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Karen* knelt in a bedroom of the house she shared with her boyfriend and poured out her heart to God.

“I know you probably hate me, Lord. I’ve gone against you in so many ways,” she prayed through her tears.

“But I’m asking you to save this child.”

Karen’s newborn son, Matthew*, lay in an incubator, hooked to a respirator in a neonatal intensive care unit a two-hour drive away. She’d just returned home from the hospital and things didn’t look good for her son. Or for her.

Back in Karen’s hometown, Janet* was praying, too. So were all the women in Janet’s Stonecroft Bible Study (SBS). Janet, a family friend, had been Karen’s babysitter when she was a child and had kept in touch with her.

Karen had suffered from bullying in high school and had struggled with an eating disorder and depression. When she left home at age 20, she started dating a young man addicted to drugs and alcohol.

NO MATTER WHAT

Janet learned Karen had a boyfriend her family didn’t approve of, so she reached out to her. She wanted Karen to know she was there for her – no matter what.

“My life was like a tornado then,” Karen recalls.

Janet and her SBS group prayed for God to calm the young woman’s storm. But Karen spiraled more and more out of control. She moved in with her boyfriend and became pregnant with his child. “He handed me a stack of cash and told me to go get an abortion,” Karen says.

She refused. Soon, the boyfriend left her. Karen’s parents disapproved of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and they distanced themselves from her as well.

Despite the challenges, Karen had a healthy pregnancy. The baby’s father returned, and the couple began living together again. Then Karen gave birth to Matthew.

The delivery went smoothly, but suddenly the baby turned blue. His lungs had collapsed. Medical personnel whisked him away and soon transferred him to another hospital for more specialized care. Days later, he underwent surgery. Doctors said he’d likely be hospitalized for several months – if he survived.

Janet’s SBS group continued to pray. By then, Karen herself was praying, too. “Suddenly, like a light switch, a miracle happened,” she says.

Matthew began to recover, doctors took him off the respirator, and he started breathing on his own. He was released from the hospital a few weeks after surgery.

At the encouragement of a relative, Karen left her boyfriend and moved back home with her parents. Janet invited Karen to visit her weekly SBS group.

Karen welcomed the opportunity to get out of the house and wanted to thank the women who had prayed for her son. She attended the SBS whenever she could.

‘I FELT AT HOME’

Soon after, Janet heard about a Stonecroft small group for women in their 20s and 30s, meeting an hour’s drive away in the home of Ann*, a Woman’s Connection volunteer. The group had been discussing Enough and Known, part of Stonecroft’s Conversations series. Janet felt this group would be perfect for Karen and another young woman who attended Janet’s SBS – a place they could make friends with women their age and talk about life issues that could lead to spiritual things.

The other young woman couldn’t attend, but Janet offered to go with Karen to the meeting so she wouldn’t have to go alone.

“I felt immediately at home,” Karen recalls of her first visit to the group.

“I was excited to see such a welcoming place for her,” Janet says. “It was great to see God working. We had prayed and prayed for Karen.”

Karen began attending the group on her own and soon shared part of her story with the women there. She felt accepted and understood.

One night the group talked about how God searches hearts and establishes His presence in lives. “I sensed a voice (the Holy Spirit) speaking to me,” Karen says. “I wanted to be set free of the heavy chains I had put on myself; I wanted to start a new life with the Lord.”

That night Karen began a relationship with Jesus.

Today, Karen continues to attend this same group. When she can’t get to the meetings because of the long drive, she participates via Skype.

“I call this group my ‘pillar,’” she says. “They’re such a great support.”

Karen has joined a church. She also is involved in a new hub, a local Stonecroft group where young women receive Stonecroft training to share the Gospel with their peers through events like Story Marks and Detox – find your balance and small groups such as ones that use the Conversations series. And Karen has shared her story publicly at two Stonecroft events – an evangelism training and a regional meeting of volunteers who included Janet and Ann.

LIKE THE CORRECT GLASSES

“For me, Stonecroft is like having the correct prescription of glasses,” Karen says. “Finally, I can see clearly in my relationship with the Lord.”

Karen is grateful Janet went out of her way to introduce her to Ann’s group – and ultimately to Jesus. “It was a God nudge,” Janet says, explaining her extra investment in Karen. “I get these nudges all the time. I don’t always follow through, but I try to do what I feel like I’m urged to do. I’m glad I did it.”

Today, Karen pays attention to those “God nudges” in her own life – and tries to share with her peers the hope of Jesus. “I love telling my story,” Karen says. “I love saying, ‘Whatever you’ve done, the Lord still loves you. He can forgive you. He can give you a new plan.’”

 


Unity through different roles

An SBS group prayed for Karen and baby Matthew. An SBS volunteer literally went the extra miles to get Karen to an outreach for her age group. A Women’s Connection volunteer opened her home where young women could explore and experience the Gospel. And these young women welcomed Karen into their faith discussions. Even though each played a specific part, their united purpose to share the Good News led to a lasting life change for Karen.

As more Stonecroft women unite in purpose, more women hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ – and believe.

*Names changed

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