The Prodigal Returns

The Prodigal Returns

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Once the keyboardist at one of the largest churches in the U.S., Stacy Hord forsook her strict Christian upbringing, divorced by her husband after 16 years of marriage, and started to regularly stay out all hours of the night, leaving her three adolescent sons to fend for themselves.

On her downward spiral to despair, Hord traded her churchgoing friends for non-Christian partygoers, even though she continued to drop off and pick up her sons for youth group at James River Church in Ozark, Missouri.

At 2:30 one morning in 2004, Hord hit rock bottom as she drove home after drinking. She knew she didn’t belong in the lifestyle she had adopted a year and a half earlier, yet she felt so estranged from the Lord she didn’t know how to get back.

Hord knew she needed to pray, but she couldn’t formulate any words. So she just started calling upon the name of Jesus, whispering at first, then shouting by the time she reached home.

A couple of nights later, as she pulled into the church parking lot, a mother of other sons in the youth group approached Hord’s car. Hord figured the mom wanted to chastise her for not being more involved in the spiritual development of her sons.

Instead, the other mother asked Hord if she was OK. She explained that the Lord had awakened her at 2:30 two nights earlier to pray for Hord.  

At that moment, the prodigal began her return path home.

Raised in a legalistic and sheltered environment, Hord attended a fundamentalist Bible college in the mid-1980s and married soon after.

However, harmony proved elusive in matrimony. Despite winning the Mrs. Missouri title in 1997, Hord increasing felt as though God didn’t hear her prayers for less strife with her spouse. Ultimately, her rebellion started when she blamed God for a failing marriage.

After Hord’s divorce, her pastor counseled her to wait at least a year, and preferably two, before she resumed dating. But Hord initially disregarded the pastor’s advice, dating various non-Christian men and walking away from church altogether.

“I threw off everything I knew to be right,” says Hord, still weepy at the memories of that painful period. “I had no character; I single-handedly destroyed my reputation.

“Even when I was still married, I thought if I found the right man to validate me I would have value,” Hord says. “As a newly single woman, I was still on a hunt to find that validation, no matter what it cost me.”

After she returned to the Lord, Hord reconsidered her pastor's admonition and went seven years without dating. She wanted to make sure she healed from her misdeeds and that she devoted time to the sons she had neglected.

Hord, now a youthful-looking 52, says she feels the Lord put a hedge around her because no one asked her out those years. In 2009, she wrote a book, A New Vision for Dating.

Now single again for 13 years, Hord’s sons are grown: Dallas, 28; Dalton, 25; and Dylan, 23.

Tim D. Keene, a retired staff pastor at the church, helped shepherd Hord’s restoration process.

“Her return as a godly mother is proven in the lives of her children,” Keene says.

Hord says she has learned to trust in the Lord’s provision and timing.

Hord returned to lay leadership at James River Church a decade ago, and serves on the prayer team and as a Living Free facilitator. She also speaks to women’s groups.

“She has been steadfast in her return to follow Christ,” Keene says. “She has been faithful in working with people with life-controlling issues.”

Hord, who became an executive assistant at Evangel University three years ago, says she finds fulfillment in talking to women on the brink of divorce, urging them to examine their own hearts in the relationship rather than to merely blame their spouse.

“I was arrogant and pharisaical toward my husband because I thought I was a better Christian than him,” Hord says. “I withheld grace. But grace is a changing agent.”

Friend Kim Bateman never stopped praying for Hord during her hiatus from the Lord.

“I applaud that she has been transparent with her story,” says Bateman, a real estate agent who has been married for 32 years. “I prayed during her struggle that the knowledge in her head would fall to her heart. Today, she’s a spiritually insightful person.”

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