I am a midwestern girl, born right here in the mitten state. Twice, however, I have moved south of the Mason-Dixon line and have been taken aback by how different the culture is only six hundred miles from here. I had to get over my “midwesterness” to make friends. Here, we stand at a certain distance when we talk to one another. Here we respect privacy and give people emotional space. Here you tend to hide your problems or the things that are shameful about yourself. Not there. There people told me personal things very early on in our friendship and stood too close and asked nosey questions… and I loved it. I loved it because it gave me permission to be real. Now, I am not saying the south is better than the north or that we midwesterners are a bunch of repressed phonies, but I am saying that I found the honesty and authenticity so refreshing and attractive.
If you don’t know, ReCAST is an acronym- each letter (except the e) stands for one of our core values. They are: Replication, Community, Authenticity, Simplicity and Truth. When we moved back north and were looking for a church, I found ReCAST online and hoped against hope that they were serious about the authenticity, because I didn’t think I could bear being held at arms length. And… yes, ReCast became my little pocket of southern sunshine in this frozen tundra of a state. The women of my small group are brave and willing and tell truth about themselves even when it’s difficult- I adore them. I see it throughout the church, a group of people less interested in feeling proud of themselves because they attend church and more interested in being part of how God is loving those around them. It’s so good, but it requires courage and honesty.
I am pleased to be able to share the following testimony with you because it is abounding in authenticity. It is some of the hardest honesty from someone who knows that her readers are not anonymous people in cyberspace but people that she will be sitting next to on Sunday. I love that when Jesus wanted to drive a truth home, He often used stories. Here is a true story, told by our own Sharron Sternbergh to help us see how true it is that God’s love can make its permanent mark and change the trajectory of a soul. I hope it inspires even more authenticity among the women of ReCAST.
Healing Hearts Ministries, Int’l. is very near and dear to my heart. The Lord blessed me with a leadership role in this ministry not because I am a natural born leader or have talents to brag about. No, I am in this ministry because of the long road I walked paved with poor choices and sinful decisions. But God in His mercy never lets anything go to waste if we are willing to let Him use us.
I want to share about my ministry, but first I must tell you why and how I got here.
I grew up in a relatively normal family with caring parents and one younger sister. We were by no means wealthy but my parents always provided for us. I had no fears, I was loved and cared for. In school, I had many friends and thought that was the reason we went to school: to see our friends! I was not a scholarly girl but somehow managed to graduate high school in 1970. Having grown up in the 50’s and 60’s I experienced the Ozzie & Harriet-type families and then the hippie generation. I was drawn to a crowd of people in the late 60’s and early 70’s that loved to party, get high and live the “make peace not war” motto. The sexual revolution was at its peak and our parents really didn’t know what to make of it all. My parents tried to steer me away from that crowd, but I was in deep.
I grew up in a liberal church where I never heard the Gospel preached. To me it was boring and when I graduated from high school, I quit going to church. I found that partying was much more fun and chose a very wild crowd to hang out with.
I got a terrific job at Ford Motor Company when I was 21 and was making more money that I ever dreamed I’d make. I had a nice apartment, a brand new car and was dating a fellow co-worker. The people at Ford made lots of money and loved to party, so I fit right in. I did quit doing drugs though because I knew it was illegal and didn’t want to take the chance of losing this job. So drinking became my way to get high. Every weekend was a party and I never missed any. This went on for 4 years.
At the age of 25, I discovered I was pregnant. I wish I could say I agonized over what I was going to do, but I didn’t. Not for a minute. Abortion was legal, it was affordable, and it was only “a cluster of cells, a blob of tissue.” Not once did I ever consider that there was a baby growing in me. This fiercely independent, self- centered young woman made the choice to have an abortion. Within 3 days I was at the clinic with my boyfriend who never once intervened in my decision. He paid for it.
I won’t go into detail about that day, only to say that what they told me turned out to be a lie. They said it would be like a trip to the dentist. I would have this “simple” procedure and then the next day I could get on with my life – start over, put it behind me. Which was exactly what I wanted to do. Only what happened to me was painful beyond words and I cried for days. I had never had anything worse than a wart taken off my elbow before this and I was traumatized by such a painful violation of my body. I wanted my mom. I wanted comfort. I wanted someone to hold me and tell me it was going to be ok. But deep inside I knew I could never tell anyone what I had done. It was my secret for 15 years.
Two years later I got married and soon afterwards got pregnant. Only this time I wanted this baby! But I knew God would give me a deformed baby or that my baby would die. This is who I thought God was. He would get even with me for what I had done. But no, I had a perfect baby girl. I was amazed. Since I didn’t know God (I didn’t know I COULD know God!) I resumed my drinking and my husband and I continued to party.
