Hi, I’m Jan and I’ve now been living in the Betel family for over seven years. Up to the age of 40, my life seemed relatively ‘normal’. I was married with three children aged 5, 10 and 15, and I had a good career as a staff nurse at a local hospital A&E department. As a family, we were very comfortable and I thought I was settled for life.

Then, just before Christmas 1999, I found out my husband was having an affair and this horrible truth started me on a long downward spiral. Within months, I became very seriously ill and was hospitalised with Crohn’s disease.

When I finally recovered 18 months later, gone was the woman who thought she knew about life; gone was her husband and, because she was too ill to look after them, gone were her children. Indeed, I found my very identity as a person disappearing and I plummeted headlong into despair.

Over the next seven years, I got myself into a number of violently abusive relationships, with the oblivion that alcohol offered as the only source of relief from my pain and loneliness. I tried various forms of treatment including GP-prescribed medication, counselling and psychiatry. One rehab home refused to accept me because I was too old but I knew the results would have been the same at most of them; being in a drug and alcohol-free environment was not enough. My inner pain always drove me back to alcohol.

Then one day in June 2008, when I felt I was dying, a Christian ex-policeman told me about Betel. I telephoned them and was accepted within a matter of days. As soon as I walked through the doors, I knew this place was different from anywhere else I had been. The girls, most of whom had had similar life experiences, welcomed me with genuine warmth and love, and wanted nothing in exchange. They had no hidden agenda and I knew I had found a safe haven at last.

For the first few months, while I slowly regained a sense of self-worth, the girls just encouraged me through the long difficult days – and nights. I worked hard at a number of jobs within the Betel community, and finally came to accept and believe in the life-changing truth that there is a God – Jesus – that He knows and loves me personally, and that He only wants the very best for me.

With my faith in Jesus forming the foundation of my new life, for the last five years I have been the leader of Betel’s women’s houses in Birmingham, a position I have just retired from. My relationships with my children – and two grandchildren – are fully restored and I now have a deep inner peace and sense of purpose for my life. As such, I am looking forward to the New Year with excitement as I wait expectantly to find out what God has in store for me in 2016.