How a community celebrated one single mom’s second chance.
Sherri Moss felt loved the very first time she visited NewSpring Aiken.
But she never imagined an outpouring like this.
On #ForSC Day in the spring of 2017, she could hardly believe her eyes when a dozen volunteers showed up to help her move out of a local women’s shelter and turn a newly rented house into a home.
“You name it, they brought it,” Sherri says.
They hauled in furniture donated from all over — a sofa, recliner, bed, dresser, even a crib for her months-old daughter.
They set up her kitchen with pots and pans, dishes and silverware.
They stocked the bathroom with towels and everyday essentials.
They wiped down walls and swept floors and loaded her up with cleaning supplies. They even mowed the yard.
Jesus is real. All you’ve got to do is lean on Him for what you need.
Aiken Campus Pastor Matt Steelman points to Sherri, surrounded by the volunteers who helped her move into her first home as part of #ForSC Day.
At 32, it was the first time Sherri had her own place.
She had been practically homeless since she left home at 18, so she was feeling all the emotions.
For the past year, the Nurture Home gave Sherri refuge and emotional support through her pregnancy, guided her through the process of finding full-time work, and arranged for her to move into the two-bedroom, mid-century bungalow.
What Sherri calls her “no ordinary family” at Aiken helped her pay outstanding debts, the security deposit, and the first month’s rent, along with other gifts from a GoFundMe page set up for her.
And now this.
“I wasn’t looking for all that. It caught me by surprise — very much so,” she says.
When the move-in was done, there was only one way to mark the moment: the volunteer team huddled around her in the living room, laid their hands on her, and prayed over her.
“It was one of those times when you realize you can really do for one what you can’t do for all,” says Matt Steelman, Aiken Campus Pastor, who headed up the volunteer team that day.
Once Sherri's move from the women's shelter to her rented home was complete, volunteers gather around her to pray.
A Real Turnaround
Sherri’s story had become everyone’s story at this tight-knit community campus.
One of Aiken’s first owners — actually, the second person to be saved when the campus was still meeting in a house — picked up Sherri from the shelter and brought her to church the first time.
All the volunteers were buzzing with anticipation, ready with extra hugs and smiles.
When Sherri asked Jesus into her life the same day, they were in awe. And they celebrated like crazy when she got baptized in February.
So it was natural for everyone to rally around Sherri and make sure she didn’t feel alone.
When the timing worked out perfectly to do the move-in on #ForSC Day, well, that was just God showing out.
“We thought, ‘Why would we not do this? This is what the church should be!’ And that’s what it felt like it was,” Matt says. “She’s someone people are excited to see thrive. It’s been unbelievable to see the faith that’s been created.”
Sherri is as awed by her own story as anyone.
“Jesus is real. All you’ve got to do is lean on Him for what you need, and lean on Him to do it,” she says. “I know that for a fact. I am witness of that.”
Volunteers load in donated furniture. At the end of #ForSC Day, Sherri's home was filled with everything she needed to live comfortably.
Drowning Her Pain
Just before she made the decision to move to the women’s shelter from her hometown in North Carolina, she was ready to be done with life.
Ever since Sherri’s adopted mom died of Alzheimer’s when she was 13, she numbed herself with alcohol and drugs.
The substance abuse got worse when she dropped out of high school at 16. It snowballed after she left home and got married to a man who later went to prison, and it kept building when, at 21, she had her first child, Myracle, with another man.
A stint in rehab in 2009 did nothing to slow her down.
She stopped using cocaine, but she made up for it in alcohol use and pills.
Having to let her then 4-year-old daughter move in with her father so she could go to rehab broke whatever was left to break in Sherri.
Day after day, she would drain bottles of liquor neat, or whatever she could get her hands on. She was drunk from the moment she would wake to the time she would go to bed or black out.
“My daughter was gone and I had no reason to live. I tried to do so much drugs and drink to the point where I would be no more. I didn’t want to live,” she says.
All told, this non-life was her life for more than a decade — moving from place to place continually, sleeping on floors and couches, finding and losing service jobs, and paying for her alcohol with prostitution.
God loves you because you woke up this morning … There’s no reason a frown should be on your face.
A Life Worth Living
The turning point came in 2015 when she was hospitalized and on life-support for acute pneumonia. She was four months pregnant with her daughter, Shyla.
Doctors didn’t think she would live, Sherri says.
“You need to thank God for your life, because a lot of people wouldn’t have made it out of here,” one of the doctors told her on release.
A week after she walked out of the hospital, a miracle, she called her sister in South Carolina and pleaded with her for help.
She knew she couldn’t care for her daughter with her life the way it was, and she didn’t want her to go into the social services system.
“If my baby don’t make it, I am going to make sure I don’t make it,” Sherri remembers telling her.
She moved out of her boyfriend’s place and in with her sister for a few days and quit drinking cold turkey.
Sherri’s biological mom, who had come from New Jersey to be by her side in the hospital, took her in, too, and has been by her side ever since.
It took a few months to find and be approved for a shelter. Sherri moved into the Nurture Home on March 7. Shyla was born May 10.
Matt hugs Sherri after she emerges from the water of baptism. Sherri's faith has become an inspiring example to others at Aiken Campus.
Sherri’s adoptive father was a pastor, and she’d grown up in church, but after her mom died, she never wanted anything to do with God.
Then, when she heard about NewSpring from one of the staff members at the shelter, she decided she wanted to go.
When she heard the message at church that June day, she felt like God was talking directly to her.
“All them years, I thought God had left me behind, and I’m just waiting to die.”
But in that moment, Sherri says, she felt like God pulled her in to let her know it was Him.
“I was telling God I was sorry, and I was trying to get it together, and If He could help me,” she says. “I said, ‘I can’t live this life without you anymore. I don’t know what to do. I left everything I ever knew behind. It’s your time to take over and do as you will.’”
After Sherri made that decision to ask Jesus into her life, she was quickly surrounded with smiles and hugs and words of encouragement.
“They said, ‘Jesus loves you,’ and ‘Jesus has something special for you,’ and I looked at my daughter and I said, ‘You’re right!’”
After that, Sherri couldn’t believe that people would constantly call to see if she was OK and invite her back to church — even people she didn’t know.
“I never had a place that felt like a family until I got to NewSpring,” she says. “They took me in from the beginning, and they always support me now.”
A year later, campus pastor Matt and others are still checking in with Sherri regularly, and it always seems to be just at the moment she most needs prayer.
Making everything work is a challenge for a single-mom working 50 to 60 hours a week at Dunkin Donuts.
Her car broke down recently, so she’s had to rely on co-workers or church friends for rides. That makes it difficult at times to take shifts and get Shyla to daycare.
She might be behind on bills right now, but she doesn’t let it discourage her.
She knows she can depend on Jesus to give her what she needs to make it through.
“I have had nothing shut off yet,” she says. “I go to work every day, and I thank God for my job every day. I know if it weren’t for God I wouldn’t have that. I have all my faith that he is going to make it work.”
When Sherri isn’t working a shift on Sundays, you’ll see her at the Aiken Campus, greeting.
She’s always smiling because she always has a lot to celebrate.
“God loves you because you woke up this morning. That’s how I am now,” Sherri says. “Just happy to be alive and to do Jesus work. There’s no reason a frown should be on your face.”
That example of grit leaves a mark on everyone who gets to know her.
“Anytime anybody sees her, they’re thrilled to be around her,” Matt says. “Everyone loves her and is inspired by her.”