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These familiar words from Jeremiah 29:11 have anchored me since I came to know Christ: ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’ ” (NIV). It was the phrase about not harming that God used to grab me, and I knew for the very first time that, with God, I had a safety net in my life.

My name is Cricket Witt. My husband, Andy, and I attend Grace Fellowship (Absarokee Foursquare Church) in Absarokee, Mont., pastored by Ralph Milliken. We made Grace Fellowship our church family in 1998, when our children Melissa and Cody were in high school. Andy has been a church council member for six years and currently serves as head usher. I have headed the children’s education program and currently sing on the worship team.

Our story is about breaking free of the pain in our past, learning to forgive and allowing God to heal what was broken in our souls. It began with the marriage of two very different and very wounded people.

I grew up in a family in need. We needed more food, more love, more truth and more respect. What we had most of the time was anger, isolation and occasional violence. There is a saying that family will either make you or break you, and it is safe to say that all of my siblings and I came out of that home broken.

Andy grew up in a close knit, hard working, God fearing family. He was active in the church as a child and, in fact, worked with his dad to help build a local church. However, alcohol abuse had a long history in Andy’s family, and its influence severely undercut his feelings of self worth.

We met in a bar, and though both of us knew we were broken inside, we never talked about anything of consequence; we just drank and made plans to marry. We were totally blind to what this would mean for us down the road and especially for our children.

I am thankful for the many godly people He used in our lives who demonstrated their faith by how they lived—with integrity, a love for Christ and an unconditional love for people. We both have treasured memories of people who gave glimpses of a better way to live, even though we didn’t know how to get there.

We were saved but so spiritually unhealthy when we joined Grace Fellowship. Healing was something that required us to face the source of our pain, look at it, and deal with the overwhelming feelings—namely fears—that arose. For both of us, trusting authority figures was difficult.

We had to decide we were willing to let go of our masks of self-sufficiency and become real instead of “perfect”—to believe in the possibility of security, of living a life resting completely in God instead of living in the world and playing church.

Our pastors have been pivotal in our healing, because as they pastor, they also “father” the church.

Timothy Johnson was our first pastor here. He was gentle and loving, creating a safe place for us to begin to open up. The youth pastor at the time was Grove Hull, who now is senior pastor of Hope Center (Billings Southside Foursquare Church) in Billings, Mont. Grove’s passion to serve God with his “whole self” stirred us to be real Christians.

In 2000, God called pastor Rich Trees to Grace Fellowship, and this is when the hard work started for us. We are thankful to Rich for the strong yet respectful way he pastored us, and for the hours of time spent in his counseling chair, breaking through to the truth. Our children have watched the metamorphosis over time and, thankfully, it is speaking healing into their lives as well. Rich has now retired, and Pastor Ralph is taking the church to the next level in our valley.

Grace Fellowship has been a place of restoration for us, and we look to the future, desiring to help others find peace in Christ as we have. Together, our church family is seeking to serve the God of glory, who loved us first and who continues to teach us how to love as Jesus did.

and her husband Andy attend Grace Fellowship (Absarokee Foursquare Church) in Absarokee, Mont., pastored by Ralph Milliken.