Today I attended a barbecue of great measures. It was an interesting event to say the least, but the reason we were gathered had the utmost importance in my heart. First, Memorial Day to of course remember those who have died fighting for this country. Secondly, to celebrate John and Sharla Stroup. These two people have been monumental in creating a community and family that my life would be completely different without. Freeway is a ministry in Springfield Missouri, Omaha Nebraska, and Marshfield Missouri, and now global in Africa. Their most recent motto is “out of darkness and into light,” as their mission is to help people who struggle with drug addiction or involvement in drugs. The people you see at Freeway are anything but you’re normal church going folk. Saturday nights in a gymnasium in North Springfield, hundreds of people from all walks of life gather for a hot meal, worship, and preaching by John Stroup. These people are typically covered in tattoos and sometimes an unfriendly look on their faces, but as you walk around getting introductions and meeting new people faces melt into smiles and laughter. Freeway is the place to really understand that you can’t judge any single book by its cover.
My mom discovered Freeway what seems like a lifetime ago, even though in reality it’s only been a year and half since this program came into our lives. My mom was in a rehabilitation center, getting help for years of suffering with a drug addiction. The place where she was allowed the residents to go to church and luckily Saturday night Freeway was an option. My mom went and her journey started. She met some amazing people who were serving and learned everything she could. Soon enough, my mom was getting out of rehab. She didn’t know where to go and hope seemed as if it was fleeting, but Freeway pulled through again and she landed herself a spot in the Freeway Women’s House. The next eight months were a whirl of Freeway, women’s studies, and just general busyness for my mom. I was there to watch her change from a person who I thought I was already looking up to, to someone that I know is a role model to me and many others. My family is in debt to Freeway. While I have trouble showing my gratefulness in person, I can use my words to describe how completely and full my heart is, all because of Freeway. John, because his preaching reached into my own mom’s soul and pulled something out that she needed to experience and feel. Sharla, because she was like a second mom to my mom when she lived in the house. She was a monumental reason why my mom’s life changed so dramatically.
That’s why they mean so much to me and my family. Freeway is an amazing ministry. They are constantly expanding, moving, and most of all: changing more lives every day.
This barbecue today was a gathering of the Freeway family. To appreciate John and Sharla and to gather as one giant family. There were dogs, good food, and lots of fun. At one point, even a impromptu dance party.
What became overwhelming at some points was the realization that this group of people had overcome so much. Emotionally, psychically, and spiritually. These people are some of the most dedicated to loving Christ that I had ever met. They did a full 360 on their lives and they had one another, their own personal strength, and God to thank for that. At one point, not long after we arrived, I overheard Sharla talking to someone and she said through completely happy tears, “look at our family.” Now Sharla had the right idea with dark sunglasses to cover her eyes that were swollen from tears, but the rest of us were not so lucky.
Today made me realize that we have so much to be grateful for. We have such incredible and full lives to live. Mine would be so different if I didn’t have Freeway, because without this ministry my mom might not even be standing by me today.
So thank you Freeway. Thank you John and Sharla for being keystones in this amazing ministry that helps so many. And thank you mom, for making the change in your life and for sticking with Freeway even when the going gets tough. I know that I am walking my own pathway when it comes to God and religion in general, but you guys still welcome me in with open arms and I get to be apart of this family.
I am forever grateful.