Spring Hunter is a woman who grew up in complete poverty, religiously adhered to a cult, suffered parental abandonment, became a child bride and experienced drug and alcohol addiction.
Through these hardships, she found Jesus. This is her story:
“I was born into a family that belonged to a religious cult,” says Hunter. “I don’t remember hearing a lot of the gospel [and instead] it focused more on rules and strict adherence to certain things.”
Hunter also explains that generational poverty, addiction and domestic violence plagued her family from all sides. Sadly, by the time she was six, her father was an alcoholic and meth user.
“My parents’ relationship was thrown into mass turmoil and they divorced,” says Hunter. “They were kicked out of the cult, which threw my father into a deep and spiraling addiction. It really threw my mom into depression and more poverty as a single mom with four kids, which launched us into the next level of chaos.”
Throughout her childhood, Hunter and her three younger siblings moved around constantly with little relationship with their drug-using father.
“We were sometimes homeless and lived in tents or cars. There were just men and boyfriends and stepdads and all the chaos that comes with that lifestyle.”
Despite the circumstances, Hunter says she always believed that they were going somewhere and that there was a plan.
“If you would’ve asked me at that point in my life if we were homeless, I would have said no because we were going somewhere,” says Hunter. “We were headed tothe next best thing.”
However, Hunter says life got worse before getting better. By the time she was ten, the family moved back to Arkansas, only to live in extreme poverty.
“We lived in a house that did not have drinkable water or regular water,” says Hunter. “It was a place that burnt down right after we moved out; it just was not a good situation to be in.”
After moving out, her mother decided she was done raising them and passed them off to their father.
“We had no relationship with him and at that time he lived in a drug and alcohol rehab in North Little Rock,” says Hunter. “We got dropped off in the rehab parking lot and she told my dad that either he would have to take the kids, or the next stop is DHS. And that was that.”
Obviously, living in a rehab, Hunter says her dad didn’t really have options. So he delivered them to the backside of nowhere where his mom lived.
“For a whole summer we went and stayed with my grandmother who was still deeply engaged in this religious cult,” says Hunter. “She systematically went through Old Testament Scripture and painted this picture of a terrifying God.”
Hunter and her siblings were taught to believe that they carried the generational sins for the past seven generations, and the alcoholism and drug use of their father as well as the sexual sins of their mother rested on them to carry.
“She used Scripture like a weapon,” says Hunter. “Without having any kind of biblical foundation about Christ or forgiveness or redemption, all I heard was God was waiting to crush me, not because of my own sin, but because of my parents.
That was my earliest exposure to the God of the Bible.”
So after a summer’s worth of scary Sunday school lessons, Hunter’s dad came back and moved her and her brother into a small apartment.
“I was eleven and he was nine and we basically lived there alone for about a year,” says Hunter. “My dad would tend to check in on the weekends a little bit, bring us some grocery money, pay a bill or two, but he came less and less often and there was less and less grocery money.”
Hunter says she began to develop a significant eating disorder out of fear that he would not come home with grocery money. She stopped eating so her brother would have food.
“But during that time, that’s where I really saw God show up for the first time in my life,” says Hunter. “I had a friend who rode a church bus to a back country church and every Wednesday and twice on Sunday a man named Miguel would faithfully drive us to church.”
Hunter says for the first time she began to hear the gospel. She heard that Jesus died for her sins and that he was offering salvation.
“I wanted a piece of that,” says Hunter. “I did pray a prayer of salvation at the age of eleven.”
But going to church didn’t last forever. Hunter says her brother began to developmental health problems to the point that he was violent and suicidal.
“The neighbors called 911, and DHS and the cops showed up,” says Hunter.
“They contacted my grandmother and mom and said, ‘Either you come get these kids or everybody’s facing charges.’”
They moved back in with their mother, although Hunter says the consequences of the past year had led to bitterness, which launched her into more darkness.
“My mom decided to get remarried again after I moved back and I had enough,” says Hunter. “I was thirteen years old and decided I was done with parents and done with following their lifestyles. And so I left.”
