“I am the woman at the well.”
About 35 EFree women were gathered at the Landing on that Wednesday morning for a study of the book, Emotionally Healthy Woman. And while they were reading and studying a book, they also heard snippets of how Women’s Ministry Director Stacey Monaco was a living example of that woman who has been transformed.
Overwhelmed by guilt, check.
Lost a child, check.
Rock bottom, check.
Stacey isn’t shy about her story, the story that only God could write. During her college days, she asked her boyfriend, “Do you think there is a God?”. And shortly after, people around her began following Jesus. She was given a copy of the New Testament on campus and read it through. After Stacey had gotten married, God was calling her and her first husband Darren to Himself and even though their marriage was in shambles, God put the two of them back together. They were discipled through a small church in Pasadena where they stayed for 15 years.
The two of them were raising five children together and working together, writing articles and books and taking photos for the travel and scuba industry. Darren was an expert scuba diver, leading expeditions to shipwrecks. It was on one of these deep dives that a fatal accident occurred that claimed both Stacey’s husband and her oldest son, Jeremiah. She became a widow at 34 and a single mother of four young children.
Stacey, however, did not make time to grieve her losses, which led to her walking away from God, suffering a nervous breakdown and becoming hospitalized. “I was the foolish woman who tears down her own house,” she said.
It was at this low point that God brought “a trail of women” who walked with her and became part of her restoration journey. She received counseling from Christ Church of the Valley (CCV) in San Dimas and also attended services there. “I had the firm belief that Jesus loved me, but I believed in my heart that I needed to sit in the back of the church,” Stacey said.
The healing truly began when a woman in leadership at CCV noticed her and began to meet regularly with her. She walked with Stacey through her failures. “She was Jesus with flesh on. I could confess all my sins to her…and she started to call out my gifts. Whispers of ‘it doesn’t matter what you have done’ came to me. He is continually forming us. His blood covers our sins, past, present, and future.”
God continued to connect her with more women in leadership, which was a transforming experience because when Stacey was younger, she didn’t prefer the company of women. Her perspective changed through walking with them. “I fell in love with the gender of women and how good they can be in each other’s lives.”
After several years, Stacey started speaking at women’s retreats, leading women’s Bible studies, and then sensed God calling her to go to Talbot School of Theology to obtain her master’s degree in women’s ministry. Through all the women who have come alongside her, she realized her desire is for women to authentically pass their stories onto others. There are women who are hiding and covering because of shame or guilt. They are kept captive and that is the work of the enemy. Recently, when a woman found out Stacey had experienced an abortion, Stacey was able to share with her about her own process of crying for that child. “Our wounds heal each other when we are authentic about them.”
Whether it’s through speaking, writing, or creating beautiful environments, Stacey wants to equip women to embrace the dignity God has bestowed on them, to find Jesus, to find freedom, to be redeemers. “My hope for the Women of EFree is that their lives will become so integrated that it will allow them to function in their gifts, very organically sharing Jesus wherever they go. The more we use the gifts that God gives us, the more contagious we become and it starts to overflow out of our lives.”
Besides ministering to women, Stacey loves to spend a quiet evening with her number one supporter and husband, Joe. They also enjoy traveling, trying new foods and playing with their grandkids. If she’s not at home, you might find Stacey at a local coffeehouse, a place familiar to her because she was a former Starbucks manager and it’s where she met Joe, but all that is a story for another time.
Written by Lisa Wong