Stories that Inspire.
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The Roth family grows in size, and in faith, at the Mission
Laurence and Camille both grew up in Northern New Jersey but didn’t meet until they both had relocated to Los Angeles. Laurence had struggled with heroin off and on since he was 19, but was a year clean when they met at a bar three-and-a-half years ago. The couple clicked instantly and even moved in together after just a week or two. “It was so unlike me,” said Camille. “I’d never had that connection before.”
But things changed when they two started using meth together. “I’d never done anything like that in my life,” Camille said. “It was at a different time in my life. I thought, there’s no way I would allow something to take hold of me like that. And a few months in, I found out he had relapsed on heroin. I had struggled with anxiety and depression before. Not knowing how to help him brought me back to it. I continued to use drugs as a way to not deal with reality.”
The drug use “demolished our financial situation, whatever little we had,” Laurence said. And when their landlord got evicted and they were left with no home with no notice, they packed up their car and started driving into the Valley. “Then the car broke down,” Laurence said. “It was the perfect storm. It was everything I thought I didn’t want to happen. But now, I see that it was part of a bigger plan.”
The couple ended up in a tent in a Van Nuys homeless encampment for about six months. “Any little gain we got, it wasn’t enough for us to get out of there,” Laurence said. “I went to jail a couple times—while we were on the streets, I had to steal to live. It feels impossible to get on your feet. We were just sustaining ourselves by committing crimes and using drugs to numb the pain.”
But a petty theft got more complicated when Laurence was caught with a pocket knife, and he ended up spending five months in jail. “Camille was left by herself on the streets,” Laurence said. “I was broken. I hated myself. I hated everything about me.”
While inside, Laurence started reading the bible, even though he considered himself agnostic. “I called out to God for mercy,” he said. “A moment after that, I felt guilt removed from soul. I could sense God and I knew he forgave me and I became a Christian. I asked for forgiveness and I promised the Lord that I’d follow him. And the Holy Spirit was given to me.”
Laurence and some of his fellow inmates would pray for Camille every night. They’d pray she’d find her way back to her family and that she’d go to the hospital. Before Laurence left, she had been having some stomach issues, and he now thought she may have been pregnant. “Months went by. I hadn’t heard from her.”
Meanwhile, Camille had been kicked out of the tent and was living in her car. She had developed an infection in her finger and had gone to the hospital twice for antibiotics that didn’t seem to help. On her third try getting to the hospital, Camille struggled. “I was fainting, and could hardly walk,” she said. “I felt so broken. I remember at 2 a.m., at the bus stop, screaming in pain, feeling like no one cared about me. I grew up in the church—my grandfather was a minister. I had prayed through all of our ordeals. But I no longer felt worthy of God’s love. And I felt like he had forgotten me. I was no longer a child that he wanted.”
At the hospital, Camille learned that she had a serious staph infection and that her finger would need to be amputated. She also learned she was pregnant. “God gave me a reason to live,” she said. “I never want to go back to where I was. Everything changed in an instant for me.”
Camille hadn’t spoke to her parents and sister, to whom she was very close, for nearly a year. “I just didn’t want them to see me like that so I pulled away,” she said. But she decided to call them from the hospital. “They couldn’t believe it. They had been searching for me. I remember my dad crying for so long; he was so happy. They just kept saying, ‘Thank God, it’s you.’ All of the sudden I wasn’t alone anymore. I thanked God for giving me my family back.”
Camille said being reunited with her family made “a switch go back on. I had to see Laurence. I had to make sure he was OK. I was scared for him.” After tracking him down and getting her ID, Camille visited Laurence. “She was seven months pregnant with Dylan,” Laurence said. “I asked her if she wanted to get married, right through the glass, and she said yes. It was incredible. I broke down in tears and thanked God.”
“This person was so different,” Camille added. “I remember seeing this weight off of him. I knew he was changed. He had never looked so happy. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It was everything I had spoken to God about, and secretly prayed for. He heard me and loved me and us enough to make our lives full.”
The couple had their baby on May 7 and came home to the Mission, where they also got married two months later. “They are so amazing here,” Camille said. “They’ve been taking care of us and our needs, helping to provide, even the spiritual support, so that we’ve been able to grow together. They understand our faith journey, and they’ve been very supportive every step of the way. We have a totally new outlook on life.
“We’ve had a lot of help from other mothers here, and they’ve been helping me focus on what to do to be the best mother I can be to her. And seeing (Laurence) with her has been so amazing. We’ve just been staying in prayer.”
Laurence now has a job at Grace Community Church, where the family attends. He does custodial work and grounds maintenance. Moving forward, Camille hopes she may be able to work in the church nursery and get into youth ministry. “I’ve always loved working with kids,” she said. “We don’t have a full picture of what God wants for us, but we are trying to prepare ourselves for what’s to come and be ready, with his guidance.”
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