Penny Flaro was one of nine children raised in a military family who moved frequently during her school years. Growing up she had a deep longing to fit in somewhere or with someone and she would say or do whatever was needed to try and fit in. She did not find the belonging she was seeking but instead found herself hurt and alone.
When Penny’s first marriage ended she and her two young children moved to Oshawa, ON to be closer to her family. Penny married and divorced twice more before moving in with a partner. In December 2012 Penny’s partner passed away and she found herself penniless, jobless, homeless and once again alone. And found herself asking, “What is this life?”
Over the years Penny had tried to read the bible but had been unsuccessful. At one point through a close friend she joined Christian Women’s Club but when that friend died in 2004 Penny stopped attending. She would occasionally attend church with her sister and brother-in-law but she felt no sense of connection or belonging there.
In January 2013 Penny felt compelled to pick up her bible again. This time something was different, “I’m an avid reader and always have a novel on the go but I couldn’t touch another book and didn’t pick up another book for 6 months.” By June 2013 she had read every word of the bible.
In November 2013 Penny moved to Whitby, ON and her sister, desiring a community for Penny, invited her to Whitby Free Methodist Church – which is walking distance from Penny’s home. That first Sunday she heard God speaking to her through Pastor Cliff Fletcher and knew she was meant to be there. That morning she read in the bulletin about Celebrate Recovery, “And I knew that is what God had been preparing me for.”
Celebrate Recovery is a twelve step bible based program for people with hurts, hang-ups and habits and it’s based on eight recovery principals. On November 26, 2013 Penny attended her first Celebrate Recovery meeting at Whitby FMC, “I didn’t want to get to know people because I thought once they got to know me they wouldn’t want me there. I’m the woman at the well. But they do want me as part of this community and I have been embraced and lifted up and prayed for by the whole community. I am in awe of what God has done in such a short period of time.”
A few weeks ago Penny accepted a full-time job complete with benefits and RSP contributions – thanks to a lead from someone at Celebrate Recovery and the prayers of her community.
Pastor Cliff teaches the importance of developing relationships with other believers but more importantly with Jesus, “Whitby FMC has helped to change my perception of God. I now see Him as a loving, merciful and approachable Father. I chose to be baptized and made the commitment to follow Him. I am so humbled. I can’t believe after the life I have lived that God is this good to give me beyond what I could ever imagine.”
Penny has found that sense of belonging and community she has been seeking and plans to not only participate in Celebrate Recovery but involve herself further in this ministry.
I am so thankful to Penny for sharing her story. She brought me to tears when she referred to herself as the woman at the well. I want to tell more of these “good news” stories because they are happening all around us and we should be shouting them from the rooftops! Penny was a little nervous sharing her story but then reminded me, “How can you not share your story when God is so good?”
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Click here to learn more about Celebrate Recovery.