by Lisa Tramontana
Kristen Maddox is quick to give God credit for taking her life from darkness to light. As the founder of A Door of Hope Ministries, Maddox has committed her life to helping women suffering from drug and alcohol addiction, sexual abuse, self-harm behaviors, post-abortion trauma, domestic violence and numerous other struggles. She is in a unique position to understand and to offer guidance.
At 16, Maddox found herself pregnant and had an abortion — a choice that led her down a 12-year path of desperation, addiction and incarceration. It was the Word of God that changed her life, she says.
“Jesus literally rescued me from a prison far worse than any jail I have ever been in. God’s love, His Word, and the power of the Holy Spirit healed every hurt and gave me the freedom I had been crying out for.”
Maddox was especially touched by a story in Hosea 2:15, which referred to a “door of hope” which transformed despair to victory. Trying to discover her own purpose in life, she had begun to envision a home for girls in trouble — a place where they could receive spiritual counseling from other women who had overcome their own struggles, a place to feel safe and loved and valued. She took a first step toward realizing that dream when she founded A Door of Hope Ministries four years ago. A Door of Hope offers counseling, classes, workshops, camps, retreats and other special programs with the goal of healing and restoring young women in crisis so they can go on to lead positive and rewarding Christian lives. “Our mission is to break the cycle of destructive behaviors and see them fully restored and transformed by Christ,” Maddox said.
Three years ago, Maddox met Shona Butler, and the two became fast friends. “We felt a closeness immediately,” said Butler, who had endured traumas of her own, including sexual abuse as a child. “The first day we met, we shared our stories, we cried together, and we knew we would be used for some greater purpose.”
That purpose turned out to be a platform that allows them to “speak life and spark hope.” The two are co-hosts of “Keeping It Real,” a television show that airs on the local FOX channel every Friday at 7:30 a.m. Guests always have inspiring stories to share, Butler said, and the show connects viewers with community resources and a live prayer line that can be accessed during the show.
“We talk with everyday people and let them tell their stories of how God brought them through a dark time in their lives,” Butler said. “We ask them, ‘When was the moment you met Jesus? How did he heal you?’ Our viewers may not be going through the same things that our guests are talking about, but they probably know someone who has had a similar experience. And our message, of course, is that there is always hope.”
Glory Riggins of Walker would agree. She sought help from A Door of Hope because of alcohol issues and problems with self-esteem. “They taught me how to have a relationship with Christ,” she said. “And they did it in an encouraging and empowering way. I found true freedom from the negative feelings I had, and I learned that I am a worthy and beautiful person. It truly changed my life.” Riggins is now in training to become a lay counselor so she can help others.
Chelsea Szymanski of St. Amant is also on the path to becoming a counselor. She says A Door of Hope helped her overcome a rough childhood marked by neglect and parental drug abuse. “Like so many other women, I was hiding behind a mask and was afraid to seek help,” she said. “A Door of Hope showed me that we are not alone and we don’t have to stay in the same place of hopelessness and shame. When you take off the mask, you can see clearly what God’s purpose is for you.”
One of the ministry’s most successful programs is Camp Hope, a free 4-day camp for young women (age 13 and over) in crisis. Last year, 20 girls attended and explored the theme Dream Big. They attended seminars on self-esteem, finding a purpose in life and helping others. The girls were treated to massages, manicures and gift certificates. “From the feedback we got, it was clear that the experience was very meaningful and helpful to the girls,” Butler said. “Three of the girls had a history of attempted suicide but came away from the camp filled with encouragement.”
Maddox is also very proud of the organization’s prison ministry, in which volunteers make monthly visits to female prisoners at the Livingston Parish Jail. “We have seen God do some amazing things,” Maddox said. “The girls are so hungry for the presence of God. They learn that even though they may have walked away from their relationship with Jesus and feel as though they have failed, they are not a failure. Jesus is waiting to restore them. Many rededicate their lives to the Lord, and it is an honor to speak life into them.”
Sexual abuse is a painful topic, but one that comes up surprisingly often among clients. Rise Up and SOAR is a special program that helps women unlock the chains that have bound them to their painful pasts. The eight-week course is conducted in conjunction with Nicole Bromley’s book “HUSH: Moving From Silence to Healing After Childhood Sexual Abuse.”
Other programs include Hope Closet – gently used clothing, shoes and accessories that are free to clients; One-on-one counseling – advice from lay counselors for managing self-destructive behaviors; Girl Talk – a group of girls meet to discuss, relate and inspire each other; and Overcome Retreat – an overnight retreat held each October in Ponchatoula for those age 18 and older.
An upcoming project very close to Maddox’s heart is a scholarship established in memory of her son, who died in 2014 at the age of 29 — the Ricky Maddox Jr. Never Lose Hope Scholarship.
A Door of Hope is always looking for sponsors, mentors and volunteers. Local businesses are especially needed to donate supplies for camps and retreats. If you can help, visit the website at adoorofhopela.com. A Door of Hope is located at Dixon Medical Center, Suite 5, 8369 Florida Blvd. in Denham Springs. Call (225) 665-HOPE (4673) for details.