Encounter on New Orleans' Bourbon Street Rattles Party Girl to the Core
“I never told my parents, so I kept it hidden. And I had a very strong awareness of what shame was.”
Erin Campbell was only 7 when she was molested for the first time. The abuse continued into her teens. Ashamed, she never told a soul.
“So what I longed for was the very thing I never knew existed; and that was love.”
As a teenager, she was insecure and often bullied in school.
“To numb the pain, I discovered early on, alcohol. Alcohol gave me a sense of belonging and I dropped my inhibitions and it gave me a sense of purpose, I guess, in a crowd. I could be the person I always wanted to be and couldn’t be when I was sober.”
Even with her newfound popularity she didn’t feel loved. “I became promiscuous. You add alcohol and drugs then I became fun, but I also became an easy target for men, and a seducer of men.”
As much as she yearned for love, she was convinced she would never find it from God. Her father was an atheist who taught her faith in God was foolish. Her mother, a Mormon, had been shunned by members of her church years before.
“I equated God with that treatment. And I was thinking, if God would reject someone like that, if God lived and He existed, I would reject Him.”
In college, Erin majored in philosophy which fueled her hatred of God. She used her newfound knowledge to confront people of faith.
“I would look for Christians. I would look for Mormons. I would look for anyone who had a faith. I would sit down with them and begin the conversation, and as I began to share my militant views of God, they would debate back with me. I knew exactly what to say to get them to lose the argument and get up and walk away. And so that became sport for me.”
Friends saw Erin as confident, fun and overall, happy. But in reality, she’d become an alcoholic and was spiraling into depression.
“I remember sitting at a party once and somebody said, ‘let’s go around the room and talk about your best feature.’ I couldn’t think of a single thing that I liked about myself. Nothing. Nothing.”
After graduation, Erin went into marketing. One of her business trips took her to Bourbon St, New Orleans. There, she tried to draw a street preacher into a debate, but he wouldn’t bite.
“I began to debate and counter everything he said. He turned to me and he looked at me, and there was a crowd around us. And he looked and me and said, ‘Darlin’ you don’t have to do that.’ I saw love for the first time. Usually people debate back. I had never heard this before. I thought you had to be good to go to heaven. And I blew that a long time ago.”
“He says, ‘You’re just looking for your long-lost love, that’s all. And His name is Jesus.’”
Erin couldn’t stop thinking about what the preacher said.
Then, six months later, she was drunk in a bar when she saw a poster advertising a Billy Graham crusade. “I remember looking at that banner and I told the bar tender, I said, ‘I feel like I should go to that. Isn’t that weird?’ And she looked at me and she looked at how much I had to drink, and she looked and me again and she says, ‘Well, maybe you should.’”
The next day Erin made her way to the stadium.
“And I sat down and Billy Graham came out and he gave the same exact message that I had heard six months before, that God is Love and that He loves us for who we are. That sounded so simple and so wonderful. I felt immediately that love wrap around me, the same love that I experienced six months before on Bourbon Street. And Billy said, ‘You just come. Come forward. God will receive you just as you are.’”
He said, ‘There’s a little voice inside that says you ought to come. That’s the voice of the Holy Spirit. You come.’
“There were 60,000 people there and thousands of people were filing forward and going down to the stadium floor. And fear immediately entered my heart. I knew that there had to be some kind of a scam around this.”
Erin ran out of the stadium. But as she left, she heard Reverend Graham pray. It was the Lord’s Prayer.
“And now even an atheist has heard those words before. That was the only thing that was familiar to me. And I remember stopping and listening to those words. And as he said ‘…on earth as it is in heaven,’ my knees started to buckle and I knew I was going down. I had no strength at all in my body. I grabbed hold of the chain link fence just to soften the fall and everything from within me began to overflow; all the shame, all the pain. I gave Him all of my sin. I gave Him all my decisions. I have Him who I was. And I stood to my feet that day and I remember wiping my face and looking around and I was a believer. Everything changed from that day forward.”
Erin started learning the truth about Christ. She found a church, and with help, overcame her addiction to alcohol. Today, she is happily married to Matt.
By the way, Erin says she has more reason to celebrate.
“My mother and father both accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and we were all baptized together. My sister who was a militant atheist as well, has since come to know the Lord and now my brother knows the Lord,” said Erin.
As a Bible teacher, conference speaker, and national radio host. Erin is confident in the love God has for her.
I met Jesus Christ as my Deliverer. He saw me right where I was and He will see you exactly where you are. God is not mad. And there’s nothing that you can do to earn that love because love is already there.”