God Stories...

Julie Shepard


When I was thinking about my upcoming baptism, I couldn’t help but remember the very first time that I ever attended Heartland Vineyard Church.  It was the beginning of March about three years ago.  At that point in my life I was residing in The Waterloo Women’s Center for Change.  I rode on one of the vans to get here.  I sat way up in the corner, way up on the right side.  Dan’s message that morning was about the woman with the issue of blood, from Luke 8:43-48.  One of the points of his message that morning was that this woman was defined by her issue.  I felt like Dan was talking to me!  At this juncture in my life I was defined by the issue of addiction.  Addiction defined most of my adult years.  The substances changed from time to time but I always longed to be under influence of something.  In the end I was left homeless, without my kids, with criminal drug charges and spiritually bankrupt.

About 4 months before my first attendance at HVC, while in jail I accepted my salvation and used my time to dig into the Word. This set a foundation for me to begin rebuilding a life without drugs and alcohol.  And I was really at bottom. When I was transferred to women’s facility I began attending Celebrate Recovery on Tuesday evenings at HVC.  There I started to work through hurts, habits and hangups that I had sustained in my life and for a lot of years dragged me back into my addictive patterns.  By the grace of God, September 20, 2017, I celebrated 3 years clean and sober!

Joel 2:25 says, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…” And our Lord has restored my life to even better than I could have ever imagined.  I have an awesome relationship with my 3 amazing kids.  I became a wife to an awesome God-fearing man on March 19th and he gave me 4 more amazing kids.  The more I give to God, the more He blesses me.  He certainly has provided for my every need.  My husband and I lead Celebrate Recovery on Tuesday nights.  It is so amazing to see God remove the baggage from His people that we were never meant to carry.  I have people healed of addictions and mental illness and character defects.  It is truly an honor.  Jake and I are also blessed to be a part of this year’s School of Kingdom Ministry class at HVC.

Coming to Heartland Vineyard was like coming home.  Never in this church was I made to feel less than or looked down on.  Joining this church family has helped to build and solidify where my true identity lies, in Jesus Christ.  I love this family and I am happy to be attending School of Kingdom Ministry, learning everything that I can about the Vineyard movement, just drinking it in.  I can’t thank you enough, Heartland Vineyard!  And I stand in awe everyday at what God has done in my life, just by letting him.

This is the verse that the Holy Spirit gave me to mark this day:

“She is clothed with strength and dignity and she can laugh at the days to come.”  -Proverbs 31:25