I grew up in a military family. We were based in Missouri. In 1974, my father retired from the army and moved our family to Orlando. Talk about culture shock! My two brothers and I were still in school, and we went from living on a secluded army base to a large city where we knew no one. We didn’t fit in at all.
My brothers really struggled to adjust. It wasn’t long before they both turned to drugs to cover their pain. My oldest brother, Ron, grew so depressed that he even attempted suicide. In hopes of turning his life around, he joined the Air Force and moved to Arizona. While there, someone invited him to a Christian revival. He was so lonely that he went. It was there that he gave his life to Christ.
When my brother returned home to Florida a year later, he was a new man. I sat there, listening, and asked myself, “Who is this person? Can this possibly be my brother?” Last I’d seen him, Ron had been depressed, discouraged, and unhappy; yet here he sat before me, excited, full of joy and peace, and so vibrant. How could this be?
Ron told me how he’d come to know the Lord intimately during his time in Arizona. We’d been raised in the church, but an intimate relationship with Jesus was something new to me. I knew Jesus loved me enough to die for me. I had accepted that truth as a little girl. I had gone to church, said my prayers, and memorized scripture for children’s church. Could there be more?
I’d always heard stories of people being touched by Jesus. The Bible is full of them, but they were just that to me—stories. There was never a face to put with a name. But now…this story wasn’t about some unknown person; it was about my brother. The transformation was undeniable.
Seeing the amazing change in my brother and witnessing his excitement and love for God’s Word ignited a desire in me to know Christ intimately too. I had always believed in Him; now I wanted more of His power displayed in my life. I wanted what my brother had. It was a changing point for my faith journey and ultimately my life.
Unfortunately, I don’t believe my second brother, David, ever sought an intimate relationship with Jesus. I have little doubt that he believed in Jesus. He’d grown up in church and knew all about Him, just like Ron and me. But that knowledge never seemed to move from his head to his heart. For 20 years, David remained enslaved to a drug addiction that led him in and out of jail and ultimately cost him his life.
Through the lives of my brothers, I clearly saw the importance of surrendering to Christ. An intimate relationship with Him is the difference between life and death, joy and sorrow, hope and defeat.
Ten years ago, I felt burdened to volunteer with First Baptist Orlando’s women’s jail ministry. My passion for this ministry grows daily. The death of my brother David added fuel to the fire.
When I started volunteering with the prison ministry, we arranged to pick women up as they were released from jail. At that time, the jail let women out in the middle of night, so as you can imagine, those waiting for them were not always healthy influences. We felt convicted to provide a safe environment for and meet the tangible needs of the women being released, so we met with Pastor David Uth.
When we walked through his office doors, we intended only to ask for a small room where we could store hygiene items, clothes, and shoes for the newly released women. But the meeting went so well and he was so receptive, that we went big and asked, “Pastor David, can we have a house?” And that was the birth of the Lydia House. A few years later, I now find myself serving as the director of this ministry.
Through the Lydia House, I see so many lives transformed by God’s amazing love and power. These ladies come to the home scared to death, alone in their pain, wounded by others, and overcome by guilt and shame. We are privileged to introduce them to Jesus, the One who can heal their broken lives and restore them once and for all.
As these women surrender to God’s amazing love and seek an intimate relationship with Him, their lives become completely transformed, just like my brother, Ron. These precious women grow by leaps and bounds. They are healed emotionally, physically, and spiritually. They begin to laugh and dream again. They reunite with their families and begin living productive and impactful lives. I am constantly amazed.
There is no limit of what God can do with someone who is willing! Are you willing?
Written by Sharon Hodges
Photo by Derek Thomson