By Holly Jo Linzay, Regional Reporter
LAFAYETTE – Tears glistened in Shermane Reed’s eyes as she recounted the horror of the abuse she experienced as a child, and how the power of God’s healing brought redemption to her life.
As a Mending the Soul facilitator and coordinator of the recovery support group at The Bayou Church in Lafayette, Reed has told her story to countless women and men. It is one of sexual abuse as a child, Reed said, and it helps her to connect with other abuse survivors.
It was through the ministry of Mending the Soul that Reed was able to find hope and healing.
Mending the Soul is a recovery support group that offers hope for those dealing with all forms of abuse. The 15-week study is a personal and specific look at the effects of abuse that brings hope for personal healing and provides deep discipleship.
The intense study, Reed said, may be painful at times, but will lead to God’s healing and help individuals find redemptive purposes for the pain.
“I grew up in church. My family was very religious. We went to church every Sunday and every Wednesday night prayer meeting. My Dad was very well known throughout the community, and everyone thought he was the perfect family man. But behind closed doors, my dad was an alcoholic,” Reed recalled.
She recounted how her father would become intoxicated and beat her mother as well as abuse her.
“I was molested at age 7 by my Dad. I remember telling my Mom for the first time but she didn’t believe me. She said I was making it up,” Reed said.
She attempted to tell other family members about the abuse. “I told my aunt and others in my family, but they told me to keep quiet about it, that it was personal, and we shouldn’t talk about it.”
But Reed said people should talk about their experiences. As a matter of fact, Reed believes a person’s destiny is found in sharing his or her story and believes everyone’s testimony can be used to impact the kingdom of God.
Mending the Soul offers therapy groups separately to both women and men who have experienced abuse and trauma.
“All abuse is damaging, and the effects of it are the same,” Reed said, adding that her father was the first person to molest her, but there were others.
“I was raped by a friend of the family and other members of the family. I went through life in a lot of silence. I had a lot of anger and rage,” she remembered.
One day Reed said she got her dad’s shotgun and went through the house pointing it at all of them, and they joked about “crazy Shermane.”
“It wasn’t the first time I’d gotten the gun. Once, while everyone was asleep I contemplated killing everyone in the house and then myself. I remember thinking God couldn’t love me or He was angry with me,” Reed said. “I even felt I was a child of Satan.”
She did not have any self-worth, Reed recalls, and did not have a relationship with God. She blamed God for the abuse she had endured and she found herself in a very dark place.
“On a Saturday, I would be molested, and my Mom would be beaten on the same night, till about 2 or 3 in the morning. My Dad would put on his suit on Sunday, drive to church cursing my mom out, but when the door opened to go into church, we were the perfect family. I kept silent. I blamed myself. I thought the abuse was somehow my fault,” Reed said.
That charade of the “perfect” family took its toll. In high school, Reed started cutting herself and continued having suicidal thoughts. Yet, somehow, Reed made it through. She got a job, saved her money, and went to college.
“I never went back home,” Reed said believing she had “outran the abuse.”
When she was 24 years old, she got married. Majoring in elementary education, she earned her degree from the University of Louisiana at Monroe, then moved to Lafayette where she began her teaching career.
It was there she had two miscarriages and fell into major depression. Pregnant again, Reed’s daughter was born prematurely at 24 weeks. Her daughter lived, but her marriage was crumbling. Her husband committed adultery and the couple separated.
“I was living an isolated life because I was not trusting God. I had a mental breakdown,” Reed said, “and my doctor had me committed to a mental health institution.”
At the hospital, Reed said there was no counselor or therapy group for sexual abuse, so she attended the Alcoholics Anonymous group.
“I was broken. I was at the bottom of a very dark pit. I remember telling God, ‘If you are real, I need your help. If you are not real, I’m done with life,” Reed recalled.
In her darkest hour, Reed said God snatched her up out of the pit.
“I physically felt God’s hands on me and pull me out of the pit, and He said, ‘Trust me,’” Reed said.
She got out of the mental hospital, found her own place, but did not file her divorce papers.
“God told me to hold on. I began to fall in love with God and with myself. We, my husband and I, were invited to The Bayou Church, and God started restoring our marriage,” said Reed.
The two started couples’ therapy and Reed joined in a women’s Bible study group.
“During the time of the Bible study, I started having flashbacks and nightmares, and I could feel depression coming on again. All the memories of abuse came flooding out,” said Reed. “To help me cope, I was introduced to this group called Wounded Hearts which was what Mending the Soul initially was called.”
For 15 weeks, Reed went through the small group sessions and then she realized God was calling her to be a part of the Mending the Soul ministry. She went through the training and became a certified facilitator and eventually a trainer.
At The Bayou, a group has been started for students aged 15- through 17-years-old who have experienced abuse or the effects of divorce. She has worked with women who have experienced sex trafficking. She also has recently trained facilitators who have started new groups at five churches in Lafayette.
Reed even volunteered to help set up the ministry in a church in New Iberia and Baton Rouge while helping the Catholic Diocese in Lafayette set up Mending the Soul therapy groups.
She does not mind volunteering her time as she believes the Mending the Soul ministry was a gift from God. “God restored my life through this ministry,” said Reed. “I felt a weight lift off of me and I finally felt free.”
In January 2019, Reed will be one of the keynote speakers at the “Still I Rise” 2019 Women’s Abuse Survivor Conference Jan. 25-26 at The Bayou Church café area in Lafayette on Jan. 25-26.
Reed said the theme for the conference is “We Are No Longer Silenced” and will continue the overall theme of healing wounded hearts and giving a voice to abuse survivors.
“Abuse comes in all shapes and sizes, and the good news is Jesus Christ is waiting to heal those broken like only He can do,” said Reed. “He certainly healed me.”
To learn more about the ministry, go online to thebayouchurch.org/mendingthesoul, or call 337.984.8291.