By Union Gospel Mission
Throughout her life, LeAnna Vargas was
repeatedly treated as
though she had no value, and eventually, she began
to believe she
didn’t. Feeling increasingly unlovable, her heart
began to harden
Child abuse, sexual assault, and her own drug
LeAnna skeptical of ever finding acceptance.
“My whole life, I’ve just been running amok,
searching for people
to love me for myself, and I never knew that I
could ever find that in
anybody. I didn’t have love.”
Hurt and angry from what seemed a fruitless
search, LeAnna put a
guard up to protect herself. “I was mean,
heartless, cold, deceitful.”
She shut out any spark of happiness. “If I saw
somebody happy, I
would make them miserable. I’d see a glimpse of
happiness and then I
would squash it. I just couldn’t have that feeling
because it felt like I didn’t deserve it.”
Bad relationship choices perpetuated the
cycle, making her feel
more undeserving. And her heart grew harder.
“I was angry at God. I was angry at my family.
I was angry at
myself. I hated everybody. I wanted everyone to
feel just a quarter of
the way that I felt my whole life.”
LeAnna’s anger ruled over her, and eventually,
she went from being
a victim of abuse to perpetrator. She was charged
with partner assault
against her boyfriend and was sent to jail.
Surprisingly, in jail, she caught her first
glimpse of the love
she’d been seeking for so long.
“When I was in jail, [other women] would talk
about how the Lord
loves unconditionally. It doesn’t matter what
you’ve done in your
life, He’s gonna love you no matter what.”
But fear kept LeAnna from God and from the
love she craved.
“There’s always a ‘but’ when you love someone.
‘I love you, but
you’ve done all this stuff.’ I was always afraid
of, ‘I love you, but
you’re just like you’re dad, or your brothers, or
Still, she says, “It put a spark in my head
that, I’ve done a lot
of criminal activity, and if [God] can love me and
forgive me for
that, then that’s what I need.”
Her desire to know God overcame her fears and
she came to the UGM
Center for Women and Children in search of Him.
“I’ve been to prison. I’ve done inpatient
treatments. I have done therapy. I have done
everything. The only
thing that was missing was God. That’s the only
thing I came here for.
This program wasn’t about treatment; it’s about
having a relationship
with God. I knew this was the only place that was
gonna help me.”
LeAnna accepted Christ after entering UGM LIFE
Recovery and was
met with love and acceptance like she’d never
“It’s being able to look myself in the mirror
and say, ‘You know
what, God loves me; I’ve got to love me. He
doesn’t make mistakes, I’m
not a mistake. I’m here for a reason.’ It
surprises me that there’s no
judgment on His part.”
Far from the tough, emotionless woman LeAnna
used to be, God’s
love has transformed her hard heart.
“I actually have emotion now. I’m friendly and
compassionate, patient. I’m a completely different
person. There are
still pieces of me that are hurt and broken, but
every day I’m excited
and happy. The joy’s coming from Him.”
Her newfound relationship with the Lord has
her recovery, as well.
“It has made my recovery so easy – so easy. I
never wanted to be
sober. And this time, when I left all my stuff at
the door, He just
scooped me up and He’s been with me 100%.
“First time in my life, I can say, ‘I’m
While God’s love changed LeAnna’s life, she’s
love through people. At UGM, men, women, and
children often express
their gratitude and amazement that those who don’t
personally care about and support them.
Today, because of the community, LeAnna’s
experiencing the grace
and acceptance she’s longed for her entire life.
“It’s been chaos and mayhem my whole life and
then coming into
this program and them showing me love and grace
and compassion. I can
just be who I am, and it’s love. It’s true love.”
“I can finally be accepted for me and people
love me for me.
They’ve seen me at my worst and they’ve seen me at
my best, and they
don’t judge me. They accept me for who I am, and
it’s a completely