Understandably, they’re thankful this holiday season.
There was a time not long ago, when Stan Lakes, 30, and his girlfriend, Heidi Dyehouse, 42, thought they’d never live to see Thanksgiving 2017. She had complications from a cardiac ablation three years ago that led doctors to tell her mother to make funeral arrangements.
MORE: West Chester woman dedicates 20 years to counseling the grieving
Dyehouse’s response to the doctors: “You’re not God and He’s not done.”
Then on July 2, while sitting in church and with Dyehouse on vacation in Myrtle Beach, Lakes suffered a stroke that left him with no motor functions or verbal skills. He was a 30-year-old man with the capabilities of a 2-year-old.
But these two are more than just alive, they’re taking this opportunity — a second chance — to show others why they’re thankful for the power of prayer. They will volunteer to prepare meals and serve more than 400 people on Thanksgiving Day at Breiel Boulevard Church of God, a free meal provided by the Kingswell Ministry.
MORE: Middletown pastor’s goal: Make church ‘place where Jesus would hang out’
Last year, Dyehouse attended Ladies Night Out, an evening of pampering when 200 women receive an evening gown, makeup, hairstyles and a meal at The Windamere.
“God just hit me at that event,” Dyehouse said. “It was like He said, ‘OK, you’re here. What are you going to do?’ It changed my entire life and my entire family. I’ve always been a believer, but I haven’t been a follower.”
Dyehouse, her two teenage children, and Lakes were baptized this summer at Breiel Boulevard Church. Eventually, they will get married there, too.
But this happy ending has seen its share of heartache.
MORE: Middletown human trafficking survivor considers herself ‘very lucky’
Dyehouse said she was raised properly and lived “a charmed childhood.” But as so often happens, a child sways, makes bad choices and as she said, “that led to some bad places.” Now when her friends call and ask if she wants to party, she tells them she has church functions to attend.
“I have so many things to be thankful for, but all the roots come right back to Jesus,” Dyehouse said as tears streamed down her face. “I have more hope in my heart than I ever have. Every day is Thanksgiving to me.”
Because neither of them could work due to health restrictions, they nearly were homeless this year. Living on the streets with their two children. Then Scott and Jeri Lewis, leaders of Kingswell Ministry, adopted the family and provided them a home. Instead of paying rent, Lakes renovates the house. He also will help manage the Blast Furnace, a downtown pizza restaurant owned by the Lewises, when it opens next month.
MORE: Volunteer of the Year’s joy spreads throughout Middletown
When Lakes, who had no workers’ compensation, was recuperating at home following his stroke, it was Scott Lewis who remained in constant contact. Every time Lakes felt suicidal — when he thought pulling a trigger would somehow end his misery — he received a timely text from Lewis.
“I’m basically still alive because of them,” Lakes said of his friends and church community.
Dyehouse, the mother of two teenage children, was asked what lessons can be learned from her history.
“No matter where you’re at or where you came from, God can turn all that around and make it for His good,” she said. “Let Him in your life. You may stumble, but He will never let you fall.”
MORE: Why some say Middletown’s downtown has turned the corner
Jeri Lewis said she believes “everybody is redeemable” and she has learned that God “uses the most unlikely.”
So how does she feel when she sees Lakes and Dyehouse?
“Proud, but at the same time, it’s humbling,” she said. “It was stressful. It was like, ‘Oh, they’re going to be homeless. We got to figure this out.’ Then just doing what I know is the right thing to do. You hope it’s the right thing to do. Now we’re seeing this side of it. You see the good fruit from it. I pray, I know, that God will use them with somebody else.”