Michelle grew up in a stable Christian home, an independent, bright young woman—until she started drinking and smoking marijuana. Even though she had grown up in church, she went the opposite direction and immersed herself in a lifestyle of parties and drugs.
Michelle eventually became so difficult to live with that her parents finally asked her to leave home. She moved in with one friend and then another. But before long no one wanted her around.
“Eventually I ran out of friends, I ran out of my welcome at my parents’ house and I started living in my car. That’s when I got my first DUI,” Michelle said. She started hanging out with wiccans, satanists and punk rockers because “they were the biggest and baddest on the street and I wanted them on my side.”
But she never imagined the spiritual darkness that would come with that lifestyle and before long she found herself trapped—homeless, eating out of dumpsters, and her mind tormented by the forces of darkness.
“So I was living on the street, I lost my mind and there was no safety for me. There was no peace,” Michelle said.
Michelle Met God at Teen Challenge
But Michelle’s dad knew about Teen Challenge and when it came time for her to go to court for a DUI, she was presented with the opportunity to go to jail for 48 days or go to Teen Challenge. Her dad offered to pay her court costs if she’d go to Teen Challenge. Being homeless and out of work, she picked Teen Challenge. After she’d been at the Kern County Teen Challenge women’s center in Bakersfield for 48 days, she called her parents to come pick her up—but they refused and encouraged her to stay.
“So I decided to stick around and that’s when God really got ahold of my heart and started doing a change in me.” Having grown up in church, Michelle knew what she needed to do. “I was at the Teen Challenge induction center in Bakersfield and I just went into the chapel by myself. I had on a hoodie that was three sizes too big and just pulled the hood over my head and let it all out. Just decided to cry out to Him…It’s been the best decision ever.”
She finished her time at the induction center and went to the Ventura Teen Challenge women’s center to complete Phase Two of the program. After graduating in March 2014, she went to Hawaii Teen Challenge and completed an apprenticeship, helping the women there who were going through many of the same struggles she had gone through.
Michelle’s parents had told her she was welcome to come home but she knew God wasn’t finished with her yet and she made plans to attend Teen Challenge Ministry Institute.
Finding a Passion for Ministry at TCMI
At TCMI, Michelle found a calling and a passion for ministry and worship. She joined the TCMI student street missions team on Saturday nights, evangelizing outside the local movie theater.
“It was so out of my comfort zone to go out to random strangers and tell them about Jesus,” she said. “Because I had been homeless, I can relate to people on a ground-level basis, just sitting with people and giving them time and love. It’s the Bible and Jesus that they’re searching for and they don’t even know it.”
At TCMI, Michelle learned more about her walk with God. “I realized that worship isn’t just raising your hands and singing but it’s a connection between you and God. TCMI really taught me about this passion I had for Jesus, how to put it into more practical ways…TCMI gave me tools that I needed.”
When it came time to pick a focus for her TCMI studies, Michelle chose missions. “I knew that God had called me to missions and to help people.”
She celebrated her TCMI graduation in September 2015. After that an opportunity opened for her to participate in a TCMI Global Internship for three months at the House of Joy, a Teen Challenge women’s residential home in Bucharest, Romania.
There she taught classes, and lived with, prayed with and encouraged the women. She went to detox centers and spoke with the women there about the love that God showed her when she was lost in drugs and alcohol. She told them how her life had changed drastically and how God’s love can do a miraculous work in their lives too. She joined Teen Challenge Romania’s street witnessing team, speaking with the homeless and handing out sandwiches.
We asked Michelle what was one of her most memorable experiences in Romania.
“One of the students didn’t really speak English. We had very limited conversations because I didn’t speak Romanian. But one day at lunch, she asked the staff member on duty to translate for her and she told me how much my being there was having an impact on her life, that she felt the love of God and there was something different about me. And just the fact that God’s love was able to reach her when I couldn’t speak the words was an amazing experience. Just the fact that she was touched by my life and I couldn’t speak to her. It showed me God’s love isn’t held back by any barriers. Language can’t stop love, age can’t stop love, and nothing in this world can stop God’s love from reaching those he needs to. Out of everything, that is the thing that will stay with me forever.”
Looking Forward to a Lifetime of Ministry
Now back in the States, Michelle has been drug-free for three years and is looking forward to a lifetime of ministry helping other people. “I’m really excited to be able to know that I’m right in the middle of God’s will for my life. I know what my mission is and it’s to help hurting people and to share God with them. Wherever I am, I’ll be trying to help people.”
“I just want to love God’s people and be trained in how to best serve Him. That’s what I know that I’m called to do and I’ll do that for the rest of my life.”
If you or someone you love needs help with addiction, please call one of our local centers:
San Diego County: (619) 265-0337
Orange County: (714) 835-8822
Ventura/Tri-County: (805) 648-3295
Inland Empire: (951) 683-4241
Timothy House (Adolescent Boys): (714) 913-4741
Kern County: (661) 399-2273
Los Angeles County: (310) 644-3695
Ministry Institute: (323) 569-2818
Fresno County: (559) 470-6097