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Inside the Mission

12 years after Shepherd’s Door, Darlene has regained all that was lost

Years ago, Darlene's life fell apart. Today, she celebrates family and gives back to Shepherd's Door.

Years ago, Darlene’s life fell apart. Today, she celebrates family and gives back to Shepherd’s Door.

It’s late at night at Shepherd’s Door, our New Life Ministry for women and children in northeast Portland. A woman comes downstairs, anxious and unable to sleep. She has a court date tomorrow to find out if she’ll gain custody of her children now that she’s in recovery. Darlene, a night-shift staff member, invites her to sit on the couch where they sip hot tea and talk. “I know what you’re going through,” she says. “Let’s pray about it.”

Darlene has a good life. She’s a suburban mom with three kids, a job she enjoys, a happy marriage and fulfilling life. But there was a much darker time when Darlene walked the streets of Portland – cold, homeless, afraid and completely alone.

A dozen years ago, Darlene’s devastating crack addiction burned through all her money, alienated her family, took her children and foreclosed her home. Suddenly homeless, Darlene had no idea how to survive on the streets. “I was too scared to sleep at night, so I slept in a park during the day,” Darlene remembers.

Just before Christmas, with snow falling in Portland, Darlene found Shepherd’s Door. She barely dared to hope that there would be room for her and her baby son, but she was invited in that same day. “I just started crying,” she says, “because I didn’t think my life could change so fast.”

Darlene with her husband.

Darlene with her husband.

More than a decade later, Darlene joyfully shares with other women how God has transformed her life. Shepherd’s Door helped her heal from deep wounds in her past that drove her addictive behavior. She reconnected with God and learned tools to support her sobriety. After graduating, she found employment working for an advertising agency, thanks to an old co-worker who happened to be visiting Portland Rescue Mission. Darlene later remarried and was reunited with all of her children. “Everything I lost has been regained and more.”

When women still in the recovery program talk with Darlene, she listens for what God wants her to tell them. “A lot of them are going through the same things that I went through,” she says. “It took me seven years to get my children back. Just being able to share that with people when it seems hopeless – you just have to do the next right thing and listen to God and do what He wants you to do next. He’ll make it happen if it’s supposed to.”

Giving back to help the women at Shepherd’s Door strengthens Darlene’s own recovery. “Sometimes women in the program think that recovery stops when you graduate. Like you’re done. You just go out there and live your life. But you’ve got to keep it fresh and current. You can never forget where you came from,” she says.

Help more women and children find safety and the first steps toward a new life with a holiday donation. Thank you for caring.