Growing up, God wasn’t talked about explicitly in my house, from what I remember. My family went to church when I was very little, but stopped when I was around 5 due to conflicts in our schedules with mine and my brother’s sports and other activities. Throughout my early education, I didn’t think about God as if He could actually be real. I mean, someone who would love you no matter what and give up everything for you? No way. I did not question my lack of belief in God throughout my childhood. I had some Christian friends, but were not affected by their faith much. I was pushed farther into my lack of belief by the lack of belief in my close friends.
When I was about 12, after being kicked off of my speed skating team and losing what I thought was my family, I dove into the world of mental illness. From the time I was 12, I have struggled with depression (which is never found without its close friend, anxiety) and self harm until I was 16. I felt completely hopeless for 5 years of my life, struggling with feeling alone and like my voice wasn’t worth listening to, which led to me not reaching out for help.
Halfway through my senior year of high school, I built up a support system that I felt very safe with, but unfortunately fed into some of my self destructive behaviors. Due to some unforeseen circumstances, my friendship with this group ended abruptly, leaving me feeling worthless and alone once again.
Kind of out of the blue, I decided to attend a church in Hesperia, because one of my close friends played in the high school worship band and a lot of my friends attended the church. I did not think I was going with the intent of finding God, but just to support my friend and listen to her sing and play piano. I went weekly and pretty much went through the motions for a while.
A few months into my new church experience, after I had somewhat began to banter with the idea of God, I was sexually assaulted by a close friend. This completely destroyed my idea of safety and trust, as well as my positive view of the world, despite the bad things that had happened to me beforehand. I didn’t realize what had happened until months later, but the unexplained shame, guilt, and uncomfortableness left me with a longing to find the only perfect being who could wash away the bitterness and untrustworthiness I felt about the world and people.
During the same time, my dad was diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer. He battled that and had surgery and is now, with the grace of God, cancer free. Although I did not have much of a relationship with God then, He helped me stay calm and reliable during a stressful time for my family.
About a week later, I started dating my current boyfriend, who I’ve been with for over a year. He loves God with all his heart, which makes him the best companion for me to grow my new faith with. I continued attending the church where my friends were, while also going to HDC with his family. Going to church 2-3 times a weekend really opened a door to let God into my heart. It was nearly impossible to not see the truth of all of the words being spoken and to not see the light of God shining through all of the people I was meeting. I decided to give my life to God in March of 2015, and even though there have still been bad things in my life, I know it is a part of His plan and it is comforting to know that I am never alone.
Last fall, I started college at UCLA. Going in, I knew this was a wonderful opportunity to grow in my faith and join a Christian ministry. I decided to join Cru (Campus Crusaders for Christ) after meeting a few members, and went to their Fall kickoff event. In my first week at UCLA, I felt so far away from home. I missed HDC and feeling loved and welcomed. At this Cru event, though, I found my home. The worship band played This is Amazing Grace by Phil Wickham, which I had heard many times at HDC. I immediately felt like I was where God wanted me to be and felt his presence for probably the first time ever.
I continued to deal with my mental illness, including some symptoms of PTSD resulting from my assault. I had a very hard time making friends, which was abnormal for me. Even now, I have only made a couple of friends in college, but I know God has great things lined up for me in the next two years of my experience. I know that God put these challenging things in my life so I can help people work through similar problems later on, as I am majoring in psychology and hope to become a therapist after grad school.
Knowing and loving God has changed my life completely. I try my hardest to stay away from sin and to show others His love like the people who brought me to God have shown me. I know that staying away from sin isn’t possible, so I am incredibly thankful for Jesus dying for me and giving me eternal life, as well as the people around me.
Since coming to UCLA, I have remained active in Cru, joined a bible study with fantastic sisters in Christ, participated in discipleship, and found a church that I feel comfortable in. I go to HDC whenever I’m home (which is often, thankfully).