“I didn’t choose to be homeless,” Shelly says. “But I know God brought me here for a reason.”
Shelly was adopted by her grandparents and practically grew up in their small restaurant. Working in the kitchen became a passion for her, and in August 1999, the owner of a small diner where Shelly worked sold the business to her for just one dollar.
But in January the following year, Shelly’s grandmother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She lost the restaurant in May, and one month later, her grandmother passed away.
The loss hit her hard. “I was in the care of a mental health facility for the next ten years,” Shelly says.
In April 2011, she met her husband, David. “I weighed 425 pounds when we met,” she says shaking her head in disbelief. “He helped me lose more than 150 pounds.”
Months later, her younger brother passed away of myotonic muscular dystrophy. After his death, Shelly and her husband were homeless in New Mexico, Kentucky and West Virginia.
They moved to Fort Collins this summer from Huntington, West Virginia, where Shelly had been working on a bachelor’s degree while living at a homeless shelter. She planned to transfer her credits and complete her education here in Colorado.
One day in October, she was sitting in the dining room at the Mission when suddenly her head began to hurt. “It felt like someone hit me in the head with a baseball bat,” she says.
She went to the hospital for eight days where doctors discovered she had a lesion on her brain, a blockage in her carotid artery, an 80% blockage in an artery at the base of her skull, and multiple sclerosis. They told her surgery was inevitable.
To make matters worse, her husband left her while she was in the hospital.
A few days after returning to the Mission, she lost feeling in her legs, and her heart was racing. While they waited for the paramedics, a Mission staff member prayed with Shelly that God would heal her. By the time she got to the hospital, she was nearly in a coma.
When she recovered, her doctor told her the drop in her blood pressure somehow cleared the blockages, and she no longer needed surgery. But Shelly says she knows the truth. “God healed me,” she says smiling.
Although she still deals with the symptoms of MS, Shelly beams with joy from the gift God has given her and the opportunities she has to serve and grow in the Mission’s Steps to Success program.
And this Christmas, she’ll be sharing that joy with hundreds of guests at the Christmas banquet as she joins our staff in the kitchen to help cook the holiday meal. “What better Christmas present could I ask for?” she says with a big smile.
Thank you for partnering with us this year to give those experiencing homelessness a special Christmas celebration and an opportunity for a changed life!
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Shellys story was featured in the December 2015 issue of Changing Lives titled "We Need Your Help This Christmas"Download Now