At the age of 40, living in the lap of luxury on the gulf of Mexico, my neighbor (who I thought of as a “holy roller”) came to my house one day while I was recuperating from a bout of pneumonia. I had been hospitalized for 6 days and truly thought I was going to die. With my 105 degree fever, I remember asking God not to let me die. My daughter was 10. My neighbor was beautiful with a handsome husband and two of the cutest kids ever. Behind her back I called them Barbie, Ken, Barbie-ette and Ken-ette.
When she came to my house I was not pleased to see her. I was still very sick and I knew she would start talking about God or something “holy.” As she sat with me on the couch she asked how I was, I said fine. She said, “you know, before Todd and I moved to Florida from Minnesota, we were a mess. I was an alcoholic, a drug abuser, I had an abortion and Todd ran around with women and brought home all kinds of STDs. I even attempted suicide.” I thought to myself, “what in the world is she telling me this for?” Then she said, “but then Jesus came into our lives and everything changed.” Aha! I thought, “ok! here we go – religious stuff.” She then asked me if I knew Jesus. I snapped back her “I believe in God!”
She told me that was good but did I know Jesus personally. I got angry and excused myself and went and locked myself in the bathroom. The nerve of her!!! I just figured I would stay in there until she got bored and went home. I sat there for what seemed like hours. But she didn’t go home. As I sat on the edge of the tub, the words she said were flying around in my head. She was an alcoholic, a drug abuser, she’d had an abortion. This was MY life. To this day, I don’t know how I ended up back on the couch but she gently took my hands and told me that Jesus wanted to forgive me of everything I had ever done wrong. She called them sins. I sneered at her and said, “Jesus forgave you for your abortion?” and she quietly said “yes He did”. She didn’t know I had had an abortion, she didn’t know I drank every day, she didn’t know I took pills so I could sleep at night.
Something in her eyes told me she was telling me the truth. She said, “Sharron, do you know that Jesus is standing at the door of your heart and he’s knocking? He wants you to let Him into your life so He can help you and give you a new life.” Suddenly a giant picture that hung over the choir loft of that boring church from my childhood loomed in front of my mind. It was a picture of Jesus knocking on a door. I never knew whose door that was He was knocking on. I’d never heard a story like Noah and the ark or Daniel and the lions den. I started to cry. She shared the Gospel with me and I prayed (she helped me) and I received Jesus into my life. My life as I knew it changed forever and God took me on a journey.
I never had another drink from that day on, which was 27 years ago. God gave me a hunger for His Word and I devoured the Bible. I devoured my neighbors entire library. But the thing that the Lord dealt with first after He saved me, was my abortion. By this time in 1992 there was more evidence that it was not just a cluster of cells or a blob of tissue. I was heartbroken to think I had killed my child. But God forgave me, He healed me after confessing and repenting of my sins. I understood that no sin is too great for Him to forgive. Even abortion. It took 10 years of learning all I could about Jesus’ love and mercy and studying His Word and fellowshipping with other Christians.
One day in 2006 as I sat at work, I stumbled upon a website called Healing Hearts Ministries. I opened the link and began to read. It was a ministry to women who had had abortions. My heart began to pound. I got a lump in my throat. I wanted women to know how Jesus could forgive them and set them free from the guilt and shame and sorrow! I wanted to be a part of this ministry!! So that night I called the regional director in Michigan and talked for the first time to another woman who had had an abortion. It felt weird. It’s a secret sin! I told her I wanted to be a leader in the ministry and she said I had to take the Bible study as a client before I could be recommended for leadership. So I did. It was the most in-depth Bible study I had ever done and God left no stone unturned. I went on to leadership training for a year that culminated in Seattle, Washington. At the annual leadership conference I met 120 other Healing Hearts post-abortive women leaders from all over the country, all of them healed and set free from the aftermath of abortion. It was the most glorious thing I had ever taken part in, worshiping the Lord with 120 women who were forgiven by Jesus and given a ministry to help hurting women. Since then, the ministry has grown to help not only post-abortive women, but any woman hurting from painful things from their past.
I’ve been a certified counselor in Healing Hearts for 13 years and I am always amazed at what God does in the hearts of hurting women. He allowed me to be a part of His work and if we’re willing, He will use even our sinful past.
One in three women in the United States has had at least one abortion. Those are staggering numbers but a fact. I want to encourage any woman reading this who has experienced abortion in her past to feel free to call me. Let’s talk. The enemy of our soul would have us keep this hidden and forever festering. It’s a wound that needs to be healed and there is only One Person who can do that. It is Jesus Christ and the power of His Word. I would love nothing more than to see every post-abortive woman come to understand that even the sin of abortion is forgivable. All glory to God!
Please call me 269-808-0770 (all calls are confidential) or check out our website at: www.healinghearts.org