God’s word for all sinners
Carmen Powers was born and raised in Duluth, Minnesota. She was the eldest of five children and attended a Catholic school for most of her early childhood. Her dad was an alpha male. Though a very successful businessman, he always valued family life. He put God first, and he had a special gift of always fixing things. He often took Carmen and her siblings with him when he traveled. Each time they would stay in a hotel, she would check for a Bible in the drawer—something about it gave her comfort and assurance she was staying in a good place. When she married her high school sweetheart, Jon, her dad became a strong example of male leadership to him. Jon came from a broken family, and he admired Carmen’s dad and looked to him for guidance in many ways.
Not long into their marriage, Carmen’s father was diagnosed with cancer. The family knew he wouldn’t make it, but when he passed away shortly after the birth of Jon and Carmen’s first child, it hit them extremely hard. They grieved his death. Suddenly, the person they had always leaned on wasn’t there anymore, and their lives became confusing. They struggled to maintain their finances. As they were trying to put together a plan, a friend came to them and offered them a deal. He told them they could make US$100,000 by completing a one-time “transaction” for him. It sounded simple, until they were informed the transaction was selling cocaine. Jon and Carmen knew the offer was wrong, but it was too tempting to refuse. With that kind of money, they could build a house and start a savings account.
one time too many
Before Jon and Carmen knew it, one transaction turned to two and then to many more. Eventually, the product transactions turned to product using. They discovered it doesn’t matter who you are or what you tell yourself, once you have that much cocaine in front of you, it becomes hard to resist. This behavior lasted for about three years. Jon and Carmen had two children, and she would use drugs at night when they were sleeping. They were profitable, but we were far from satisfied. They continued spending more than they were making. Now, they were again in financial trouble and also addicted to drugs.
Wanting to get out of the situation, Jon and Carmen visited a friend in Florida, hoping time away would help them get some clarity. During that time, and with her friend’s help, Carmen decided she and the kids were going to move out of Minnesota, regardless of whether Jon wanted to join. When Carmen told Jon the plan, he agreed to come with them. “We’ve been through the mill,” he said, “I’m at the end of my rope.” So, they moved to Florida and opened a small pizza shop. For a little while, life was good. But not long after, they realized they didn’t move away from the cocaine but closer to it. Men who were part of the same cartel in Minnesota found Jon and Carmen, and before long they were sucked back into their old way of life.
When it all became too much, Carmen flew to Chicago for a weekend. She had no reason to go there other than needing to get away. She spent the entire weekend crying in her hotel room. On the last morning, Carmen stood in front of the bathroom mirror getting ready. Her thoughts flashed back to being in hotel rooms as a little girl, looking for those Bibles—and more importantly, looking for that feeling of comfort and assurance. She opened the bedside table drawer, and sure enough, there was a Bible from The Gideons. She didn’t have much time before her taxi arrived, and she questioned the implications stealing a Bible would have on her already dire situation. But for whatever reason, she felt she had to take it. On her flight home, Carmen opened the Bible, and God began His work.
one final escape
At the beginning of the Bible, Carmen noticed John 3:16 written in several different languages. For many years, she struggled with understanding why there were so many denominations in Christianity. Seeing Christians so separated was one of the main reasons she didn’t want much to do with religion. Seeing that verse in all those languages told Carmen that this Word, this Bible, was for everyone—even sinners like her. God knew that would get her attention. God also knew it would encourage her to continue reading.
“Seeing that verse in all those languages told Carmen that this Word, this Bible, was for everyone—even sinners like her.”
She landed on Proverbs 31 and was completely convicted about who she had become as a woman. Being a good mother was one of her only goals in life, and she was letting her addictive behavior get in the way. It felt as if God was chastising her—but at the same time, it wasn’t painful, it was beautiful. God led her to many other Scriptures that edified her and told her who she could be in Him. Carmen was crying and overjoyed, for she had truly found God. She was radically saved on that airplane and delivered from cocaine without one bit of withdrawal.
However, the hard work wasn’t over. Carmen still faced the challenge of going home to face Jon. He had been raised in the church and was saved at a young age. In his older years, he grew away from the faith. When Carmen told Jon she had been saved, he knew exactly what it meant, but he wasn’t quite ready to make a change. Something told her she needed to keep distance from him while he was still involved, so she made a commitment to continue working on her relationship with the Lord. Eventually, Jon admitted he couldn’t break away from the addiction and lifestyle while they were still in Florida, and they moved back to Duluth. It was there that Carmen saw Jon soften. One morning at church, Jon got up from his seat and went to kneel at the altar. One of his best friends from high school knelt with him, and they both began to weep. In that moment, Jon gave everything over to the Lord.
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7 (ESV)
forgiveness and freedom
From then on, Carmen and Jon were still on a bumpy road, but it was a road headed in the right direction. They got out of the cocaine business, but the consequences of their actions didn’t immediately disappear. Carmen and Jon had to hire a lawyer and go through an investigation and, eventually, a trial. The prosecutors were determined to send Jon to prison, but the presiding judge stated he could see Jon was a changed man. He was sentenced to a one-year work release program and a few years of probation. The felony charge was dropped. The Lord blessed them, and they slowly began to get their lives in order. They started a small business of buying and fixing up houses. They joined a wonderful church with a loving pastor and made many supportive friends.
Carmen and Jon are so thankful for that Bible. It was in exactly the place Carmen needed it to be. There is no denying God was with her during those hours in the hotel room and on that plane ride. Throughout her life, God has always drawn her back to the Scriptures, and the power of His Word continues to show up.