I was born and raised in a small town in Wisconsin, with nearly everyone in my family living within a 25-mile radius from where I lived. I grew up simply, yet sweetly, and I didn’t really know what it was like to experience a ton of hardship. My family was financially secure, generally happy, and holistically healthy. This changed when my parents, sister, and I picked up everything we knew and moved to Florida when I was 10 years old. It wasn’t long after that when I realized that my dad had been hiding a closet addiction to alcohol, and it became incredibly apparent when we were isolated from the rest of our family. I would come home from school around 2 in the afternoon, and my dad would be passed out drunk on the couch. The stock market crashed in 2008, less than a year after we had moved, leaving our family with almost nothing. This caused my dad’s alcohol addiction to intensify along with his anger. I was always a passionate little thing, so when my dad would go on his drunken rampages, I would stand up to him. I learned the hard way that not all injustices needed to be addressed, when my dad ended up taking out his anger and brokenness on me. I was physically, mentally, and emotionally abused for 3 years, and it only intensified as the time went on. I never stopped fighting back, which intensified things for me at home. My mother was incredibly passive, and allowed this abuse to continue without intervening. This caused me to have an intense hatred towards my mother, and a longing for my father to love me. I ended up turning this hurt towards partying and relationships in high school to escape from all of the things going on at home. I drank often, got into fights, and experimented with multiple different drugs to have an outlet for how broken I felt. The only thing that I did hold onto was my education, because to me, straight A’s = scholarships = escape from my home. Miraculously, in spite of all that I was going through, my grades remained remarkable. It was really all that I had to keep me going.
As the abuse escalated at home, my friends started to find out about what was going on with my dad. I would come to school with bruises all over my body, and soon, I couldn’t hide them. It got to the point that my dad would start threatening my life, pointing guns and other weapons at me, in order to instill fear and aggression into my heart. The police were notified of a domestic disturbance in my home that was originally supposed to be to arrest me. However, when the female police officer saw my bruised body, she took me to a youth shelter in town instead, and this was when my journey in the foster care system began.
I bounced around from one temporary placement to another for 3 years. These were some of the loneliest, darkest, and most difficult moments of my life. It wasn’t until I was finally placed with my aunt and uncle in Las Vegas that my story started to change. My aunt and uncle became the parents that I hadn’t had since I was a child, and they gave me a home unlike I’d ever had before. I had met some friends out here right away and one of them happened to be the daughter of a pastor. She invited me to a church camp, and at first, I was very hesitant. However, the evening before the camp, I was feeling more depressed than I had ever felt in my life. It was a dark and scary place. I reached out, and sure enough, there was a spot in the van open for me to join. I packed a bag and made the trek to Arizona with a group of these overly kind and loving people that I barely knew. I didn’t realize this was going to change my entire life.
I heard about who Jesus really was for the first time, and it was what I had wanted to hear for so many years. That I was loved. That I was forgiven. That I was valuable and actually worth something in this world. I decided on July 27, 2012 to give my life to Christ, and it was the best decision I have ever made. Even though this was the most beautiful day of my life, it also turned out to be one of the most painful. Upon returning home from camp, I was told that my sister had overdosed on heroin, leaving me an only child and broken beyond measure. Nevertheless, this hurt spurred me deeper into my faith, making me understand how big God is and His grace is. This also spurred me to live my life in remembrance of her and all she hoped to achieve. From that moment, I dived deeper into my studies, seeing truly how school unveils a world of opportunity. I graduated high school at 17 feeling led to the mission field. I spent 6 months in Ghana doing service-based and evangelical missions before going to Oregon and Alaska to participate in missions focused around counseling. I then dove into a 2-year internship at my home church, Central, with their student ministries. It was after these life-changing experiences that I felt God call me to ministry, with a focus on justice movements and helping people understand their worth and identity, no matter their circumstances. I now work with an anti-human trafficking organization in Las Vegas, helping in the rescue of women from some of the most horrific circumstances imaginable. As a result of all that I’ve been through, I believe that no one is too broken that they cannot be healed, and that everyone has the ability to become the people they were designed to be. They need only understand who they are, and that no one is ever disqualified.