My parents divorced when I was two years old, and I lived with my mom for the first eight years of my life. She was a drug addict, and due to her poor decisions, I was exposed to many different things that children should not see or experience. I was abused physically, verbally, and emotionally. I was drugged and trafficked, undergoing sexual abuse. It was here I learned that no one could be trusted. When my father received custody of me, the home environment was better, but still not the way God designed it to be. My stepmom also had some issues with abuse. Sometimes it became physical, but most of the time it was the subtle verbal and emotional abuse that left me feeling like I was the problem, and that I couldn’t do anything right. My heart was broken because I didn’t have anyone I could trust or reach out to. I learned to either numb my emotions, ignore them, or hide them within myself where nobody could see. All of this led me to develop an eating disorder that controlled the next 12 years of my life. I was searching for love, acceptance, and approval and it caused me to strive for perfection and self-sufficiency.

At the age of 16, after the death of a loved one, I began an open dialogue with God that I had not had in years. I couldn’t understand why a God who loves me would allow me to go through the past that I did. I told Him that I’d rather go to Hell than take Him as my Savior. But the pain at that time was so bad I knew there was nothing I could do to save myself. Deep down, I wanted Jesus to help me and save me.

As a new believer, I thought all of my struggles would vanish and life would become easier to handle. Throughout the years I deceived myself into thinking I was healed and whole. This deception, as well as my continual search for love, acceptance, and approval, led me into a situation I never should have been in where I ended up being raped by a friend at the age of 19. This loss of control led me to deny what he had done to me. I hid everything so deep within myself that I didn’t recognize myself anymore. My still present eating disorder became so strong within me as I was trying to find something I could control.

After this event, I moved to Europe to attend a Bible School and serve in ministry. I decided to ignore my pain. That was easy to do as the legalism from this ministry continually professed how Christians should sacrifice themselves to serve others. I hid behind religion, but no matter how hard I tried to hide within myself and serving others, the undealt with anger and pain also seemed to rise to the surface of all of my relationships. My time to depart Europe finally came after two of my leaders sat me down and shared their concerns for my health. This began my journey of healing, which eventually landed me at Mercy a home.

At Mercy, I received unconditional love from the staff, without reason or cause. Multiple times I’ve been stunned by the love I’ve been given “just because”, without having to earn it or give something in return. I learned that abuse does not define me. I am not bound by my past or other people’s perceptions about me. I have the freedom to make new choices for myself and my future. I also learned how to set healthy boundaries and that I am worthy to be taken care of. I’ve learned that I can trust, hope, and dream again. I know I need a community and God will provide me with safe people to be that community.

God has a bigger future for me than I have ever planned for myself. When I leave Mercy, I plan to enjoy time with my family and finish the four classes I need to get my bachelor’s degree in counseling ministries. Afterward, I have plans to start earning my master’s degree in counseling through the same university.

It’s freeing to know that this is a work that God started in me and He won’t stop until it is completed. There is nothing I have to do to complete this work except be still and tune my ear to hear His voice as He guides me. I am excited to follow the Lord’s lead and see how God begins to use my story to bring Him glory and free other people.

To all the donors, thank you for your generosity in giving your resources to help girls you’ve never met. Because of you, I can have a future. You’ve changed my life and all of the generations after me!