Cindy and Lt. Karen Pommier beside the garden Cindy planted at The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center

Over a span of forty years, Cindy tried again and again to get sober. Stints in rehab would help her stay clean for several months, but an ongoing battle with depression made relapses seem inevitable. Though she’d been raised a pagan, Cindy tried to find sobriety in a Christian rehabilitation center, but was eventually turned out because of her sexuality. She was at the end of her rope, homeless and suicidal, when a long-time friend told her about the Harbor Light Center, assuring Cindy that if they could find a way to get her in, this would be the place that could finally save her. Thanks to a grant from Cops On The Street (COTS), Cindy was able to check into the Harbor Light Center in October 2015.

At first, Cindy was apprehensive, holding back for fear that another Christian organization would reject her. To her surprise, Harbor Light’s corps officer, Lieutenant Karen Pommier, immediately took Cindy under her wing. Lt. Karen prayed for Cindy and sought her out during the difficult early days of her recovery. She showed Cindy unconditional love and reminded her daily that she was more than her addiction – that she was worthy of that love.

Cindy tends the organic garden she created at the Harbor Light Center

Cindy tends the organic garden she created at the Harbor Light Center

Cindy’s first months at Harbor Light were challenging. She attempted suicide twice and struggled with depression. Her funding was quickly running out, and a search for new resources had proved fruitless. One Sunday after church services at the corps, Harbor Light administrator Lt. Esteban Pommier approached Cindy to ask if she would consider singing with the worship team. After a little thought, she agreed to give it a try. That “first tiny little yes,” as Cindy referred to it, turned out to be the key to her recovery.

The next day, wracked with a disabling bout of depression, Cindy stood by the side of the road awaiting the perfect opportunity to step in front of a large truck and end herself once and for all. Then came the last thing Cindy expected – a voice.

“In my head, I heard this voice that said, ‘Just wait. Can you wait just a minute?’” Cindy recalled, tearing up as she replayed the moment in her head. “I’ll never forget that, as long as I live.” Turning away from the street, she walked back into the Harbor Light Center. She called the friend who had introduced her to The Salvation Army and shared the details of her seemingly hopeless situation. Out of the blue, her friend offered to pay for Cindy to continue her stay at Harbor Light until she reached her one-year mark.

“It was like this huge weight suddenly lifted, and the first thing I thought to myself was: That was why whatever it was said to me, ‘Can you wait just a minute? Can you wait just a minute?’ And the depression was gone like that,” Cindy said, snapping her fingers. “I made the connection, and it was like, oh – I said that one little ‘yes’ to doing this thing with the worship team and it was like, ‘Okay, you said yes, and here’s my yes.’”

For the first time, Cindy allowed herself to open her heart and mind to God. She started singing on Sunday mornings and attending Bible study throughout the week. “It was this complete 180 that happened almost immediately,” she explained. “And I finally understood – this is what I was missing. I tried to fill it up with everything else, but there was always that hole there that never could be filled with anything.”

One-on-one Bible Study

One-on-one Bible Study

Through it all, Lt. Karen stuck by Cindy’s side, never losing hope that she could be saved. “She really just turned around. It’s amazing,” Lt. Karen explained. “It’s overwhelming how He just enters a life. It doesn’t matter where you’re at. It doesn’t matter where they’ve been, how hard a stone of a heart they have – it doesn’t matter. It makes no difference to God. It’s just a matter of time, of saying, ‘I’m coming in.’”

The transformation took Cindy by surprise. It was a path she didn’t even know was open to someone like her. “I’m just amazed that from just one little yes – one tiny little yes – that my whole life just took a whole new route. I’m just so much more at peace. In my mind, I now perceive the world as a beautiful thing, as opposed to trying to kill me, because that’s the way I felt about it for so long. I was suddenly able to receive this blessing from God that I didn’t even know was there waiting for me. He was there all the time, but I wasn’t looking because I was too busy doing all the other stuff.”

Today, Cindy is laser-focused on the future. She is taking the first steps toward returning to school to learn how she can pay forward the blessings she has been given. Cindy feels that she’s been called to minister to others like herself – people who have lost hope and faced rejection. “You feel like you’re so worthless, especially when you first come in here,” Cindy explained. “You’re beat down and you feel like you’re so worthless. And then to have suddenly this light of Christ that shines, and the light shines through these people, like Lt. Karen and Chaplain Cece and Lt. Esteban.”

For Cindy, her time at The Salvation Army taught her that God had bigger plans for her, that this was just the first step on a new and brighter path. “He’s got my back,” Cindy said with confidence. “Everything – all of the stuff that I’ve gone through, all of the things I’ve done, and here I am, still breathing. And there’s a reason for that.”