There are individuals that we have the privilege of working with over the course of many years, through many ups and downs. Amanda is one of these individuals. Sarah Heaton and many who volunteer in the Kent County Jail have developed an ongoing relationship with Amanda. Amanda’s story continues to have successes, but we know that successes don’t come without slips and falls.
This is a story of a woman fighting for her life.
In 2019, Amanda was released from Kent County after graduating from the GRO Pod (also known as the God Pod), where she spent many hours with Sarah and various volunteers. We were able to capture Amanda’s story around this time in video-form. In the video she recalls, “I remember being a toddler hiding behind the couch with my twin brother. There was a lot of fighting in the home.”
At 9-years-old, she started taking sleeping pills. She said she didn’t want to kill herself, but she didn’t want to exist either. At age 11, she started smoking marijuana. At 15, she started dating someone who had been released from prison, and was pregnant by 17. “I thought abuse was normal,” she said.
A few years later, she met another man who took her and her child in. “I stayed home with my child, but little did people know, I had a drinking problem,” she admitted. She had her 2nd child and experienced postpartum depression, and then experienced the same after her 3rd child only 3 years later. She was angry with God as she experienced her father pass away during this time, and soon after lost her best friend to an overdose.
Amanda remembers the hopelessness of her story. “I would sit in the garage staring at the rafters while I would smoke a cigarette. I would picture hanging myself from there. It was hard for me with the kids. I wasn’t there for them.”
Amanda’s addictions only intensified. She started to get methamphetamine from her neighbor and only 3 months later, she left her family and was living in her car; living a life of full-blown addiction.
Amanda was soon arrested and found herself in jail. A friend told her about the GRO Pod and Chaplain Sarah. Amanda gave her life to Jesus soon after she met a volunteer who told her about the cross, and about Jesus.
In 2019, Amanda was released from jail. She said, “I have purpose now.” Amanda remained connected to the community she created while in the GRO Pod, but COVID made things difficult. As she started to struggle again, she relapsed again in 2021. She cried out to God in the middle of her relapse. She felt God impress upon her heart that that it was time for her to attend Teen Challenge of West Michigan for 13 months. Still connected to Sarah and other volunteers, she felt their encouragement to attend Teen Challenge for their year-long recovery program. God opened the doors.
While in the program, Amanda remained connected to many from RTF. She chose to stay for 16 months, until she was ready to take the next step. This month (July of 2023), along with Amanda’s family, Sarah and other volunteers attended Amanda’s graduation. At her graduation, we heard Amanda tell of the work that God is doing in her life.
“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the love of God. I don’t want to talk about my past. Our God is a God of restoration. He restores you back to your children; to your family. I remember how my mother called the cops on me multiple times just because she wanted me to be alive. I’m grateful for that. I’m so grateful to be able to go back and be a blessing to a family, and no longer a curse.”
As Amanda re-integrates back into her community, she will be renting a room and working in a church in Grand Rapids. She’ll be working in the church in the coffee shop, loving on people. This is her greatest strength!
Many have come alongside Amanda over the years as she has stayed connected to RTF. In turn, Amanda has impacted the lives of many, as well. She has a light about her, and anyone in her presence can feel inspired by the supernatural ability she has to fight for her life.
Please keep Amanda in your prayers as she leaves behind the structure of a program and enters into life back in the community.