My family raised me in a Christian home, where when we were younger, we attended a Seventh Day Adventist church. We left the church because we, as a family, did not agree with several of their beliefs or practices. After leaving, we were unable to find a church that caught our attention and was built on the beliefs that our family needed. We would always question ourselves trying to understand what we were supposed to believe in. During my junior year of high school my parents went through a bad divorce, and I was in the middle of it. Because of this, I do not have a good relationship with my father. That was the year when I blamed all the bad things in my life on God and made up my mind to be angry with Him. It was at that time when I began to lose my way.
My brother was the first in the family to renew his relationship with Christ. During his last two years in high school, he got involved in bible studies, and did his own studying as well. About a year ago we kept hearing people talk about this church called Lighthouse, which has a service held on Sundays at a school right by my parent’s house. My step-dad went for a walk around the neighborhood one Sunday morning and a guy struck a conversation with him and told him “you should come check out the service one day”. That following Sunday my mom and step-dad went and checked it out. They had asked me to come but I told them I was sleeping in, since Sunday was my lazy day. They continued to go every week since then. My mom had been praying for a few weeks just to have me come to one service and check it out. I finally gave in and said I was going just to one service, and that’s it. I went and the first song that played, “Forever Reign” by Hillsong, moved me so much it brought me to tears. I have been attending Lighthouse Church ever since.
At this time in my life, I had been deeply invested in a toxic relationship. The guy I was dating did not want to be involved with any part of the church. We joined Lighthouse in June 2016, and that August I joined a women’s small group for the fall semester. This group supported me so much that I was finally strong enough to get myself out of that unhealthy relationship. I was also able to realize that going out every weekend and drinking my problems away would not really take my problems away at all. I realized that the only way to do this was to work on my relationship with God. That following November my mother and I got baptized. A couple I knew had just gotten married and stayed true to their beliefs of waiting until marriage. I was so inspired by this that after I got baptized, I went and bought myself a purity ring. I decided that the past is over and this is the new me, and from this day forward, I want to have a relationship the right way. The way that God has planned for me.
Since then I have become more involved with the church and I saw there was a sign-up for mission trips. I have always wanted to go on a mission trip and I felt like now was as good a time as any. There was a sign-up for trips to both Honduras and Haiti. My heart was set on the trip to Haiti. Turns out God had other plans for me though, and I didn’t get picked for the Haiti trip, but was referred to the team leaders of the Honduras trip as there were still some spots left. After the interview for Honduras, I got picked for the spot. In my head I was thinking okay this is going to be a Vacation Bible School (VBS) trip. How on Earth am I going to do a VBS? I’m hard of hearing and my first language is American Sign Language. My first fear was there was going to be a major language barrier for me since I’m going to a country needing to learn a third language.
I kept praying about it and talking to God and asking Him, “is this really what you want me to do?” A week before I headed to Honduras I bumped into two people who had been to Honduras before and they both told me that I would have an amazing time. I figured okay maybe that is a sign. I was hoping my team would have patience with my not being able to hear clearly, and to make sure I was on the same page as everyone else. The Sowers family were great hosts, and Russell was very supportive when it came to making sure I heard what was going on around me and making sure I was on track with the plan. Before I went on this trip I prayed to God about how I would love to meet and connect with anyone who is deaf in Honduras. On the third day of VBS, one of my teammates ran over to me and said “I have these two twin brothers that are deaf in my class”. At first I was like you are kidding me? So Jesus made it possible for me to meet the twin deaf brothers, and their mother.
I learned that these boys do not know how to read, write, or communicate. Their mom brings them to school every day, and brings them home. The boys are sitting in the classroom every day and not getting the education that they need. It broke my heart. That evening I spoke with Russell Sowers about whether he knew if there was a deaf ministry nearby, and if these boys could be in our church sponsors program. Russell was talking about a girl he knows, named Ellie, who just so happened to be staying one block away from our hotel. Russell invited her over for dinner so that we could talk and I could tell her about the boys. Ellie is staying with a Missionary family in Honduras that adopted a deaf boy from China. She is there to teach the boy, and the family he is staying with, sign language. When I told her about the twin deaf boys that I’d met, she asked Russell if he could take her up to that school one day so she could meet them. I was so thrilled to pass this message along to her and to see those boys get what they deserved; the right to communicate.
The night before our last day of VBS we were assembling gifts for the teachers, and the people who had been amazing hosts for us. I sat down and wrote a letter to the mother of the deaf twins. My mother would surely tell you that I’m not a very emotional person when it comes to crying. It took me about half an hour to finish this letter to the twins’ mother and in that time, three of my team members came by to check on me. As I was writing this letter I broke down in tears, and had to take several breaks. I shared this letter to the mother the next day and she broke down in tears as well. I knew she needed to hear from someone that she’s doing an amazing job. My mother and I decided to sponsor the boys. I sponsored one and my mom took the other. A few weeks ago I was surprised to get a video and pictures from Ellie. The deaf mission team came to visit Ellie and the family she’s living with and Russell took them to the school to meet the two boys. Not only did the those two boys learn sign language that day, but the whole school, the teachers, and their mother did as well. This moved me, yet again, to tears. I am so honored to have impacted the lives of the people I met in Honduras in such a small, but life changing, way. Now I know that these boys are going to learn more by working with Ellie, and with the support that everyone knows that those boys need now.
As I type this testimony, I realize this is a very long and personal testimony. I realized that my walk with God didn’t just happen overnight, but it happened gradually over the course of this past year. This one year has passed by too fast but I have learned so much in such a short time. I think back and remember how broken I was when Jesus called me back to church a year ago. Now I’m smiling on my tough days, and my relationships with my mom and step-dad have been really tight and we’ve been closer than ever. My family is extremely important to me now and I wouldn’t change that for the world. I have seen our attitudes completely change in just one year. This has been an amazing ride for me this past year by just putting it all in God’s hands. I wonder what He has in store for me next…