I was born into a verbally, physically, and sexually abusive family. I started going to the big church in our town when I was thirteen because it was somewhere to go that wasn't home. I got involved with the youth group there. I wanted to start doing more things, but the only way to do that was to be a church member. So, one Sunday morning I walked up to my pastor and said, ‘I want to be baptized.’ He asked me why. I thought, “I can’t just tell him I want to do more things in the church, so I said, ‘I don't want to go to hell.’ That was good enough for him, so I was baptized the next Sunday. From then on I was part of the church. I did everything. I was there whenever the doors were open; sometimes when the doors weren’t open. I was involved with everything.
When I was sixteen my younger brothers and I were removed from our home by Child [Protective] Services. I was placed with a foster family who also attended my church. I was away from my family for nine months. My brothers and I were separated. When we came back together in our parents home it wasn’t any better. There was still a lot of abuse going on, so I moved back out the spring semester my senior year. I moved in with a family from my church. I continued the normal routine of going to church. I started healing a little bit, but it wasn't enough to really matter. I decided to come to Chattanooga, TN for college because it was far enough away from my family that I wouldn’t have to deal with any of [the abuse]. I immediately got plugged in with Campus Crusade for Christ because my roommate was a member. I started going to bible study, but I just really wasn't feeling it. I had the face. I could tell everyone, “This is great. I’m learning this and that.” I knew all the answers, but it just wasn't something that I really care about.
In October, my little brother was put in the hospital [as a result of abuse] by my father. It was a really hard time. My bible study [group] came together and prayed over me. They cried with me. They supported me. One night after our bible study I told them, ‘I don’t feel like a Christian.’ One of my leaders came to my apartment and talked with me until 4:00 am. She and I went through the book entitled, “Knowing God Personally.” I learned things I didn't know. I began to learn what true love really is. I felt a peace as we were going through the book. She prayed with me, and I genuinely accepted Christ that night. My life started changing, and it was good, but I still had a few doubts. I was still struggling a little bit. I don’t really know what was going on in my head. I was just sad, but I didn't want people to know it. I kept the face. I knew most of [the truth], but it just wasn’t a full heart change.
We went to “Encounter”,-a winter conference in North Carolina. One of our activities was a prayer walk. It was a silent prayer walk. I called it Jesus time. As I was going through the prayer walk I felt really convicted, but I wasn't sure why. At the end of the prayer walk, I wrote my testimony on the piece of paper the leaders provided. I’d never done that before. Writing things shouldn't be a big deal, but I started to panic and thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do this.’ I spent a couple hours trying to get my story out and get my thoughts down on paper. I tried to figure out why it was such a big deal. After a couple of hours, I managed to write my testimony. I divulged secrets I'd been holding. I then went to my leaders and shared with them. That was really when my heart was completely opened up. I was like, ‘This is great.’ I felt peace. I felt loved. I just felt better. It was nice to get my thoughts out and not feel judged but feel true love.