GOD at Work Stories


By Shelley Karja

I was raised a Catholic and enjoyed going to church with my father.  I always believed in God, but as a teenager I put my trust in my judgement rather than following Jesus’ direction.

I became a rebel, started smoking pot at 15-16 years of age, which led to drugs and some alcohol. I hooked up with a guy my parents did not approve of, and I would not listen to them. I ran away from home, ending up in a foster home. My parents said “Pick him or us”.  At 17 I quit school.  At 18 I got married and life continued on a downward spiral.  More lies, drugs became very bad, and my husband was abusive.

With the help of my older sister, Chris, after our second anniversary I left the marriage and got a divorce.  I continued to smoke pot, got remarried in 1982 and had a son.  When he turned 2 I realized I needed help.  With the help of a sponsor I started with AA and found God was merciful and loving. I became sober and drug free in 1984. I became restless in my marriage, which ended in divorce.

At an AA meeting in 1989 I met my husband, Brad Karja. We found out that his mother and my mother were close friends.  Brad had two sons, and a short while later Brad and I had a daughter together. We blended our family of 5.

While many in AA claimed to be Christians, we found they were not walking with the Lord. There was lots of swearing and women-bashing at the meetings.

Brad and I attended a Billy Graham meeting in 1994 and dedicated our lives to the Lord.  We got married with all of our children in attendance.

We went to a Celebrate Recovery meeting in Brooklyn Park with Pastor Denny and Sue.  After consulting, consideration and prayer we decided to start a Celebrate Recovery group at Annandale Free Church. We were joined by Charles and Denise Webb as leaders.  This has become our passion and our cause. It is a program for both men and women, young and old, to help deal with many problems; drugs, alcohol, sexual addiction, past abuse, eating disorders and more.  Its eight recovery principles are Bible based as follows:

  1. Realize I’m not God. I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable.   Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor. (Matthew 5:3)
  2. Earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, and that He has the power to help me recover. Happy are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
  3. Consciously choose to commit all my life and will to Christ’s care and control. Happy are the meek. (Matthew 5:5)
  4. Openly examine and confess my faults to myself, to God, and to someone I trust. Happy are the pure in heart. (Matthew 5:8)
  5. Voluntarily submit to every change God wants to make in my life and humbly ask Him to remove my character defects. Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires. (Matthew 5:6)
  6. Evaluate all my relationships. Offer forgiveness to those who have hurt me and make amends for harm that I’ve done to others, except when to do so would harm them or others. Happy are the merciful. (Matthew 5:7) Happy are the peacemakers. (Matthew 5:9)
  7. Reserve a daily time with God for self-examination, Bible reading and prayer in order to know God and His will for my life and to gain the power to follow His will.
  8. Yield myself to God to be used to bring this Good News to others, both by my example and by my words. Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires. (Matthew 5:10)


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