The seed of the Word fell on rocky ground but over time sprouted and grew.
Amanda M. Klemp
In 2005, an agricultural expert grew a date palm tree from seed that was 2,000 years old. That seed was scattered and buried, dormant for a millennium, until it was found and nurtured into a productive plant. (smithsonianmag.com)
For Sherry Deaton, it didn’t take a millennium for the seed of the Word to take root in her heart, but it was hidden in the dark for quite a while. However, when it was finally planted, it blossomed abundantly.
“Sherry is the perfect example of God’s amazing grace and his promise that he will never leave us the way he found us,” says Dan Schmidt, pastor at Faith, Tyler, Texas. “If you were to ever meet Sherry in person, you’d have no idea that she has such a colored past. She has a sweet East Texan accent, a huge smile, and a Holy Spirit glow that is infectious. And she’s open enough to tell anyone her jaw-dropping stories of unbelief and rebellion so that she can quickly introduce them to their Savior, Jesus Christ.”
The rocky soil
Sherry’s childhood was spent on a farm in Grandview, Texas. She lived with her mom and stepfather, who were both verbally and physically abusive. They didn’t go to church, and she didn’t have friends because she could not have anyone over. When Sherry was about 13 years old, her parents divorced, and she moved out with her mom. Her mom ended up with the wrong people and was drinking and doing drugs. Sherry was scared. She was desperate to be safe, but neither parent was an option. There was no other place to go.
“It was the worst mistake of my life . . .”
At 14, she dropped out of school and started living on the streets. She made friends who helped her find food and places to sleep, but that life came with all sorts of dangers and problems. It wasn’t until she was about 17 that a friend’s family took her in. She struggled with the rules and structure, but she was safe.
When she 19, Sherry got pregnant for the first time. She got pregnant again a year later with a new boyfriend, and then again shortly after her second was born. Life was difficult for Sherry, now in her early twenties with three kids. Yet despite all the obstacles and everything she endured, Sherry had a job she liked. She paid the bills, cared for her kids, and was even able to buy a home. She was creating the stability she had never enjoyed.
Then she met Stacy, the man she would eventually marry. While she was getting on her feet, he would go off to clubs and party. In fact, when he proposed, Sherry said no and had no qualms about telling him exactly why. So he promised to change. Over time he demonstrated those changes, and they eventually got married.
But after they were married, he started reverting back to his old ways—and now he was bringing it home. “It” was meth.
“It was the worst mistake of my life,” says Sherry, speaking about the first time she caved and tried her husband’s meth. At first, it was a weekend thing, but over time it became daily. As drugs became more prevalent in their lives, anything good started to erode. Stacy became abusive. “I was my mom all over again,” Sherry says.
As she and Stacy continued to spiral downward, it was getting harder for Sherry to hide the bruises. Once she even tried to leave, but, when she went back to the home with her kids to get a few things, Stacy was waiting with a sledgehammer. She was able to fight back and get out. The kids saw it all. The next day, her boss encouraged her to talk to a detective. Stacy was arrested and spent a little time in jail. But when he was released, they decided to try to make it work. Sherry admits she was probably as addicted to him as she was to the drugs—it was all toxic. She again drifted into the downward spiral of addiction and eventually lost her job.
Sherry was now jobless, high almost constantly, and worried mostly about where the next hit would come from. “I was in so much pain, so much torment—mentally, physically, emotionally,” she says.
The seed is planted
Then a missionary came knocking on her door. Sherry doesn’t know who he was, but he offered to pray with her. She says he was kind and compassionate and helped her out. It was the first time she really started to think about God and what had been happening in her life. Over the course of a few months two more missionaries made visits, even giving her a picture book of Bible stories. Sherry admits that each time a missionary visited she was high.
No one knows if those visits and the visit from Child Protective Services (CPS) are related, but CPS came to her home, found drugs, and removed her three children, ages 5, 6, and 8. She and her husband were both arrested. She spent the next two years lying to CPS and failing drug tests. She eventually had to sign away rights to her kids. Losing her children sent her further down the slope of addiction. She got arrested again and sentenced to a month in jail.
While in jail, Sherry was not only off drugs for the first time in a long time but someone gave her a Bible. She says she had a hard time making sense of it but was drawn to the Psalms and would read them.
When she was released from jail, her first stop was her dealer’s house—but not for drugs. It was simply for a ride. Though it seems way too serendipitous, her dealer was on her way to a Bible study and took Sherry. Afterward Sherry came home and says she could start to feel God working in her.
Nothing was instantaneous. She did drugs again, but somehow it was different. She wanted out of this lifestyle. She was praying and talking to God. She knew she needed real help—God’s help. “The love I was always searching for but never found, I had it now,” she says.
Taking the first steps to make things right, she turned herself in for a previous charge and spent more time in jail. This time she was doing Bible studies with other inmates. She came out sober, cut off communication with her husband, and hasn’t done drugs since.
The seed begins to grow
Sherry moved away and divorced Stacy, who wasn’t interested in hearing about God and didn’t see a problem with his life. She got back on her feet and joined a Baptist church. She got involved in the church, was learning God’s Word, and became close with its members. “They showed me what it looked like to have Christ in the home. It was beautiful,” she says. She eventually left the Baptist church and got involved with a non-denominational church for several years, but she says she was not finding what she needed. During this time, she was reunited with all three of her kids.
After another move, she ended up living near Faith in Tyler. Remembering a flyer she had received, she called Pastor Schmidt. They met, and he taught her about God’s love.
“I was hooked from there on, and then my kids started to come,” says Sherry. She had finally found God’s Word “where I could grow. I felt so accepted; it felt like family. It was so awesome. My kids felt that too.”
Now she feels like a totally different person. She works at a pregnancy counseling center, armed with the lessons learned from her own life and with the truth of God’s love and grace. She can tell the women she works with that there is hope and that God loves them.
She says, “One thing is for sure—I’ve been through a lot of things. I’ve been broken down; I’ve been in a pit. But God surely called me out. He transformed not just my heart and mind. He transformed my life, my kids’ lives, their families’ lives. He transformed my family. That was all God.”
Women’s ministry in Tyler
Since Sherry has become a member at Faith, she has been commissioned as Faith Lutheran Church’s deaconess over women’s ministry. Through this ministry, Sherry helps women in crisis situations, including unplanned pregnancies and domestic violence.
“I wouldn’t be who I am today without God’s unfailing love, and I want everyone I meet to experience the joy and forgiveness that only he can provide,” says Sherry. “When the women hear my story, God inevitably opens a door for me to share the life-changing power of Jesus Christ. My main goal is to lead these families into a growing relationship with Jesus through regular Bible studies and connecting them to the agencies and organizations that can help them with their needs. I invite them to meet with my pastor and visit the congregation so they can have lasting and meaningful relationships with the body of Christ.”
Supporting those who support children
Due in large part to the raging opioid epidemic across the nation, nearly 450,000 children are in foster care in the United States. The need for strong, Christian foster families is great. However, Kingdom Workers realizes that not every family can foster, so they’ve developed the Foster Support program, which provides assistance to foster families by connecting volunteers to families in need who live in their area.
Author: Amanda M. Klemp
Volume 107, Number 04
Issue: April 2020