The Bible makes it clear that God is active and present in each individual’s life whether they recognize Him or not. Jeremiah 29:11 shows us that God has a plan for our good and He is dedicated to working out that plan even if it means disrupting what we have planned for ourselves. This was certainly the case for Maria Hart, one of the moms currently living with her two teenage daughters, Valerie and Brook, at STCH Ministries Homes for Families. As she looks back on where God has brought her from, Maria realizes, “He took my kids away. He took my life away, twice…all for me to learn that I had to do something to stop doing the drugs.”
Drug abuse had been a factor in Maria’s life from an early age. Her first child, Frank, born of a teenage pregnancy, was raised by her parents as though he were a younger brother. While a young adult, Maria met and fell in love with her husband. Even though they attended church purely out of a sense of duty to his family traditions, she remembers hearing God whisper truth to her through those experiences. Unfortunately, one of the factors that drew the couple together was a shared dependence on narcotics.
In the midst of bad decisions and harmful habits, Maria could see God’s activity around her; she saw God’s fingerprints when her son Frank decided to turn his life around through trusting Jesus as his Savior. Even so, she was not ready to make any major changes in her own life. The situation of Maria’s young family was continuing to deteriorate. When problems arose at school, Maria decided to pull both of her girls out. Neighbors in their trailer park had also reported concerns for her two young daughters.
“The girls were always outside asking people for food,” Maria recounts.
A lifetime of living in the moment and seeking the release of chemically induced highs came to a dramatic climax when Child Protective Services (CPS) stepped in. They required Maria to take a drug test—a test she knew she would fail. Driven by the fear of losing their daughters, Maria and her husband tried to avoid the authorities, but soon Valerie and Brook were placed in an emergency shelter by CPS.
Meanwhile, God was faithfully working His plan to bring this family into relationship with Himself. In February 2017, the girls moved to STCH Ministries Homes for Children. Valerie and Brook were apprehensive about a new place and leery of all the new rules, but very happy to be together. After spending time with their cottage family and settling in to a healthy routine, they both flourished in their new environment.
Maria, on the other hand, was heartbroken to have lost custody of her girls. She spiraled into a dark depression and heavier drug use, switching from merely snorting methamphetamine to shooting it directly into her body. One fateful day Maria remembers taking the meth and feeling unwell. Her husband found her unconscious and called an ambulance. Maria’s heart was wildly out of rhythm. The EMTs were forced to take extreme measures to get it under control. Her heartbeat and breathing had to be stopped and resuscitated twice before she stabilized.
Her survival shows, once again, God stepped into her life to work for her good and His ultimate glory. When she returned to consciousness and recognized she was hospitalized, Maria finally came to the conclusion that something had to change.
As she recovered from her heart attack, Maria resolved to do whatever it took to make a new start. She immediately quit using drugs. However, the caseworkers made it clear: her only chance at reuniting with her daughters meant getting a job and finding a better place to live. She started applying for any job she could think of, but she was turned down without exception because of her history of drug use. Encountering obstacles at every turn, desperately trying to make things right, she was sucker-punched again when her husband decided to leave, merely stating that after sixteen years of marriage he was done.
With no job and no husband, Maria also had no place to live. Her cousin opened her home and in July the girls were released to the cousin’s custody. The two women continued to seek alternatives, and a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) representative suggested they look into Homes for Families outside of Goliad, Texas.
Homes for Families is a program for mothers and their children who are living in situations that threaten the stability and safety of the family. Families stay together while the moms receive one-on-one training and counseling to help them succeed with their children and with life. Topics covered during this program cover both spiritual growth and practical life skills.
At first, Maria found the structure of the program to be daunting; she was not used to having boundaries. Yet, she knew this was her best chance at making a real difference in her life and for her girls.
“It was something that had to be done,” she declares. “It was the only way to better myself and the girls.”
It didn’t take long to realize the structure and continuity the program provided gave Maria a sense of security. For the first time, immersed in an atmosphere steeped in Scripture and surrounded by people deeply committed to her success, Maria has blossomed. Resident Coordinator Patricia Urech has steadfastly walked alongside Maria from the first day she moved on campus.
Maria has now surrendered her heart to Jesus, and her trust in Him is increasing every day. She’s learning how to manage her anger and let go of the strife she battled for so long. Her dedication to change has impressed CPS as well: they have now restored full custody of the girls to Maria!
On a visit with extended family, the topic of the future was discussed. Maria’s family believed that she had achieved her goal—to get the girls back. They assumed she would walk away. But Maria realized that quitting now would be turning her back on her best opportunity to create a better future. She recognized God’s goodness in bringing her through all of the past and she committed herself whole-heartedly to finishing the program.
Valerie and Brook have benefitted the most from the changes in Maria. Where they once knew a mother full of fear who was constantly anxious, the mom they live with now is slow to anger and quick to pray. Those changes are taking root in the girls’ hearts, too. The family has celebrated great milestones together, such as when Maria and Brook were baptized in March at First Baptist Church, Goliad.
God’s faithfulness is evidenced in a restored relationship with Maria’s son Frank as well. Maria felt led by the Lord to reach out to him and share the transformation God is working in her life. This year’s Mother’s Day celebration was a joyous one; the entire family spent the weekend together at Frank’s home.
At Homes for Families, Maria is moving through the phases of the program and is preparing for a career in childcare. She is researching options and requirements for obtaining a teaching certificate. Her days are filled with Bible study, parenting classes, and other courses to prepare her for independent living.
Maria’s experience shows that God relentlessly pursues those who are lost. For Maria, it took reaching the absolute end of her own strength before she surrendered to His infinite love for her. Maria explains that she feels a peace deep in her spirit that she has never experienced before. Her ultimate goal remains true to her new faith, “to keep walking with God and take care of the girls.”
Maria is thankful to have found in STCH Ministries a place where hope is a reality. She marvels that God Himself is active every day in her life. When asked how STCH supporters could specifically pray for God to work in her life, she radiates contentment as she responds, “He’s already done it. He’s changed us all.” Just a moment of further reflection causes her to add, “Ask them to pray for other mothers to find Homes for Families.”
God continues His work of reconciling individuals to Himself. At STCH Ministries, we invite you to join us in praying for those families He is pursuing even now.