Assemblies of God Arizona Ministry Network Women’s Ministry Director Lindsay B. Petri, 36, has come a long way from her years of abuse and addiction.
After serving on staff at Radiant Church in Surprise for nearly a decade, she and her husband, John, recently launched a church plant, Reclaim Church in Peoria on Easter. Seeing the joy on Petri’s face nowadays, it’s hard to imagine the rough upbringing and many obstacles she has overcome.
Raised in an abusive and alcoholic home environment in Kokomo, Indiana, Petri recalls fearfully retreating to a tree in the front yard, where she kept a small bucket with snacks and a Bible she would read. She remembers fleeing the house in the middle of the night during winter and hiding under the back patio beneath a tarp, too afraid to go back inside.
Petri blamed herself for her parents fighting. She thought if only her grades improved, she helped do more housework, or played sports, maybe that would stabilize family life.
Years of trying to be good enough in studies earned her a full scholarship to the University of Evansville in Indiana. But while at college, her life took a downward turn.
“I started drinking, using drugs, and looking for love in all the wrong places,” she says.
Between her junior and senior year of college, she went to Arizona with some friends and learned she could obtain illegal drugs easily. Eventually, she moved into a place more like a crack house than a home. One night, after several consecutive days without sleeping, she realized her life had become a lie and she didn’t really know any of her housemates she once considered friends.
Her journey toward change began.
Not long afterwards, Petri started attending church. At her first Bible study she found everyone she met to be so real and welcoming.
“I looked around the room at these women — women I hadn’t even known for an hour,” Petri says. “Yet I felt such a deep connection with them that I didn’t understand. I felt such love and joy.”
In that moment, she saw clearly the difference between what the world had to offer and what God had to give.
“In Christ, I felt a love I had never felt before,” Petri explains. “He began to heal the broken pieces of my heart and I learned to forgive.” God not only has healed her, but He is using what she’s gone through to help others.
“It’s not a pretty story,” she says. “But God is bigger than all of that.
Eventually Petri’s father developed skin cancer and committed suicide. Rather than stuff the hurts of her past, Petri decided to share about her painful past and to live authentically.
“My story gives me the ability to connect with women and start a conversation about addiction, anxiety, and suicide,” she says. “God allowed me to experience what I did, so I could have that conversation and dialogue with others.”
That same philosophy is shaping the church plant that Lindsay and John have started.
“We hope to create an authentic place to find and follow Jesus, a place people can come as they are without fear of judgment or condemnation,” she says. “It’s not about being perfect or acting like we have it all together. It’s about being honest and real so we can find the truth and victory through Christ.”
IMAGE - The Petri family includes (from left) Noah, 12; Brooklynn, 17; John, Lindsay, and Maddelynn, 10.