by Virginia Forste
Sherry Sheets grew up on the east side of Cincinnati in a very poor neighborhood. Her father was a leader in a religious group that completely isolated Sherry from others. She was not allowed to participate in sports or in any type of celebration (such as birthdays and holidays) and she could only associate with those within their religion. Her father used his power to abuse her and her family. Although she attended school in a wealthy area, she was also abused by her peers, and some teachers and administration due to her poor economic status and her mysterious religious involvement.
Sherry explains, “It was a 24/7 vicious cycle. I would be abused at home, go to church (or ‘meetings,’ as they were called) and be abused there, then go to school and suffer both mental and physical abuse. I had absolutely no one to talk to about this. In my teenage years I made a serious attempt to take my life.”
In her early twenties, Sherry left the religion she grew up with, left her father, and God. She felt as if God had endorsed the lifestyle that had been forced upon her. She asked herself, “What kind of a God would allow me to live like that?”
To make matters worse, her marriage ended after twenty years. Soon after, she made the decision to move to Mason to be closer to a new job. She once again began to experience isolation and hopelessness as she started a completely new phase of life. These feelings reignited her suicidal thoughts. Little did she know these negative experiences would later usher in renewed hope, friendships, and purpose.
One day while listening to the radio she heard a pastor reference songs from one of her favorite bands, The Beatles, in his messages. She continued to listen to the broadcast even though she wanted nothing to do with the Christian music the station was playing. It led her to learn more about the minister. Although she had walked away from all religion, she was suddenly interested in joining a Bible study. A neighbor of Sherry’s told her about a women’s Bible study that was taking place in the women’s ministry at Christ’s Church.
Then came the hard part. Sherry says, “I signed up for the study but wanted no part of the church. I was terrified. Several times I pulled into the parking lot and stared at the door to the church to see if I could gather up the nerve to walk in! When the night of the Bible study arrived, I sat in the parking lot and stared at the door watching other women enter. I finally walked in—my heart beating out of my chest—and I asked where the chapel was . . . and sat in the back row.”
That first evening of the Bible study, two women sat near Sherry. One of them introduced herself to Sherry and asked if she was alone, then asked if she and her friend could sit next to her. Then this woman told her that Patty Nordbloom needed some help serving donuts on Sunday mornings at the church. Although Sherry was completely new to the church and didn’t even know where the donuts were served, she agreed to help. She has been serving in that ministry since October 2017.
“I have no idea why I said ‘yes;’ I wanted no part of the church,” said Sherry. “Last fall I heard about the ten-week discipleship course called Rooted, and I signed up for it. At the end of completing Rooted I was baptized. Now I can honestly say I love God—and I love my church!!”
When asked what advice Sherry would give to someone who is being led away from the truth, Sherry responds, “My advice would be to pray and reach out to others. Never let yourself become isolated or make any decisions based on guilt or what others may pressure you into doing.”
If you’ve experienced a similar situation, let Sherry’s story be a reminder that you don’t have to struggle through life alone. God longs to bring you back into a supportive community and there are many ways to get involved at Christ’s Church—from a mom’s group to women’s Bible studies in person and online to a fitness and nutrition class, there’s something for everyone. Check out our events page: https://christschurch.community/our-events/
At just the right time in Sherry’s life, God used two women to sit down and introduce themselves to a stranger. One was bold enough to offer an opportunity to serve; she didn’t wait for the “perfect moment” or carefully develop a relationship over many months. She offered something immediately. She invited. She engaged. She took the risk. That chance turned into a woman being brought back into fellowship with God and the church body and now she is happily serving here. You never know how God will use your words and actions if you will boldly ask him for opportunities, then obey him when he opens a door. And if you are reading this and you are afraid of literally entering the church building like Sherry was, we offer online Bible studies and church at a local bar. Seriously.
Virginia Forste is a former elementary education teacher and stay-at-home mom who frequently blogs with other moms at textingthetruth.com.