Debs (52) left London to start a new life for herself in Sheffield but struggled to let go of the ghosts of her past. By taking a big leap of faith, she finally found healing and empowerment.
My life was hell when I was growing up. My father was an alcoholic and used to beat up my mum in front of my younger sister and me. He was often violent towards us too. I remember that when my parents argued, I’d pretend to be far away.
But all the chaos at home started to get to me. I thought the world was a scary place. By the time I was 14, I hated everybody and I started self-harming. We had social workers constantly in and out of our house and eventually I was put into care.
At 17, I got mixed up with a gang who did bad things, but I spent time with them because they gave me the attention I wanted. I ended up getting sexually abused. I moved to another area and hardly ever went out. I didn’t want to be around people anymore.
Later, I met a man and things moved fast. Before I knew it, I was married and pregnant. My husband had family in Sheffield so we decided to move there. But he became increasingly violent towards me. I kept thinking: “I can change him, things will get better.” But the abuse continued and I realised the only way out was to leave him.
I took my two daughters and we moved into our own flat. It was around then that my father came back into my life. He was ill so I said he could move in with us and I’d look after him. For the first time ever, I really got to know my dad. We talked a lot and he asked my forgiveness. Forgiving him healed something deep inside me.
My dad's health continued to get worse. One day, while I was reading to him, I felt a strong urge to say the Lord’s Prayer. As I was saying it, he passed away peacefully.
Soon after that, I met [Church Army evangelist] Jane Emson. I’d met Jane a couple of times about 20 years earlier. We started chatting and she invited me to take part in a six-week Christianity course she was running on the estate.
Towards the end of the course, I told Jane I was ready to take that leap of faith. I kept on reading the Bible, and stumbled across Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This passage felt so relevant to me, my mind was cluttered with junk and emotional baggage. I wanted that transformation through Jesus.
I now work as a chef at the nursery school on the estate. It’s wonderful to cook for the children and spend time with them. And it’s all thanks to Jane. She’s been a tower of strength in my life. Through the good and bad times, she’s always been there for me. She’s helped me to feel valued and believe in myself.
Three years ago, I was baptised. It felt like new life was breathed into me. My youngest daughter, Holly, and my four-year-old grandson, Riley, also decided to give their lives to Jesus.
I was almost 50 when I came to faith, but I’ve finally discovered what true love is: God’s love that continues to love us no matter what. I feel liberated and empowered through that love, and I want to share it with others.
I know there are a lot of people who feel their situation is hopeless, that there’s no way out – but there always is. You’re important to God, you’re worthy of his love; you’ve got to have faith that he knows what’s best for you. I can’t wait to see what other wonderful things he has in store for my life.
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