Freedom from the Past
Since childhood, Kristi Lemley has wanted to make the world a better place. Having experienced in her young life the trauma of sexual abuse, she was intrigued to know why people did what they did, so she could, in the simplest terms, help them not to repeat it anymore.
At first, Lemley, who lives in Brighton, Illinois, thought the best way to succeed would be through the criminal justice system, so in the late 1990s, armed with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and psychology plus a master’s in social work, Lemley began working as a federal pretrial counselor in St. Louis. She soon discovered her focus had been misdirected.
“I didn’t want to be the one getting people in trouble or having them fear me!” she says. “I wanted to be the one to offer grace and help them move beyond pain and hurt and past issues.”
With that realization, in 2000 Lemley began her own private Christian counseling practice, specializing in treating patients who suffered trauma and self-injurious behavior. Within 17 months, her schedule filled up. Yet Lemley couldn’t shake off memories of her own trauma, along with a sense of anger that seemed to emerge whenever she counseled clients who had also experienced sexual abuse.
Finally in 2002, after one difficult counseling session in which she felt agitated again, Lemley went home and prayed. Lemley says she felt the Lord telling her she was still holding onto guilt and shame from what happened to her in her childhood. The revelation stunned her.
“I had forgiven the person who had harmed me,” Lemley says. “But I was holding on to anger for how I responded because of my pain.” She knew she needed healing, so for the next eight months, every day she prayed: Lord, help me recognize that the blood washes away my response to my pain.
One day as she listened to a Christian radio station, a song based on Psalm 103:12 played that declared forgiven sins are as far as the east is from the west.
“It was like a dam broke within me and I was free,” she says. That day she vowed that she would tell about God’s saving and healing grace to anyone who would listen.
“There’s freedom from our past and its pain,” Lemley declares. “We don’t have to live that way!”
Subsequently, Lemley sensed God calling her beyond private practice and into ministry. She formed Living in the Light Ministries, began speaking nationally, and obtained ordination with the Assemblies of God as a minister and evangelist. And she widely shared God’s message of physical, emotional, and spiritual freedom.
Nancy Bishop felt stuck in grief after the death of her mother until she attended a Bible study led by Lemley.
“Kristi encouraged me to get closer to the Lord and to allow him to heal what had brought me such pain,” Bishop recalls. But then Lemley went further and encouraged Bishop to share her story with others — not just about being healed over the loss of her mother, but also the healing that took place over a painful divorce she experienced years before.
“Kristi’s passion for the Lord to heal people who are broken or hurting comes through in everything she does,” Bishop says. “Her whole mission is about directing people toward the Lord.”
Phil Schneider became a mentor to Lemley when he served as pastor at Cornerstone Church in Bethalto, Illinois.
“Kristi has a good ministry of practical deliverance,” says Schneider, who now is superintendent of the AG Illinois District. “Her teaching is well balanced and is focused on the Spirit-empowered ability of God to deliver people. Life enables her to connect with so many kinds of people on many different levels — not just because of what she knows, but because of what she’s lived.”
In the 13 years since she first received that call to teach, Lemley has ministered to thousands of people, including through her ministry’s TV program and her book, Broken and Transformed. Lemley is working on her Doctor of Ministry degree from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary.
IMAGE: Kristi Lemley (right) discusses addictions with guest Trisha Inman on a segment of Living in the Light.