A harbored secret
Jill grew up in Salem back in the day when the town shuffled at an easier pace. What she calls her “Mayberry,” Salem childhood brought carnivals, adventures, early morning paper routes, and Campfire Girls. Raised in a loving home, Jill was surrounded by devoted parents, three brothers, and a sister.
Yet, a secret she harbored gnawed at her. Keeping it close, Jill thought she could protect herself and her family, but it deteriorated her self-worth, self-perception, and life outlook. The truth was, for much of her formative childhood, Jill had endured sexual abuse from a family friend.
The false belief that inner strength and resilience might keep her brokenness together was not enough. “Throughout my adult life, I didn’t cry. That would be showing weakness. I always thought if I needed somebody, it would be a sign of weakness, too,” Jill concedes. “I was a single mom, a single person, I just took care of my own needs.”
For many years, Jill self-medicated with drugs and alcohol. The shame and despair only continued. Jesus says in John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
On June 2, 2015, though, life as she knew it shifted when Jill found Simonka Place and enrolled into the New Life Fellowship recovery program. The hard and good work began as she and loving counselors peeled back the layers. Through Jesus’ transformational power, committed UGM staff, and Jill’s tenacity, she is now a changed person. God has even empowered her to forgive her perpetrator.
“When I forgave him, Jesus extended His hand, and I felt Him,” Jill recalls. “I realized the next day that I had forgiven myself because I blamed myself. It was amazing, it freed me, I felt like I was resurrected as a new Jill.”
When you look at her, you see a glow. Jill’s smile is radiant, and the Holy Spirit dwells in her. “That old Jill is gone,” she says. “God is teaching me today not only how to love myself but how to show others love.”
A long-awaited graduation
Jill, among other men and women, will graduate from the recovery program on March 11—the long–awaited day. This day will bring for her many emotions ranging from excitement to fearfulness of the unknown, and maybe everything in between. Her family, though, is ready to not only celebrate her accomplishments lavishly, but also support her.
“I have no desire to use or drink. God [is] filling up those areas that I had emptiness in. When I leave [Simonka Place], I want to be the very best clean and sober grandma, mom, and sister ever,” says Jill who has a new granddaughter to love.
Although a little apprehensive and unsure about what the future now holds as she prepares to leave UGM, Jill is confident that the Lord has brought her life full circle. “When I think about graduation, I think about how I can best serve my Lord. I say ‘Jesus, what do you want me to do?’ I try to pay attention to what he’s showing me.”
Union Gospel Mission is changing the face of homelessness, one story at a time. When you give, you’re helping people just like Jill.