A Story of Hope
“The Community I Longed for is Building!”
By Crystal Sutherland and Chelsea Freeman
Where do I begin? I don't feel I can give this story justice without sharing a little bit of history first. So, please bear with me a moment while I take a little rabbit trail down memory lane...
I first met Chelsea in early 2016 during the launch of my book, Journey to Heal. It wasn’t long before I discovered she was struggling to work through some very painful emotions stemming from sexual, emotional, verbal and physical abuse she endured as a child. Chelsea is a young wife, mother, and owner of a major landscaping company in her hometown. I remember during this time she was very active in her church, yet very broken and in desperate need of community with other women who shared her story.
As the weeks went on we talked more and more, until we eventually met in person at the first Hope Restored Women's Conference that same year. Attending this conference was completely out of her comfort zone, but she was determined. She drove eleven hours from OH to find community, and she went home from that special weekend with new friends, good memories, and hope for the future.
Since then, Chelsea has returned to visit me several more times. We've become very good friends, and I am in awe of the transformation that has taken place in her life just in these past two years. She attended the Hope Restored Women's Conference again in 2017, not only as an attendee but also as a group leader. This month she's making that eleven hour drive again, with a car load of women from OH, for the third year of the conference.
Some of the women attending with her this year are women who belong to a Journey to Heal Women’s Group she helped to establish in her community this year. This same precious woman who was struggling with so much pain just two years ago, is now taking the comfort she has received from Christ and using it to help others heal. I love how God works!
Here is an excerpt from a recent email Chelsea sent me about her group, that she has given me permission to share with you…
"We are on week 6 of our Journey to Heal group. We have a total of 8 women in the group. Most of them share the story of sexual abuse, but a couple of them are there because their daughters have been through it and they need help understanding the wound sexual abuse leaves and to know how to better support them.
In the last 6 weeks I have witnessed hearts soften, stories be told and healing happen!! One lady in particular said on the first night, "I don't have to forgive and I won’t.” She spoke very negative of God and folded her arms every time He was brought up. Since then she talks openly about forgiveness and has even processed her hurt and anger towards Him.
I have seen the women band together to support one another during court proceedings and family crisis.
The community I so longed for is building!
One of the ladies that began the group with us passed away on week 4. She was 31 and used alcohol as a coping skill. She had since quit drinking but the damage to her body was too much. This was a lot to experience in the first group that I have helped with, but we have been able to use it as a learning experience. It's a reminder that there are consequences to choices that we make and even if we think they aren't hurting us that bad they do have consequences not only for us but for our families and friends.
A single mom of 3 has been gaining self worth and working through self blame for being raped at a party where she was drinking. She is starting to believe that she wasn't asking to be raped just because she was somewhere she wasn't supposed to be.
A mother and grandmother is working through anger after she lived a childhood of complete torture with no one to protect her and even seeing that forgiveness is a choice and attainable!!
A young mom is working through shame after being abused by a step father and making better choices to not use her body to get the love and comfort she longed for as a child. She even signed up for Hope Restored this year!!!
My co-leader doesn't share our story of sexual abuse but has ran groups and is a counselor at a local agency. She has said how much helping with this group has helped her understand her clients better and things to look out for and help them with as she journeys beside them!
This group has been a journey for all involved. It has brought people together. Some have been in counseling for years and some have barely ever spoken their stories out loud. They are being given tools and experiencing support and hope some of them for the first time. It's been a wonderful thing to witness!!!” - Chelsea Freeman, Survivor, JTHM Mentor
I have no doubt that this beautiful transformation that has taken place in Chelsea's life is because of the love, support and comfort she has found in Christ and that he has graciously allowed the Journey to Heal community to be a part of that.
I hope it inspires you and helps you become more aware of the journey to heal for so many.