Maria’s Testimony

How well I remember the turning point in my life:

I had just been arrested. This was my twelfth arrest and fifth time I would go to state prison. I was high, but still conscious enough to realize I had just entered a very ugly part of a familiar cycle. The thought of what lay ahead wore on me.

For some reason, I suddenly needed an outsider’s perspective. I suppose I wondered what other people saw when they looked at me. I felt “normal,” but perhaps my normal was different than other people thought was normal. “Sir,” I asked through the wire screen separating me from the cop, “What do I look like, to you?” He replied, matter-of-factly, “You look like you’re on drugs.”

He was right, of course. I was doing methamphetamines. Alcohol and meth were my downfall, along with bad relationships. I had gotten pregnant at age 18 and by age 22, I had four children and a long rap sheet that was growing longer. I was a thief, a meth head, distributor and user. And, at that moment, when the officer confirmed my “loser” status, I was done. I was done with the craziness that had become my constant companion. For reasons I can’t explain, I knew my life was about to change.

I grew up in a party environment. My mother was young when I was born, and she drank a lot, used drugs, and led a parade of men through our lives. So, I could say I learned all my bad habits from her. At that moment, however, sitting handcuffed in the back of the cruiser, that was insignificant. What mattered most was what I intended to do with the rest of my life. I had no relationship with my children, which, at the time of my final arrest, numbered eight. The older ones hated me. They called me “Maria,” and refused to acknowledge that I was even their mother. The state had taken five of my kids, two of them didn’t even know me. My life was officially a mess, but, in this moment of rare and spectacular clarity, I realized it did not have to stay a mess.

As I approached the end of my final prison sentence, a friend told me about Katie’s book, The Captivity Series; The Key to Your Expected End. Since it was free, I decided to ask for it. My copy arrived right away, and I began reading. I finished it on the night before my release.

In Katie’s book, I saw my own story. My life was a bleak and consistent downward spiral. I drank. I got pregnant. I got arrested. I served time. I got released. I drank…a seemingly endless cycle.

The book said I could break the cycle. With all my heart, I wanted to believe it. For the first time in my life, there was a glimmer of hope. I carried Katie’s book everywhere and read as much as I could with any available time. I read excerpts to my cellmate, even though she did not believe in God. I quoted Katie. I made notes. I studied each chapter. This was someone who knew me.

On the outside again, I knew I had to get away from my old friends to give my hope a chance of survival. So I contacted Katie Souza Ministries and applied for the Transformation House and was accepted. However, the state of California would not allow me to leave until I completed parole. The people at KSM understood and were supportive. They sent me Katie’s teachings, and I immersed myself in them to keep my focus.

When I began telling my friends and family that I was going to Arizona, they said I was crazy. That is funny to me, since it was the first rational idea I ever had. They probably thought I was joining a cult. A guy asked me to move in with him, promising he would take care of me. No, no, and no again. I was certain that God wanted me in Arizona, and I was going there, even if I had to walk the whole way.

Finally I arrived at Sky Harbor Airport on Thanksgiving Day, where I met a member of Katie’s staff, who took me to the Transformation House. There, I went through 18 months of soul-healing and life lessons. It was the easiest thing I’ve ever done. For once, I was living inside God’s plan for me. I was in pursuit of my expected end.

Once I graduated from the program, I went to work as Katie’s Personal Assistant, which included work in the ministry office. It was my first real job, with real responsibilities. To be honest, it was difficult. The leaders were patient, but firm. See, I had to shake off the limits of my own thinking. They actually seemed to believe I could do the job. This was a first for me!

Today, my confidence is far stronger than it has ever been in my life. I feel secure. I have learned to trust God, who has shown me tremendous favor. I am right where I should be, where I want to be, serving God. One day, I hope to be able to minister to inmates personally. I want to tell them about the last time I sat in the back of a police car, the day my expected end changed forever.