By Ruth Storkel and Natasha Tanev
“To give unto them beauty from ashes.” A promise from God in Isaiah 61:3. (Holy Bible)
Sarah and Chad Tuttle of Lighthouse Northwest are living, walking examples of this great transformation! I had the pleasure of meeting Sarah recently, and she shared her amazing story, from experiencing abuse to a thriving nonprofit for domestic violence victims.
Sarah came to Seattle to attend the University of Puget Sound in 1992. At the university, she majored in English with a minor in Sociology. Remaining in Seattle after graduation, she eventually met her husband Chad, who had “migrated” west from the state of Minnesota.
Both Sarah and Chad had experienced abuse and trauma during their childhood. They brought deep, unhealed wounds into their marriage; this affected their relationship with one another. They worked very hard to improve their marriage, praying harder, trying to communicate better, going to marriage retreat classes, etc., but it wasn’t working. They “did it all,” but “things just didn’t change,” relates Sarah.
Thankfully, some brave individuals from their church began researching the signs of domestic abuse and started investing time and energy in their lives, proving to be true friends as they stood by them “for the long haul.” “Most importantly, they connected Sarah and her husband to trained domestic abuse professionals and counselors that were equipped to address the complexities of abuse and walk beside them in their healing journey. “ “It was not an easy journey, we were separated for years, but God used these individuals to help set both my husband and me free,” Sarah shared. “Chad and I are married today, and we are both new creatures in Christ!”
After their healing, transformation, and restoration, God led Chad and Sarah to establish Lighthouse Northwest, based in Des Moines; it has been successfully operating for nearly ten years. The couple has four children who are also very involved and serving in this ministry that restores people whose lives have been touched by domestic abuse.
Sarah spent ten years writing and developing the curriculum which they now use today in the Domestic Abuse Recovery program called Rise. (God used her college writing major in a way she would have never expected!)
The community living part of the Rise program, at Sacha’s House, involves four major steps: stabilizing the women and children, working on each person’s education, empowering them to set and accomplish goals, and helping them move into their own homes. They are coached and taught life skills, building a relationship with God, work ethics, money management, etc.
Sarah’s face glowed as she spoke about the many people who have gone through their program and whose lives have changed for the better. Using her past pain to help others heal from abuse and trauma, has been a rewarding and joyful experience.
Many stories can be told: a very remarkable one is about Molly (fictional name). Molly, 40 years of age, moved into Sacha’s House after having lived most of her life on the streets. She arrived with a 4-month-old daughter who she was raising in her car. She was very hesitant to move into her own room at Sacha House, but eventually, she unpacked her vehicle. “I’ll never forget,” reflected Sarah. “We asked her about her biggest dream, and she replied, ‘I want a crib for my baby.’ ” They reached out to the community and a crib was donated for Molly’s baby. Molly’s life and circumstances were so transformed with God’s help and the staff at Sacha’s House, that she was able to dream and “thrive in life,” as Molly shared. One of her dreams was to be an automobile mechanic. She graduated from Green River Community College, got a job, lives in her own home, and now teaches women in the program how to maintain their cars. “She’s remarkable!” said Sarah.
What a success story, but that is just one of many. Over ten years, a total of 14 families have lived in the community living home. They have had 100% success for those who complete the 2-year program. Success at Lighthouse means not simply surviving, but thriving in life and relationships.
Chad and Sarah look to the future with great aspirations: to have a Lighthouse recovery home in every city in South King County, as well as a program designed for men, and to share their curriculum and experiences with churches that desire to help the abused and homeless. Sarah says, “The church is the answer; they just need more resources to help guide abuse victims through this difficult process.”
More lives can be transformed through the local churches sharing in this transforming ministry. To kick off Domestic Violence Awareness month, Sarah hosted a workshop on October 1st entitled “Recognizing and Responding to Domestic Abuse.” This workshop is designed to empower churches to see and understand the signs of abuse and how to support victims in a tangible way.
NW is eager to help equip Christians to reach out in helping those whose lives have been shattered by abuse. Their newly launched RISE program meetings are freely offered to any woman in the community who has experienced abuse whether recently or in the past. As well as to churches who want to start their own ministries for abuse victims.
“Do you think there is enough awareness of domestic abuse issues in our society?” I asked Sarah. “It’s come a long way, but we still have a ways to go,” Sarah concluded.
Here is where the community can get involved in the process of life transformation: the Lighthouse depends on an army of volunteers! They need people to help coach, mentor, provide childcare, do yard work, bring meals for the free class sessions offered to the community, etc. Donations are also gladly accepted. They always need toilet paper, Kleenex, and baby wipes. Monetary donations are also greatly appreciated.
For more details on volunteering or donating, contact Sarah t: 206-824-8581 or e:firstname.lastname@example.org.