By John Hall
Sitting in a shelter with her four young children, Erica Barrios was broken. Eleven years of marriage to a drug and alcohol addict can do that to a person. A final forceful threat of physical violence pushed her beyond her limits, and she fled not knowing what her future might hold. She had no education, no plan, no hope.
“Inside of me, I was dying,” she said. “I’d never experienced something like that before.”
Pondering her predicament, she struggled to find her place in the world. Surely, she thought, there must be somewhere for mothers like her – women who simply wanted a better life for themselves and their children.
That’s when someone pointed her to Buckner Family Place in Midland, Texas, which was all she imagined. The program provides furnished housing for single parents pursuing higher education to better support their families. In addition to housing, the ministry offers counseling, skills development and emotional support in a nurturing environment.
“I honestly didn’t think it was real,” Barrios said. “I thought, ‘Wow, a miracle.’”
Eight months into the program, Barrios’ and her children’s lives have changed radically. The family has a safe, secure place to live. Barrios has grown as a parent. Her children are thriving, earning As and Bs in school.
“I would think there was no hope for me or my kids,” she said. “I was a mean mom now that I think about it. I didn’t think about how my kids would feel, what they would think, what they would feel. Now I see it completely different. My kids feel safe. They want to be around me.”
The family has transformed from the inside. Barrios and her children – Tony, Sammar, Candace and Tiendra – each have gone through counseling. They also have connected with God like never before. They eagerly attend Stonegate Fellowship in Midland each week, where Barrios feels God working in her life as well as through her children.
“She felt the power of God working within her and giving her the power to move forward,” said Anna Rodriquez, program coordinator for Family Place in Midland. “I’ve seen tremendous growth in her attitude and her outlook on life. This isn’t the same Erica that came here from the battered women’s shelter.”
A new relationship with Christ combined with the support she’s received through Family Place has given Barrios new confidence. She’s enrolled in a Midland College nursing program and working hard to complete her degree – even sometimes staying up all night to study while her children sleep.
“Now I have hope,” she said. “I believe I can do things. My goal is to be self-sufficient. I want to show my kids that if you work hard, you can succeed.”
Rodriquez is inspired by Barrios’ inner strength. Despite the difficulties she’s faced, she’s forging a bright future for herself and her family.
“She’s courageous,” Rodriquez said. “When I hear her story, I’m amazed by her courage to escape her abuse. She’s genuinely honest about her feelings. She’s moved on. Great things are ahead for her.”
Transformation started at Family Place, but there’s no telling where she’ll go from there.
“It was a huge change,” she said. “It was just about getting to know who I am, what kind of good person I can be. I was like a little flower that can bloom.”
John Hall is the associate director of public relations for Buckner International. You can get in touch with him at jhall[at]buckner[dot]org.
By John Hall