SPRING HILL — Last week, Kathy Shallcross shared her Christian testimony with a group of women at a restaurant in Brooksville who promised to pray for her ministry.
Ministry is not something new to Shallcross. She's been sharing the story of her walk with Jesus for the past 40 years — since he captured her heart and saved her from a self-destructive lifestyle.
"I was dying from alcoholism," Shallcross candidly told the group. "I finally found healing, wholeness, peace and a purpose for my life when the Lord found me broken and without hope. I truly never imagined that what I was searching for all my life was love, not as the world loves, which is conditional on too many things that we can never live up to, but an unconditional love that can only come from God."
God got Shallcross' attention when she wasn't even looking in his direction, she said.
"My mother had spent a fortune on sending me to rehabs," Shallcross shared. "One day, I was in my four-bedroom townhouse with a drink in my hand when I opened this envelope (from my mother) that had a tract in it with the Gospel message. It spoke to my heart, and that's when I knew what was the matter with me — that I was a sinner. The deliverance (from alcoholism) was on the spot. I just found the Prince of Peace."
From there, Shallcross became involved with Alcoholics Anonymous and worked with ministries like Celebrate Recovery to help others with addictions. Already a college graduate, she acquired additional degrees from Trinity College in New Port Richey in theology and counseling and began establishing 12-step Christian recovery programs for both men and women, such as Living Free, in churches and in prisons wherever she lived. She married and has three children and four grandchildren.
Recently, Shallcross, now 73, began a discipleship-type ministry for women at her church in Spring Hill, Calvary Chapel Hernando. She calls the group the Spiritual Journey to Christ-likeness. Rather than deliverance from addictions, the group focuses on openness and spiritual wholeness. But the impetus for the group is still her personal story. By talking about her own changed life, Shallcross said, it makes it easier for others to talk about theirs.
"I want women to be able to come together and become transparent in sharing their experiences, strength and hope," Shallcross said in an interview.
When Shallcross took the idea to her pastor and the church elders, they were enthused.
"I believe it's important that believers do the same thing Jesus told the demoniac in Mark 5:19 after he had delivered him — to go and tell his friends all that the Lord had done for him and how he'd had compassion on him," Pastor Matt Andruss said. "Kathy's ministry teaches and encourages ladies to emulate this by being truthful and open about the victories they've had in their lives because of Christ."
For those who are broken because of addictions, Shallcross is still available to minister to them as well. It's the group setting that is so powerful, she said.
"The Lord reminded me of a group at my last church for women who in some way had suffered because of sexual abuse," Shallcross recalled. "The response was overwhelming, and we had to stop enrollment because the group got too large. Many experienced freedom and victory for the first time and others were encouraged that it was possible to someday forgive.
"That kind of deliverance and healing," Shallcross said, "can only come through the power of God."