Stalked by Secrets; Set Free by Grace
Pastor Milele Hobbs | June 28, 2016
Gomer’s House is a peer-led outpatient/support program and transitional housing for individuals and families working on their issues. The focus of Gomer’s House is on addiction recovery, though they work with people on a variety of social-emotional issues. Gomer’s is an integrated auxiliary ministry of Trees of Righteousness Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) serving Portland, OR, and Vancouver, WA. Milele Hobbs is the director of Gomer’s House; she and her husband co-pastor Trees of Righteousness Christian Church. Here is a testimony from one of the Gomer’s House support program participants, as shared with Pastor Milele Hobbs.
“All kids have secrets; all kids tell a lie sometimes; I wasn’t any different.” Except my secret was the truth, and telling my secret made me a liar—or at least that’s what my life felt like. My stepdad was the church elder and my sexual abuser.
My cries for help made life horrible, nearly unbearable. Now everyone knew me as “that ungrateful brat and a liar.” After all, this man, this pillar in the church and community had married my widow mom and taken on the responsibility for two kids. No one dared believe this wonderful pastor could or would ever harm me—this tall, lanky kid. Maybe some folks had some compassion for me but didn’t know how to show it; maybe others thought it was my way of grieving the loss of my father, or that I was jealous. Who knows? Either way, the secret stalked me day and night, so my best course was to keep the secret a secret.
Eventually I found a way to live with the secret, becoming known as “the liar”—turning to drugs, alcohol, and indiscriminate sex. The problems grew, crushing the child inside the man. Alcohol and drugs only numbed the pain and pushed the secret into the corners of my mind for very short periods. Each anonymous sexual act ended with guilt, shame, and feelings of self-betrayal. I moved away, leaving my younger sister to now become his bed partner. Another secret, more guilt, undeniable shame.
I got married, still secretly meeting men for sex and getting wasted afterwards. Moved again—farther away; always hounded by the secret like a stalker tracking me from state to state. This marriage was an epic failure to say the least—two drug addicts don’t make for success.
Took a job on a cruise vessel, where I met a wonderful woman, my soulmate, maybe the first person ever to believe me and believe in me. She consoled me; withstood the fits of anger and depression; held onto the memories of our good times when I was too high or hung-over to be present for her. Then we got pregnant and were blessed with a beautiful baby girl.
In July 2015, I found a website of this church that claimed to accept everyone, to help people heal from the effects of growing up in a less-than-nurturing environment. We went. These folks embraced us, talked about this OverComer’s Group on Monday nights at Gomer’s House. My stalker—my secret—and I went, then went back every week. About a month later, I felt safe enough to share my secret(s) with the pastors. They listened first, then prayed. Pastor James assured me my secret wasn’t my fault; we sat talking until the very early morning hours. I slept that night—the stalker no longer just at bay, but totally exposed and defeated.
I’ve gotten back into my Bible, praying, loving others as I’m learning to love myself. I don’t go to parks to meet men for anonymous sex. I don’t have anger outbursts at work anymore. In January, I got a promotion. Initially, my partner didn’t join my daughter and I at church, still too wounded from earlier church hurt. But now, after nine months, we worship together each week; she’s connecting and building her relationship with Christ—at Trees of Righteousness Christian Church and Gomer’s House.
The NBA incubates new ministries, supporting social entrepreneurs of faith who are serving their communities in a variety of innovative ways and empowering these Disciples-led health and social service projects to focus on growth, impact, and sustainability. Learn more at nbacares.org/incubate or by contacting Rev. Ayanna Johnson Watkins, director of the NBA Incubate Initiative.