We’re all sinners. That’s just part of life. A sin is a sin, and Christians always say that, but there is a little part of us that might think prostituting, sticking needles in our arms and even planning to kill someone is a little worse than a kid not listening to her mom and inevitably taking a piece of chocolate from the candy dish mere seconds after she was told not to.

No matter what the sin and no matter what the addiction – even if it’s chocolate you can’t put down due to being deprived as a child – there is one place in Foley, Alabama, that is reaching the world through prayer and helping God heal His people.

Christians United Ministries, a believer-supported international ministry of prayer, has been around since 1999. It started in the Elberta home of Jan Hicks after she got into a little bit of trouble herself. Well, Hicks got into a lot of trouble and, to this day, is thankful to be alive.

She started this ministry of prayer, and it has grown into much more.

“Prayer is the most important thing we do,” said Hicks. “That’s just where the power comes from and calling on the Lord. He answers our prayer.”

So, why would such a beautiful, well-put-together, prosperous and happy woman spend so much time helping others? She lives by the beach. Shouldn’t she be lying out and hanging out at the country club, sipping on mimosas? She wouldn’t dare.

Her love for others all stems from her background as a drug and alcohol addict. You would never know now, but Hicks has had her experience in low places.

“I had a lot of addictions,” Hicks remembered. “I was sticking needles in my arm for 12 years, and I didn’t start that until I was 30. Then at 42, I surrendered my life to the Lord, and that’s where my breakthrough came from.”

Although she was raised in a loving household and her parents were hard-working, active citizens, things happened to Hicks throughout her childhood and early adulthood that led her into darkness. She was sexually abused as a child by a family member, abused as a teen, raped as an adult and ended up in several toxic, abusive marriages. She said after being kicked, shoved, and even shot at by people she thought loved her. She began to believe that was the lifestyle she deserved.

Her parents were not religious, so she was unaware of the power of prayer. At 30, she turned to alcohol and drugs and was addicted to pornography. She had two children at the time and had just divorced their father. She was a nurse and met another man who introduced her to cocaine. For 12 years, she lied, stole and had sex for drugs.

“I just did whatever it took for heroin, cocaine, meth. It just didn’t matter,” she said. “I became addicted to the needle, and I put whatever in there, trying to get a high.”

It only took one thing to eventually open Hicks’ eyes. She went to church.

“I went to church, and I felt the Lord get ahold of me,” she remembered. “And when he did, I cried all day. I mean, all day. I made four trips to that church that day, and before that night, I told the pastor, ‘I’ve got to talk to somebody. I don’t know what to do here.’ And they talked to me and led me to that place where I could say, ‘Yes, I want to give my life to Jesus.’ And I remember getting down on my knees in that pastor’s office, and he told me to pray. I didn’t know how to pray.”

But the pastor told her to say whatever she was feeling in her heart, and by the time she was finished, she knew she was saved.

“Overnight, I was delivered,” she said.

She was immediately religious and went into reading and studying the word. But even after all of that, she still had questions and wounds from past traumas. She wanted answers and wanted to know how to get out of the pain. The pain was so bad that she said she remained angry and wanted to take the lives of two people who had hurt her in the past. But she didn’t. Instead, she did more research to find answers. That’s how her idea for a ministry was born.

“It’s about teaching not to put blame anywhere but to put recognition of where things could’ve happened,” she said. “Release those that were either responsible intentionally or not even knowingly. We learn, and we pass on what we learn. We have to release them and then forgive ourselves. Shame and guilt is the major emotion and place that we go that we become addicted. We’re hiding our shame of the things that have been done to us or that we have done, and so we hide those things through things like chocolate, alcohol, drugs, whatever it may be.”

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Christians United Ministries is headquartered in Foley, Alabama. Photo: Erica Thomas.

Prayer remains at the center of everything the non-profit is about. Teams are in Tennessee, Florida, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas and even Mexico.

Christians United Ministries prays with those in need, but it also has an accreditation program for Biblical counseling so that after someone goes through their own journey, they can go on to help others complete theirs.

“We have to change ourselves. That’s very true,” Hicks explained. “We have to have self-care, and those are all very, very important things. But we can’t keep that self-identity that ‘it’s all about me.’ When we turn that around and try to give what we’ve received and try to teach what we have learned and help walk people through what we have already done and hold their hand up, it changes your life.”

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Jan Hicks said he strives to offer a calming environment for those who come to Christians United Ministries for prayer and Biblical counseling. Photo: Erica Thomas.

As for Hicks, she hopes the ministry continues to grow. She has been married to a loving, Christian man for 31 years now, and she has mended her relationship with her children, allowing her to enjoy life with her 12 grandchildren.

“They’ve forgiven me for all of that,” Hicks said. “It’s a story of restoration. It’s a beautiful story now.”

And the story is even more beautiful because the impact Christians United Ministries has had is truly immeasurable.

Tracey St. John would know just how powerful prayer can be. She is a volunteer now for Christians United Ministries, but her story wasn’t always so happy. After losing her husband suddenly just over two years ago, she said her world fell apart.

“I just laid in bed, drank alcohol, did nothing,” she remembered. “And I was on a slow suicide mission. I cannot tell you to this day what made me come to Foley from New Orleans, other than we knew some people here. I was almost following our dream because we had talked about retiring here. But I moved here, and through a series of events, I was able to get connected to Christians United Ministries.”

While tackling her current trauma, St. John said she was also faced with past traumas, including rape when she was a teenager.

“I realized I had been living a lie,” she said. “For years, it looked on the outside that I was doing just fine, but on the inside, I was a mess. I realize that addiction is just a symptom. But all those roots are under the surface where you couldn’t see. Now, you can pluck off the drugs, you can pluck off the alcohol, and nobody would see it. But something else would spring up until you cut the roots.”

St. John was able to heal through prayer and learning about the Lord.

“I was able to find freedom,” said St. John. “It wasn’t about me. And I hated God at one point. I turned my back on Him. I blamed Him. But it wasn’t Him. He loved me so much that He kept me alive. And He’s brought me here where I have a forever family.”

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From left: Tracey St. John, Jan Hicks and Crystal Calhoun. Photo: Erica Thomas.

Christian United Ministries marketing manager, counselor and office manager Crystal Calhoun said there are in-person and online options. The office number is (251) 241-9899, or you can email office@christianunitedministries.org.

"There are stories after stories of people that have been healed here," Calhoun said. "There are so many of us with testimonies. We all come from different backgrounds. When I tell you that God has placed each and every one of us here right where we are supposed to be and right on time, we are the hands and feet of His son, Jesus, right now."

Hicks wants anyone with a need to reach out and find out how Christians United Ministries can help.

"It's never too late," she added. "Things are never too far gone, and there is always hope."

Go to www.christiansunitedministries.org for more information.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email erica.thomas@1819news.com.

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