Linda Davidson worked her fingers to the bone. She felt like she had to.

She volunteered at church, showing up almost every time the doors were open, and kept herself busy doing good things. From all appearances, her feet were firmly planted.

But Linda’s constant activity covered up a secret, internal nightmare. 

Campus Catastrophe

With a good head on her shoulders and big plans in her heart, Linda headed off to college after high school. 

“Turns out, my freshman year was the worst year of my life,” Linda confessed. “I was raped in the college dorms. Then, one of my close friends, who I was in the sorority with, died. Everything kind of caved in from there.”

Linda attempted to anesthetize her trauma every way she could. She busied herself with campus ministry while indulging in the sorority party-girl life on the side. Keeping up with both worlds proved too much to handle.

Something had to give.

The Path to Healing

“I cried out in the middle of the night,” Linda remembered. “I told God, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I can’t lead this double life. I can’t be this person.’ I asked Him to help and my life was immediately transformed.” 

Linda stopped drinking and joined Campus Crusade, now Cru. She started Bible studies in her sorority and traveled to China on mission trips. She spent the next few years sharing her story, helping others and burying herself in serving constantly at her church. 

She knew all the right things to say — but she never truly addressed her own hurt until she had no other option. 

“I spiraled into depression,” Linda said. “I realized I’d never dealt with being raped. I had never dealt with the pain and shame. I didn’t even call it what it was. I felt like I had to hide it and move on with my life.” 

Linda joined Celebrate Recovery at her church and began to unpack the pain. 

“I’d been taught to believe that … if you are in ministry, you have to cover up shame,” Linda said. “But those people at my church fought for me. They helped me lay it all down. What happened to me is not my identity.”

Not only did God set Linda on the path to healing, He dropped a passion in her heart to lead other women to the wholeness she found in Jesus.

Ministry of Mentorship

During a women’s conference at The Rock in Huntsville, Alabama, Linda felt the need to walk to the front of the church where a group of women were gathered to pray.

“While I prayed, I saw a vision of God parting the sea,” Linda said. “I was walking through it and I saw thousands of women and children walking behind me. Right then I knew my story would not be for nothing. God would use it.”

And that is exactly what He is doing.

Linda and other workers within the Huntsville Dream Center saw a gap in services for women in crisis. Whether a woman is a single mom, transitioning from foster care or, like Linda, burdened by shame of past trauma, Huntsville Dream Center builds bridges to wholeness.   

That’s where Merea House comes in. 

“Maybe a woman isn’t lying on the street, homeless,” Linda said. “Maybe she isn’t in the throes of addiction. Maybe it looks like she is safe enough, but on the inside she is dying. I see Merea House as a way to surround women with healthy discipleship — to help them break through, give them a moment to breathe and reset so they can be the world changers.” 

“Merea” is the Hebrew word for confidante, advisor and lifelong friend. Each woman who comes to Merea House for help receives her own merea who is equipped and trained to walk with women in transition to a place of physical, emotional and spiritual restoration. Merea House also offers job readiness and financial training, as well as GED and life skills classes.

“We also offer a place where a woman — and even a woman with children — can be surrounded by a healthy, spiritual family without the expectation of having to pay,” Linda said. “It’s rent-free to live there. We pull in resources from Huntsville Dream Center to help them get to the next step.”

Through Merea House, Linda believes women will find renewal and bring wellness to the next generation.

“I’ll sit down and tell anyone what Merea House does, but I’ll also give them my number in case they know a girl who needs it,” Linda said. “I will make a plan for a woman that doesn’t necessarily need residency. We will walk out life with her whether she is in our home or not.”

Linda is still busy, but this time it’s from a whole heart instead of a hurting heart. And as she walks this path God laid out before her, women are truly following — all the way to wholeness. 

For more information or for ways to help, find Merea House on Facebook.