MANSFIELD — Candace Williams’ reputation was dragged through the mud after an incident landed her in prison.
In 2009, the Mansfield woman was charged with complicity to escape and sentenced to three years in prison after leaving the state with her daughter and a convicted sex offender who had fled the Volunteers of America halfway house in Mansfield.
Williams was unaware of her fellow traveler's conviction. She accepted his invitation to travel out west because she saw that as an opportunity to acquire her "drug of choice," methamphetamine.
Williams, 35, owns up to her mistakes, but doesn’t believe they define her. After years of drug use and addiction, Williams is 10 years clean and is eager to help others who are suffering from addiction and/or abuse.
One of the ways she hopes to do so is by sharing her personal testimony, which will be included in a new book by Amanda Ratliff and Lu Ann Topovski called, “Your Moment Is Now.” Williams is one of 50 contributors who each share how God intervened in their lives, changing them forever.
Williams touches on her childhood, which involved addiction and abuse. She was born into a family of addicts and helped raise her two younger brothers until she moved out of the house at the age of 16.
She started using drugs at 21. A self-described "functioning addict," she juggled work and school as a single mom and felt meth could help give her the energy she needed to keep up with life’s daily demands.
She hit rock bottom when placed in solitary confinement after her arrest. But it was there, in her darkest hour, that she encountered the Lord, she said.
“In solitary confinement you are locked in a room for 24 hours a day by yourself, and the only thing that I had was a Bible,” she said.
Williams said before that time, she didn’t have a relationship with God, nor did she “know what it meant to be a Christian,” she said.
For two months, she was kept in isolation with no one to talk to; and yet, she didn’t feel alone.
“The Lord came to me in my darkest hour in that 4x9 cell, when everybody else turned their backs on me, including my own family,” she said.
Leafing through the Bible, she said one verse that stood out to her was Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
“It did something for me. I knew that that was like my life verse,” she said. “I knew at that point that everything I went through was going to be used for His purpose, for His glory.”
As of late, Williams feels called to serve those in Mansfield.
“I’ve tried for so long to get out of Mansfield, but I keep being brought back to Mansfield,” she said.
She and her husband Charles are currently involved in a small street ministry called the "Porch Ministry.” Together they distribute hygiene products and clothing to those in need. Williams said she tries to build a rapport with those she meets and connect them with helpful local resources.
Prior to starting the Porch Ministry, she was the founder and director of a women’s faith-based, sober-living program in Millersburg called “Rubies.” In working with those enrolled in this program, Williams discovered that 99 percent of them that were coming out of addiction had been sexually abused, she said.
“I’m really compassionate toward women who are coming out of human sex trafficking and addiction because that is part of my testimony,” she said.
Williams is currently working as an activities director for a nursing home in Dublin.
Sadly, she had to say goodbye to five loved ones in the last year, including her brother, cousin, grandmother, great grandmother and father-in-law. In the past, such heartache likely would have led her to use drugs to numb the pain, but she said the Lord helped her feel at peace.
She believes the impact God has had on her life is remarkable.
She hopes to one day write a book of her own that details her journey of redemption. In the meantime, you can read an abridged version when “Your Moment Is Now” is released in December. Williams said pre-orders are available by contacting her on Facebook.
Williams said she will share her testimony with a Q&A session and book-signing to follow at her church, The Way Church, located at 378 Park Ave. W. in Mansfield on Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. (pending publishing release).
“I want people to know there is hope out there, and having a relationship with Jesus Christ is the biggest hope that you could ever have,” she said.