lowly she drove into the Peniel Ministries parking lot, carefully scanning each building as though she was trying to make sure she was at the right place. After finding the empty parking space closest to the front door, she sat there for a long time.
My interest peaked when, from my second-floor office window, I could see she was periodically wiping her eyes with what appeared to be an overly used tissue. Then she turned her entire body to speak to the young man seated on the passenger’s side. I sensed she was giving him last-minute counsel before they exited the vehicle.
With a final fluff of her hair and a quick check of her makeup in the rearview mirror, she took a deep breath, and then they both got out of the car. Holding her head high, she walked with dignity and purpose while the young man followed gingerly behind. His slow strides and obvious sadness did not deter her from her mission.
The Peniel foyer is designed to be warm and welcoming. There, we have deliberately posted our proven declaration: “At Last There’s Hope.”
Greeting our visitors was Gwen, our receptionist. “Good morning,” she said. “How may I help you?”
The well-dressed woman quietly and quickly responded, “Good morning. My name is Mrs. Karen Hanover. May I speak to the person in charge, please?”
“My name is Gwen, and perhaps I can assist you,” our receptionist responded.
“Actually, my pastor told me that Peniel could help my son. This is Kenneth, and he is really a good person, but he can’t stop using drugs. He is about to lose his wife and his beautiful children; he is going to lose everything. He will probably go to jail if he doesn’t get some help. He’s already been in four secular drug programs, but they didn’t help him.”
With tears streaming down her cheeks, she said with an uncommon conviction, “From the depths of my heart, I know that a face-to-face encounter with Jesus Christ, along with professional treatment, is our only answer. Please understand that the Lord has told me we must enroll him in Peniel today. All the way here [from New York to Pennsylvania], Ken kept saying he is afraid and he is ready to change.”
Handing Mrs. Hanover another tissue, Gwen politely interrupted, “I am so sorry, Mrs. Hanover, but our men’s dorm is presently full. Also, our admissions are by appointment only. I honestly do not think there is anyone available to help you right now.”
“Then Ken and I will just sit here and wait until someone is available!” Mrs. Hanover softly responded. She spoke with a determination that she would not be denied.
This was not the first unscheduled person to come to Peniel, and I knew our capable staff were fully equipped to handle such visitors; but I was so influenced by my curiosity I decided to do something that I rarely do. I wanted to speak to this lady who had captured my attention from my office window.
As I was going down the steps to the reception area, I could see Mrs. Hanover patiently waiting and quietly speaking to the young man, who was staring at the floor.
Extending my hand, I said softly, “Hi, I’m Marion Spellman. Is there anything I can do to help you?”
My name was totally unimportant to her. This woman was on a mission, and the only name she wanted to hear was the name of the staff person who could help her.
“Yes, good morning, Ms. Spellman,” she responded, “Can you please get someone to see my son, Kenneth? We must have help, and we must have it today!”
I decided to put aside the pressing projects on my desk and yield to this unexpected move of God happening in our midst.
“Kenneth,” I said, “I am happy to meet you. I am the director of Peniel. May I please see you in my office?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” he and his mother said in unison.
My session with Kenneth was not what I had anticipated. Based on what I had observed, I thought he was a coerced young man who would be angry and who would say little during the interview. I saw myself explaining that for his treatment to be successful, it would be imperative for him to be the one seeking help. My silent plan was to then kindly show him it was his mother who was initiating the search for treatment, and finally I would encourage him to call us when he was ready.
But to my amazement, I discovered a broken and frightened young man who was overwhelmed because of what he had put his loved ones through. He uncontrollably wept as he described his family who desperately needed him. Every time he mentioned his godly mother, he became so choked up that he could barely speak.
With his voice breaking, Kenneth said, “If ever I saw Jesus, it was in that woman downstairs.”
He spoke about his overdosing twice and how he had tried every drug on the street, only to realize he was still depressed, still discouraged, and still full of fear.
Kenneth shared with me a recent interaction he had experienced with one of our graduates: “I knew him on the street, but he is a different person now. He has his family back, he’s attending night courses, and he’s working every day. Most of all, he has peace. I will do whatever you ask if I can have what he has.”
At that point Kenneth totally broke. I told him, “The road to victory is right before you, and it is absolutely possible, but first we must pursue a face-to-face encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ─the One your mother speaks about. Then you will need to allow us the privilege of carefully providing the tools that will help you to maintain your sobriety. Will you give me the opportunity of ushering you into the beginning of your journey to a sober life?”
“Yes, Ma’am, I am ready,” he said.
In that precious moment, I was honored to lead Kenneth James Hanover to the Lord. It was a miracle!
I knew God had moved us away from our protocol and schedules to ordain this time to start a good work in Kenneth’s life. The Lord had chosen and empowered Peniel to be the tool He would use to accomplish a marvelous transformation.
I called the dorm to inform them we were inducting, Kenneth that day. The staff responded, “Dr. Spellman, we are full; and what about the client application?”
“I will send him to the admission’s office to fill it out, but right now, please hear me,” I said. “Please find him a bed. I know there is one more in that dorm, so check again. God is in this!”
I was told, “We do have an admission’s bed for a client who has not come in yet. He was to have arrived hours ago.”
“Then give me that bed,” I said, looking up to the heavens and giving the Lord an I knew-You-would-make-a-way wink.
You will not be surprised to learn Mrs. Hanover had Kenneth’s clothes in the trunk of her car. Perhaps you won’t be surprised to know Kenneth and his family are currently pastoring an exciting church in New Jersey, 11 years after he came to Peniel.
A genuine connection with Almighty God through undaunted faith is the most powerful tool available to us. Thank you, Mrs. Hanover, for your transparent commitment to believe and follow whatever God said, no matter what.
Dr. Marion Mattie Spellman is founding president and CEO of Peniel Ministries, located in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. penielrehab.com
Learn more by reading Restoring Broken Lives: The Marion Spellman Story (Pathway Press, 2014).