on my tier in jail. I told the women in jail about the lifestyle I used to live and how God transformed me to a new creation and he would do the same for them. Many of them accepted Jesus Christ as Lord.

While I did God’s work in jail, He was taking care of my baggage. God used every individual in Spirit of God Fellowship and Restoration Ministries on my behalf. They paid my restitution and I was released on Good Friday. God resurrected me from the dead. You see I remembered to trust God no matter the circumstances. I know what the enemy intended for bad, God turned to His glory.

Today, I am a servant for Jesus Christ because he is so wonderful to me. God has blessed me to be a homeowner. Out of 100 applications for a special housing program in Harvey, I was the only one chosen to buy a home through this program. So now TaSonia and I live in a very nice, three bedroom home on a quiet street in Harvey. She is in first grade at Calvary Academy. I volunteer there on Wednesdays, in the library and as a storyteller in her class. I serve on the Tabitha House Women’s Board and I’m a mentor to several Tabitha House residents. I volunteer at Restoration Ministries’ food pantry and I help wherever else God needs me.

I want to end my testimony with my favorite psalm, Psalm 18: 16-19.

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too st rong for me. They conf ronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.”

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Tabitha House Profile by Patricia Brooks

First and foremost I give thanks to my Lord and Savior, the Lover of my soul who has a purpose and a plan for my life. My testimony proclaims that the voice of God has manifested in my life. That he has supernaturally affected my life and my circumstances. I feel there is great power in the words of my testimony. It builds faith as nothing else can.

My name is Patricia Brooks. I was born and raised in Chicago by both my parents. I have one brother. He is two years older than me. I had a pretty good childhood until about the age of 12. Both my parents were alcoholics. My mom’s older sister lived with us. Her name was Geneva, but we called her Tonta. Tonta was an important part of the family. She was the backbone. She helped keep things together. I got a lot of wisdom from my Aunt but didn’t use it.

When I was about 12, my parents decided they wanted to buy a new house built from the ground up. Probably not such a good idea seeing that their financial status wasn’t in the best of shape. My parents wanted to be on their own away from my aunt. We saw our home built from the ground up. We lived in it for about one year. My brother and I had good friends. We went to sleep overs and basement parties. Those were the good old days. I enjoyed that year as a child.

I will never forget one day we were coming home from school and our friends came running up to us saying “you’re moving.” My brother and I said “No, we aren’t.” But, when we got to our block the first thing I remember seeing was our kitchen table sitting outside. My mom was drunk and my dad was at work. We were getting evicted. That was most embarrassing moment for me as a child.

We moved back with my aunt and our lives kind of went downhill from that point on. I became rebellious. I stopped going to school and started drinking and smoking. By the time I was 16 I had my first child, a baby girl. I named her Tracy. I dropped out of high school after my second year. Satan’s plan was in the works.

In my early twenties I met and fell in love with a guy named Ronnie. Life was good for a while, but Ronnie liked to gamble and eventually it cost him his life. After Ronnie’s death I went into a state of depression. My aunt Tonta tried to help me. She worked as a housekeeper downtown in condos and she let me work alongside with her. She also sent me to school to become a nursing assistant. She wanted me to have some kind of a career knowing I had never finished high school. I got my diploma, but never pursued it any further. With my job as housekeeper, and my public assistance check, I was set financially to care for my daughter and myself.

I was a functional alcoholic. As time went on, alcohol wasn’t enough and eventually it led to drugs. I picked up my first crack pipe in my early thirties and I was well on my way to a life of destruction. I used drugs for ten years. I did just about anything and everything possible to get drugs. My daughter Tracy and I did drugs together. In order to get money, we would steal clothes and then sell them to buy drugs.

In the midst of my addiction I had three children, DuShawn, Lawrence, and Geneva. Tracy and I were pregnant at the same time. We had our babies a day apart. I remember when I was pregnant with NAME, I was smoking the crack pipe when my water bag broke, but I just kept on smoking. One of my kids went straight to detox after HE/SHE was born.

I thank the LORD today for deliverance for I was truly bound. What Satan meant for evil, the Lord gets the glory. By the grace of God my children are healthy today. In the midst of my addiction my aunt passed away. When she died, she left me her savings. I smoked day and night for months. I had seizures and blackouts. The only medical attention I got was from my smoking buddies asking me “are you all right?” I would then come to realizing that I had been out for sometime.

My only concern was where is my cocaine. My children’s father and I were both on the road to ruins. Our relationship was very abusive and unhealthy for our children.

I remember that all through my addiction my granddaughter Tinesha never gave up on me. She had faith that somehow, someway, I would get us out of the awful lifestyle we were in. Eventually my children were taken from me. I didn’t realize it then- but that was a blessing. They went to live with their father’s mother. Thank the Lord for her.

My mother passed away on the same day my children were taken. That was one of the worst days of my life. I finally got so burned out that I decided to get some help. Not for myself, but for my children. I learned later you have to want it for yourself for it to work. I went to a drug treatment facility called Branden House. I was there for three months. It was in a bible study that I was introduced to Jesus. Barbara Sullivan, my spiritual mom, blessed me with the word of the Lord like I had never heard before. After three months at Branden House, I went to live at Tabitha House.

Tabitha House is one the best choices that I could have made for my life. It is where I got spiritually grounded in Christ. It’s where I began to develop a personal and intimate relationship with my Lord. At Tabitha House, I learned and I am still learning how to live as Christ would want me to live. I learned how to serve and care for others. I learned parenting and job skills. I got hands-on training on what a godly parent was all about. I even had a healing class where I was able to get to the root of my addiction, and I praise God for healing. My daughter Tracy saw what the Lord was doing in my life. Eventually she too got saved, now. She’s walking in God’s Grace.

The power of the Holy Spirit along with Tabitha House has prepared me to live a productive and rewarding life, clean and sober. I graduated from Tabitha House February 16, 2000. I was accepted in the certified nursing training program at Rest Haven Christian Services. I completed the nursing assistant program and was hired as a certified nursing assistant. I knew the Lord was making a way.

Tabitha House and members from my church, the Spirit of God Fellowship walked with me through the difficult times in regaining custody of my younger children. I worked faithfully and planned for the return of my children. They were returned home one at a time so I could adjust. All of my three children had adjustment issues and behavior problems. As they returned home one by one, I had faith in the Lord that he would see me through.

With much prayer and the spiritual influence of my church I began to see a change in my children. My oldest son DuShawn struggled most with behavior problems. He got involved in the after-school programs at Harvey House, and he also joined the youth group. My son won the MVP award in the last basketball tournament that he played in.

By the grace of God my kids have come a mighty long way, I put my faith and trust in the Lord each and every day of my life. I know without him I could do nothing. He gives me the strength and the courage as a single parent to raise my children as best I can. I’m grateful that I chose to walk with the Lord, for me there is no other way. All things are possible with Christ.

I also rent a rehabbed house from Restoration Ministries. I’m financially able to care for my children and myself. Talk about God making a way out of no way. I have come to know who I am in Christ and I praise God for his wisdom and sovereignty in creating me. I’m doing my best to raise my family for the glory of God. The Lord has made me a st rong woman of color, a woman of courage, a woman of conviction and believe me that is a powerful combination. I have faith in myself because I’ve started a new heritage of spiritual wisdom in my family that will continue to be a long line of wise and loving spiritual people. Great and awesome indeed my God is. In my life, he has done marvelous things.

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