Paying Forward God's Grace
By Rod Thomas
The 700 Club
CBN.com-“My dad did say, ‘you'll never amount to a hill of beans,’ and that sentence just right there, crushed my spirit.”
Sylvia Marchael heard few kind words from her father. While he was an alcoholic and verbally abusive, her mother was emotionally detached. It left Sylvia feeling empty and alone. “I got absolutely no emotional support from my parents,” she remembers. “I just felt that my dad hated me and disapproved of everything I did. And it was devastating.”
As Sylvia got older, she looked to boys for affirmation. “I saw my life just reaching out to whoever that paid attention to me and that loved me.” Hoping to start a normal life, she married a man she knew from high school – but there were problems from the very beginning. “He was an alcoholic. And as a pattern, living with an alcoholic, being raised by one, it was the norm for me to marry one.”
He wasn’t abusive, but had little to do with Sylvia or their growing family. “He wasn't there and I didn't know what I was doing. I just felt very alone and very afraid.”
After their second son was born, he distanced himself even more, and they separated. At 28, Sylvia moved in with her parents and the couple shared custody of the boys. But as her parents watched her sons, Sylvia started going to bars, where she was introduced to cocaine. “I fell in love with it. I was able to self medicate and numb the pain that I’d felt for so many years and from the failure of my marriage.”
Sylvia's new lifestyle quickly took ahold of her, and she partied constantly. As a result, her ex-husband took full custody of their sons. “I emotionally was a wreck. I was just in a very, very dark place and unfortunately my children were the ones that had to suffer.”
Sylvia started bartending, and eventually got hooked on crack. As the addiction got worse, she turned to the streets, doing whatever she needed to do to stay high. “I prostituted. I sold my body. I stole from my family. I was very scandalous. I found myself being arrested on three or four different occasions.”
Later, both her parents passed away. But before her father died, he told her something she had wanted to hear her entire life. “Right before he died, he did tell me that he loved me. The only time he ever told me. I promised him time after time that I would stop. He goes, ‘I don’t want to live if you're not going to live.’ (I said) ‘Okay, I’ll try. I’ll try.’"
But as much as she tried she couldn’t keep that promise. Things got even worse when she received a final gift from her parents. “I inherited a lot of money, about $130,000. I even had money put in a CD for my kids. I was going to do it the right way. I was going to get clean and sober, and that never happened,” she said. “I ended up spending the whole amount in eight months. It was gone.”
As the years passed and the addiction ravaged her body, Sylvia had lost all hope and considered suicide. In her desperation, she reached out to Kevin, her son who had become a Christian. “I figured I’m going to take my life or I’m going put this quarter in this payphone and pray that my son, Kevin answers the phone. And he did. I told him, I said, ‘I’ve lost everything, Kevin. I’ve spent it all, and I just want to die. Will you help me? I need help.’ He said, ‘I’m going to find a home for you. You need to go into rehab.’ I said, ‘I’ll do anything.’”
He took her to the Walter Hoving Home in Pasadena, a Bible-based recovery home for women. There, they met John and Elsie Benton, founders of the ministry. “She was a person that had no hope, and I don't think she felt that she could change,” Elsie said.
“As we call her, Mom B was there. She prayed with me and I sobbed uncontrollably and I accepted the Lord Jesus as my Savior. Right there without even having read the Bible. I didn't care. I knew there was only one way that I was going to get help and that was to look up to Jesus.”
Sylvia says she never suffered withdrawals. And though it wasn’t always easy, she finished the program, and learned who she was in God. “As I grew in the Walter Hoving Home and learned who Christ was in me and everything in Scripture, I began to thirst for more of it.”
Mom and dad Benton showed her a love she never thought was possible. “I was starving for affection. I was starving for love. I had been denied that all of my life, and the Bentons loved me unconditionally. “When they come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior, and that relationship helps them overcome their past. It's amazing what God does with these ladies,” John said.
Sylvia also learned to love herself. “We've all been through something where we felt that we were not worthy of forgiveness, but with Jesus, He forgave me for all of it. And so through time I was able to forgive myself.”
Today, Sylvia is the Vice President and Director of the Walter Hoving Home in Las Vegas. “I look in the mirror sometimes and just am in awe of what God has done, what Jesus has done in my life and how He's completely renewed my mind. He's transformed my life.”
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