News 12 at 11 o'clock / Tuesday, May 22, 2012
EVANS, Ga. -- The emails and calls are still coming into our newsroom about the Potter's House.
Earlier this month, the woman behind the 7-month program some call a miracle opened her doors to News 12. It's the first time cameras have ever been inside, but soon, there might be another first.
Our area is now one step closer to having the second Potter's House, but it can't happen without your help.
"Lord, I am on the news, and it's not for being wanted?" Lisa Hensley can barely get those words out without laughing, but the reason for her trip to Augusta is very serious.
As she chuckles, you can see her spunk. Lisa has a lot of life in her for someone who says she wasn't alive for years.
"I was dead as far as most people were concerned, but here I sit," she said.
Lisa is sitting on the back sun room in a home in Evans, two and a half hours away from the Potter's House. It's also a world away from the person she used to be: a drug addict and a prostitute. Five years later, Lisa is returning to spread her light in a dark part of her own past.
We first introduced you to Lisa when News 12 traveled to Milner, Ga., but Lisa's story is scattered all over the country. She has more than 30 arrests on her record. Most of those are felonies.
"I ended up in Augusta, Ga., believe it or not, from Arkansas, " Lisa said. "That's where I did my first piece of crack -- Augusta, Ga. I will never forget that, all the days that I live."
For years, crack kept her behind bars.
"It's really sad when you see your release date coming and think, 'I don't want to go because I know what's going to happen to me when I leave here.' No one teaches us how to walk it."
It was only after Lisa crawled through the doors of the Potter's House that she learned to stand again. Cherrie Burdeshaw taught her and hundreds others how to put one foot in front of the other.
"They are ordinary people, just like us, that made wrong choices," Cherrie said.
Cherrie wanted to help them make it right, so 12 years ago she bought a house. It was a free place where women released from jail could go, if they needed a place to stay. .
People asked Cherrie if she was nuts.
"People thought, 'Wow. You're going to do that? You don't know what you're getting yourself into, you know. I mean, they may steal from you. They may kill you. You don't know what they're going to do.'"
What they did was change. More than a decade and two houses later, it's still free, and it's still happening. You can see it in the before and after pictures. Cherrie's program, which she insists isn't rehab but instead a Christian discipleship program, lasts seven months. The change is not overnight, but the change is permanent. Almost all the women who graduate from the Potter's House make it.
Lisa has been sober for more than five years.
"Within the first month, I told the Lord when I stepped on the front porch, I just felt it. I've been looking for this place my whole life," she said.
Then one day, at an open house for the Potter's House, Lisa turned around, and the son she abandoned when he was 5 years old was there.
"It wasn't right, but praise God, I didn't take him on that road I went on, because there's no telling if he'd even be alive today," she said.
Now, he's in her life.
"God brings things full circle," Lisa told us almost two months ago at the Potter's House. She had no idea at the time those words would be prophetic.
Fast forward seven weeks, and Lisa is touring a home in Evans on Full Circle Drive.
"I'm back, but I'm not carrying a pipe; I'm carrying the good news. I'm carrying the answer. I'm carrying hope," she said.
It's hope Sally Gray has had for years. As president of Augusta Day Aglow, she's been reaching out to women in jail for decades.
"I haven't walked where they've walked, but someone that has and has come out of it can speak to them in a way I can't," she said.
Sally's ministry has joined forces with another local ministry called iCare to help these women turn their lives around and get their families back. The two groups invited the women of the Potter's House to come to our area and share their secret of success with some in the community, including Judge James Blanchard.
Now, Augusta Day Aglow and iCare want that hope to arrive sooner rather than later.
"One thing that has to happen first is the right house mother. And I believe that it will be someone that has been through Cherrie's program."
Plus, they need a house and the money to run it. Sally is willing to open the doors to her home as a temporary place, but she'd like her horses to always be a part of the program.
"It's just a personal goal of my heart to see these horses help women heal," she said.
Lisa, a former house mother at the Potter's House grew up riding horses, so here on Full Circle Drive, she feels at home passing along ideas for our area to have its own home to help women.
"I thank them for it. Because I was one that was saved. My family thanks them for it. My son thanks them for it. My grand-baby thanks them for it."
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