When 42-year-old Darlene got the call from her aunt that her mother was terminally ill, she hopped in her car and rushed from upstate New York to the Jersey Shore. It had been years since the two had spoken, but Darlene was ready to make amends to her mother.
“In my 12-step program,” Darlene said, “I learned how to forgive and how to ask for forgiveness.” It was a lesson she put into practice this week. Darlene made peace with her mom while staying at her aunt’s home in Neptune, New Jersey.
Just when she thought about returning to New York, the rain started and she decided to wait a day. That is when she heard about the Jersey Shore Will Graham Celebration taking place this weekend—just a few blocks away in Ocean Grove.
Darlene first heard about Jesus from her AA sponsor, but she was hesitant to turn her life totally over to His care—until last night.
“Matthew West sang about being Strong Enough, and I cried,” she said. “The words ripped my heart open: You must think I’m strong/To give me what I’m going through/Well, forgive me if I’m wrong/But this looks like more than I can do on my own.
Yet it wasn’t until Will Graham told the audience at the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove that it was OK to ask God questions that she felt ready to surrender her life to His care.
“It was time,” Darlene said. “I ran for so many years because I couldn’t understand why God would let me hurt so much. I cheated on my ex-husband and he left me. Then I couldn’t stop drinking. My mom was so mad at me—and I said horrible things to her.”
This week, God allowed unexpected rain to reign in Darlene’s life. “I still have questions,” she said with a shy smile. “But now I can talk to the counselor I met and to Jesus directly. Maybe when I go back north, I’ll find a good church too.”
Darlene is one of more than 3,000 people who came to the Jersey Shore Will Graham Celebration Friday. From the opening moments to the final prayer, lives were changed—and it is just the beginning.