News

From the Pit to the Palace

by Sarah Cushing - Office of Marketing | Sep 30, 2015
Miriam Rodriguez
Miriam Rodriguez
In her early 30s, Rev. Miriam Rodriguez ’02, was in a broken marriage, a mother of four and crippled by drug addiction. After a long night of smoking cocaine, Rodriguez watched her children get ready for school as she sat on the couch. “I looked at my children and just decided to never use again,” she said. “But I could not stay clean until I met Christ.”    
 
On Feb. 16, 1989, Rodriguez attended a church service with a woman she met at a rehab center who relentlessly invited her. “I witnessed a miracle that night,” Rodriguez said. A few days prior, she had been diagnosed with scoliosis and had scheduled a back surgery. At the altar call, Rodriguez began to weep in her seat and responded to the call for healing. She was healed and accepted Christ. That night, she began her journey to follow God’s calling and obey. 
 
“Church was my recovery home,” she said. “Twenty-six years. I never went to rehab, never backpedalled. I was tempted but, by God’s grace, never used again.” She enrolled at the Latin American Bible Institute (LABI). After LABI, Rodriguez co-launched New Life Home, a transition home for women with life-controlling problems. The home operated for three years and afterward, Rodriguez decided to return to college and expand her ministry outreach.
 
Rodriguez enrolled at UVF and studied pastoral ministry and counseling. While at UVF, she found a community that cared about her professional training and personal growth. “When I got to UVF I was broken,” she said. “God used every professor there to minister to me.” The university community embraced Rodriguez and her family. She lived in a campus apartment with her daughter, Erica Alcover ’06, who was in high school at the time. One of her sons, Ibrahim Rios, is a ‘99 graduate. Rodriguez has seen the university grow throughout the years as a UVF student and parent. “I’m proud of my school, and I can see that God is doing awesome things,” she said.
 
After UVF, Rodriguez was called to Philadelphia where she went halfheartedly to serve. To her surprise, there was an employment position awaiting her and in faith she became the Hispanic Chaplain at Large for Cardone Industries. One early morning at 3 am, Rodriguez heard a voice say, “Miriam, Miriam.” She got up and prayed, "Yes, Lord." She heard the Lord say, "Go to a street called Straight, and there I will show you what you will do." Rodriguez searched in Philadelphia and asked the other chaplains to no avail. A second time, God gave her the same instructions. Rodriguez searched many maps but found nothing. 
 
Months later, Rodriguez visited her sister-in-law in New Jersey to meet one of her friends and drove to his workplace. When the car turned onto the street, Rodriguez looked up at the name and began to cry. The sign read "Straight St". While weeping, Rodriguez shared her story with her sister-in-law. Once they arrived, Rodriguez learned that the friend was a counselor at a juvenile detention home. The buildings along the road were transitional homes for women with AIDS, ex-offenders and homeless teenagers. Just as He said, God showed Rodriguez her ministry on Straight St. “I understood. I wept all the way home,” she said. “I told the Lord I was going to be obedient.”  
 
In 2008, Rodriguez opened The Nehemiah Wall, Inc., in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The Nehemiah Wall is a transitional home for female ex-offenders and women with life-controlling issues. Rodriguez serves as the founder and executive director. She maintains the finances which help support the women’s physical needs at the home as well as their spiritual needs. “The women that come here have nothing. They don’t have shoes or coats for the winter,” Rodriguez said. “My job is to connect with agencies that could help meet their needs.” At the home, she is known as Pastor Miriam. “My greatest role is to minister to these ladies and show them the love of God — show them that if God could do it for me, He could do it for them,” Rodriguez said. “He took me from the pit to the palace.”
 
The Nehemiah Wall has faced many obstacles to remain open, but 2015 has proven to be a year of God’s blessing. Five women graduated from the program, and on May 23, Rodriguez hosted a successful annual fundraiser banquet. “We were awarded close to $50,000 to purchase our own property,” Rodriguez said. Right now, the organization exclusively serves women but would like to open its doors to children as well. “We believe God performs miracles. We’ve just begun.”
 
Through all of the obstacles and trials, Rodriguez has seen God’s glory. “When you move in obedience, you will see His glory. You will see the provision. You will see the signs. Your faith will increase in such a way because you’ve never seen God like this before.”
 
To learn more about Rodriguez’s work and The Nehemiah Wall, visit nehemiahwall.org