HEBER SPRINGS If there is one thing Kasey Joe Westenhover wants people to get from her story, it is hope.
“I want to give people that sense of hope for whatever they may be going through, whether it is them or a family member,” Westenhover said. “I want them to know that there is another way of life to live. That is really the main reason why I shared my story.”
Westenhover said she is recovering from alcohol and drug addiction and has been clean and sober for six years. In October, she gave a video testimony for Heber Springs United Methodist Church, of which she has been a member for three years.
“I am just overwhelmed,” Westenhover said. “I’ve had a good, overwhelmed feeling of love and support, not only within the church but outside as well.
“I didn’t think my video would be shared so many times. I thought it was fantastic — people were sharing it, messaging me, texting me and telling me how amazing it was for me to get up there and share my testimony.”
Jonathan Demessie, the director of contemporary worship at Heber Springs UMC, said that when he and his wife, Ali, initially talked about shooting a testimony video, they realized they didn’t know a lot of people’s stories, as they have only been with the church for a little over a year. Demessie said that when the couple started asking around for someone who had a story of redemption and transformation, Westenhover was one of the first names to pop up.
Ali Demessie made the initial call to Westenhover and met with her at a coffee shop. Once the couple heard Westenhover’s story, they knew people had to hear it.
“This is a story of hope,” Jonathan Demessie said. “And we need that right now, especially in the time we are living in.
“The part that I really connected to and love was how she talked about her past and how God gave her a new purpose and a new life.”
Demessie said Westenhover is very hands-on in the community and has a heart for people who have had the same past as her — people who feel hopeless.
“The fact that she did not let her past define her but, instead, is moving headfirst into the calling God has for her — that is really inspiring,” Demessie said. “She didn’t just stay where she was but has pushed forward and continues to push forward every day.”
Westenhover said she started drinking and using drugs at the age of 14 after being approached by a group of friends.
“I felt like that is who I was, and I felt accepted in those groups, and I continued to hang out with this group and do those things — drinking and using drugs,” she said.
She was burning bridges with her friends and family and constantly looking over her shoulder, she said, never knowing where she was going to be for the night. Westenhover said she built a brick wall, shutting off the relationships she had with her friends and family.
“I used my mom and dad for many years as a place to stay or money, and I had a lot of good friends that I used a lot to borrow money or a beer,” she said. “I shut those relationships down and used them to my advantage — usually for a place to stay.”
It wasn’t until Westenhover was incarcerated for six months that she made a true turning point of becoming sober. She said being locked up was her wake-up call.
“I did build that trust back with loved ones; it wasn’t easy,” Westenhover said. “It was more than a promise of what I’m going to do; it was my actions that showed I could earn that trust back.
“There are relationships that I have amended, especially with my mom and dad, and I couldn’t be more proud.”
On the church’s Facebook page, a link to Westenhover’s testimony on YouTube https://youtu.be/v-xRKhiugxU has been shared more than 25 times.
“Just what I have seen on Facebook, people are just so drawn to it and just connected with it,” Demessie said. “She was real and honest in that video, and people really related to the fact that she did some things in her past, and God didn’t let her stay in that position.
“She told her story in a way that was real and raw, and an overwhelming number of people truly connected with her story.”
Westenhover currently works for 101.9 The Lake in Heber Springs. When she and her family were looking for a new church, she asked her boss, Ali Sugg, advice on where to go, and Sugg mentioned Heber Springs UMC. Westenhover said she just fell in love with the church.
“It’s been a blessing to me to get to watch Kasey on her journey,” Sugg said. “When she came to work for me, she had been clean for a few years, but she wasn’t attending church regularly.
“I invited her and her family to church with my family, and she got involved in Bible studies and volunteering in church — you could see there was a spiritual flame that was lit in her.”
Westenhover has been married to her husband, Josh, for three years. She has a 13-year-old stepdaughter, Taylor, and a 4-year-old, Levi.
Sugg said that over the years, Westenhover has continued to dig deeper in her faith and grow in her relationship with God.
“I believe it has made her more confident in telling her story of recovery,” Sugg said.
“At first, she was afraid that it might hurt the radio station and her work here, but I told her to not worry about that because we all have a loved one who has struggled or continues to struggle with the battle of addiction, and her story gives us hope that they can recover,” Sugg said.
She said Westenhover is the kind of person who puts
100 percent into everything she does, whether it is helping at the local soup kitchen, teaching a kids Sunday School class or helping others at Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous.
“She is the real deal,” Sugg said. “I’m proud of her and her transparency and her willingness to want to help others and give God the glory.”
Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or firstname.lastname@example.org.