The month of April never comes and goes without my reliving this life-changing and very personal event.
The day was April 24th, ten years ago, and I was driving home from work after a particularly frustrating day. For the three years since we had opened, I had watched numerous women arrive at Blue Monarch, having been addicted to meth, showing absolutely no bond with their children. They interacted with one another as if they were siblings.
I had attended a conference a few years earlier, where I learned that meth actually destroys the part of the brain that gives a mother nurturing instincts toward her children. Other parts of the brain can eventually take over this function, much like a stroke victim, but it takes a long time. Meth was referred to as the "Devil's Drug", which seemed like a pretty fitting name for something that actually made it impossible for a woman to feel love for her own child.
In this conference we watched stunning videos of actual raids on meth labs. Police officers in scary Darth Vader type masks stormed into houses shouting and pointing guns. What made such an impression on me, though, was that even the smallest, terrified children did not reach for their mothers. They already knew they were essentially on their own.
On this day in April I was driving home thinking about how fed up I was with this very issue. I recalled all the women who had left Blue Monarch before they were ready, taking their helpless children with them back into dreadful circumstances, and I was sick of it.
I began to wonder if perhaps my job was done? Maybe my purpose was to get Blue Monarch started and then move on? After all, after watching so many women make terrible choices I wasn't even sure if we were making a difference.
About that time, I rounded a curve just three miles from my house and could see that an accident had just happened. There was a car upside down and it was smoking. No other cars seemed to be involved and there were no emergency vehicles on the scene.
I pulled over to the side of the road, called 911, and began walking to the car. This is where everything began to move in slow motion and every detail became permanently etched into my brain.
My dusty pink sandals crunched through the broken glass and gravel as I carefully approached the overturned car. The closer I got I began to smell a strong odor of alcohol. Well, that's great. A drunk driver. Look what you've done.
When I reached the car, I found a woman sitting on the bank with her elbows resting on her bony knees. Her long, dark hair was sloppily piled on top her head. At first glance she looked very much like all the meth addicts I had seen over the past three years. She was covered in nasty sores, was extremely thin, and she was missing several teeth. In my present state of mind, I thought to myself, "Another addict! Well, at least you didn't hurt someone else."
That's when she looked up at me with those dark, empty eyes and said, "Do you think she's going to be okay?"
I looked around and didn't see who she was talking about. But before I could answer she asked me again, "Do you think she's going to be okay?"
Then much to my horror, I discovered a small child, a beautiful little girl, lying in the brush behind her. She was face-up, eyes were closed, and I remember thinking it was hard to imagine how her body looked like it had been carefully placed in the tall weeds and brush even though she was obviously thrown violently from the car. I rushed to the little girl's side and felt her for a pulse - but she was already gone.
At that moment I felt like I had stepped into hell. Right before my eyes - in living color - was the very thing I was so sick of. Here was a mother, much like the others I had seen, who was not responding like she had just lost her child, much less due to her own actions. I was so angry with her I couldn't even look at her.
As this woman stumbled around mumbling to herself, I sat next to her little girl, held her hand, and began praying to God - not to miraculously bring her back, but to thank him for sparing at least one child from the life I could only imagine she had been living.
This tragic incident threw me into a deep, dark depression. For the first time in my life I truly understood this thing called, "depression". It was frightening to feel something take over my mind that was more powerful than myself, something I seemed to have absolutely no control over. I always thought depression was something you just needed to snap out of. It didn't happen to strong people like me. I began to wonder if maybe this was how addiction felt? I remember going to bed praying that I would please wake up as someone else who didn't feel this terrible pain. The world was an ugly place and surely God was disappointed and disgusted with the entire human race.
But over the following weeks God amazingly took this dreadful experience and began speaking to me in powerful and loving ways...
"You have been focusing on all the darkness and not on the light."
"You have forgotten all the children who will not be dead on the side of the road one day - because their mothers came to Blue Monarch."
"You don't know what that mother's life was like that led her to that point - or how different it may have been if she had had a place like Blue Monarch when she needed it." Wow. How true.
And then this: "You thought you were finished? We're just getting started."
That's when the darkness lifted. I realized that indeed, I had been focusing on the disappointments and not celebrating all the victories and miracles I had seen happen over the past three years, which were countless! I had watched women heal from terrible addictions. I had seen mothers develop a bond with their children and become wonderful parents for the first time. Children who had shown up angry and dysfunctional had become healthy, happy kids!
This became the beginning of our wonderful Proverbs 22:6 Children's Program. As God said, we were just getting started! We became avid advocates for the children we serve and our team developed a rich program specifically for them. No longer were children just there. They became the focus of our mission. We realized we had a valuable opportunity to completely change the world of a child, which in turn will change the world of future generations. (Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. Proverbs 22:6)
There is a small cross on the side of the road that I see every single day that is a powerful reminder to me of this terrible incident, but it's the photo on my desk that I love. This little girl's father graciously shared a picture of her that I keep where I can always see it. It's a beautiful illustration of how God can take even the most devastating event and turn it into something wonderful. Let's face it. There are hundreds of children who have lived healthier, happier lives and will have much brighter futures because of this precious little girl and the impact she had on our ministry.
God was right. It is much nicer focusing on the light. But it's when we bring others into the light with us that it gets even brighter.