By Darlene Stewart (A PAYH Alumnus Parent)

No parent is ever prepared to find out their child is an addict. In the case of our son, Phillip, I was suspicious but preoccupied with profound life changes. My husband and I raised our children, Erin and Phillip, by following the Word of God, but sometimes, even the most dutiful parents do not see the warning signs.

In January 2012, my husband Randy developed sudden onset Parkinson’s Syndrome. This was just one life-changing event our family would endure over the following years. In August 2013, Erin entered college. That same day, Phillip had told us he was taking a drive to see friends. A few hours later, we received a call from the police that Phillip had been stopped, and drugs were found in his car. Deceit escalated, schoolwork digressed, and this Mom was not going to stand for it.

Against his will, my son joined my husband and me for Christian counseling. This was a time when a son needed his Dad the most, but Randy was not physically able. Our daughter became very independent, but Phillip turned to the elusive lifestyle of drugs and gave us a constant stream of police calls, lawyers, and heartbreak. There seemed to be no end.

The year 2016 was pivotal. In February, Randy’s father died. In April, I had major neck surgery, including a fused vertebrae and a plate installed. The same month, a young girl in our community died from a drug overdose. I feared Phillip would be next. In May, my 94-year-old mother succumbed to Alzheimer’s. In September, Hurricane Matthew demolished our home, and Randy was diagnosed with a fungal infection in his lungs which initially looked like cancer.

However, in the midst of that awful year, God gave us a gift. We were able to enroll Phillip in the Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH). We knew he needed help to get his heart right with God. The Word had been poured into him from birth, but Satan still could do great harm. Our sole priority was for Phillip’s life with God to be restored.

As God would have it, I first hear of PAYH from someone who attended Bible study with me, and who had enrolled her son at PAYH. We investigated many, many programs and places, but we kept coming back to PAYH. Since Phillip was a legal adult at 18, he refused to go willingly. I had to bring theft charges against him in order to have him referred to PAYH.

The first time we visited campus, it felt like we were on holy ground. My first sight of Phillip brought tears to my eyes. We had left a young man with a body ravaged by drug abuse, and a few months later, we were looking at a brand new son! Phillip’s eyes glistened with life, his body filled out with muscle, and he smiled — something we had not seen in so long. Phillip spent 15 months at PAYH, graduating in October 2017.

After graduation, Phillip’s plan was to live with friends who were attending Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., get a job, and take community college classes while he figured out what to do. Isolation from students on holiday breaks led to anxiety, so he returned home in February 2018. He maintained sobriety but sank into depression as the job hunt was challenging. I began my vigil of praying for God to intervene. I knew it would take something extreme to shake Phillip
up. I prayed that God would give me the strength to endure and be there for my son.

In July 2019, God answered my prayer. For a couple of months, I was having issues eating and feeling low energy. I was eventually diagnosed with Stage 4 ovarian and uterine cancer. With my husband and Phillip beside me, hearing the doctor say those words were faint compared to the voice in my head saying: “This is your answer!”

For the following 18 months, Phillip drove me to most of my chemo sessions. Before starting, I had to be readmitted for a pulmonary embolism and again for dehydration. After my second chemo treatment, the neuropathy pain became unbearable. Phillip was there for every moment — calm, cool, and collected.

Yes, cancer was my solution. I took chemo treatments for 18 months. During this time, God began to answer my prayers for Phillip. PAYH was with us every step of the way. After graduation, PAYH continued to treat us like family. They constantly reached out to us in prayer, inquiring about Phillip’s progress. We reached out to them for prayer, and when we were at our wits’ end, PAYH was there for us. Paul Anderson’s legacy of love and healing for young men, carried on with grace by his widow Glenda, continues as strong as ever. What PAYH has done for our family is immeasurable. Please consider supporting this life-changing organization today. Your support will help another boy like my Phillip.

All blessings and glory to HIM,
Darlene Stewart
Devoted Mother of Phillip, Class of 2017

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