Hunter says she moved in with whoever would take her, and it led to not-so-good situations which led to bad choices.
“I began to drink, to experiment with drugs. I was in a lot of scary and dangerous situations where I was exposed to men who would physically harm me. It was a dark time.”
When Hunter was fourteen, she says she met an eighteen-year-old man who shared similar life circumstances. She says she felt like they were connected and he told her that her loved her, so she moved in with him.
“By the time I was fifteen, I became pregnant, we got married and on my sixteenth birthday I had my first child,” says Hunter. “He had a job, I was going to GED classes, we had a baby and that was probably the most stable situation I had been in, maybe ever.”
According to Hunter, they were playing house without really knowing what family meant. After their daughter was born, meth trickled then rained down into their lives.
“All of our friends were suddenly using meth in a significant way,” says Hunter.
“People were becoming addicted and we got sucked into that world and started using drugs ourselves.”
Thankfully, Hunter’s mother-in-law took their daughter away when they were under the influence. “We were very functional drug users,” says Hunter. “We held jobs, we went to school, we had this double life for a long, long time. And so she kept our daughter safe from us when she needed to but still allowed us to be parents.”
As Hunter reflects back, she says those years were scary as their friends became hard users, which sometimes led to suicide, violence or overdose.
“One of our best friends shot and murdered one of our other best friends in connection with this big drug situation and that was a wake up call for me personally,” says Hunter.
She says she will never forget the last time that she used meth.
“I found some guy we didn’t know, never met before, never met again, that sold us some drugs and it was poison,” says Hunter. “I laid on my bathroom floor and felt like I couldn’t move, like my heart was going to explode and even though my mind was fully functional, my body just felt like it was dying.”
Hunter says she thought she was going to die there that night and her daughter would find her overdosed on meth. “It was just terrifying to me,” says Hunter. “I think I laid there for a couple of days. I don’t know, I was just sick, sick, sick. And when I came out of that, I knew something had to change.”
And then, Hunter says, she remembered that there was a God. Her husband’s boss invited them to church and she says God brought people into their lives to intervene.
“All of these different people stepped in and spoke truth and discipled me and called me out and said, ‘You don’t have to do this,’” says Hunter. “I [went] to a little Bible study group and heard for the first time the full and complete gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Hunter relates her experience to the Apostle Paul in that she says it felt like scales fell off her eyes and that’s when she gave her whole life to Christ. “My redemption story really begins there when I just said, ‘God, if you don’t take this mess and radically transform it, I don’t know how to move forward from here,’” says Hunter.
However, most actions have consequences. And Hunter says the closer she became with Jesus, the farther away her husband became.
“I ended up losing my marriage over my relationship with Christ,” says Hunter.
“God had a plan, and he used the whole story to bring me into ministry. And when he says he can redeem a life, he can redeem a life.”
Hunter says she became an active member at First Baptist Church in Clarksville, Arkansas. She was mentored by their pastoral team and given the opportunity to minister there herself.
“They gave me opportunities to step in and lead with youth Bible studies in particular,” says Hunter. “I loved it.”
Although Hunter was actively involved with church, she says she still struggled with addiction for several years after giving her life to Christ.
“I walked away from drugs first, but the alcoholism was still a significant problemfor me,” says Hunter.
She says the Lord began to chisel away at the callouses that had developed towards her parents, and God taught her how to forgive them.
“I began to pray that God would give me a heart to forgive my parents and that he would show me their story, and he did,” says Hunter. “He began showing me my mom’s backstory and some of the abuse that she had endured and I began to understand more about my father’s past.”
Hunter says the difference between her parents and their story and her own story was that she found Jesus and they didn’t.
“Jesus was the difference between me living my life in victory and them living their life under condemnation,” says Hunter. “When I finally was able to forgive them, man, that addiction was gone. There was a spiritual tie between unforgiveness and this root of bitterness and really being free for me.”