The following testimony comes from a youth who recently participated in a short-term missions experience with us in the Dominican Republic. Her testimony represents the incredible impact God is having in our youth and through their missions experiences. Abby comes from a church in the Northwest and her youth group came this past March. We are blessed to share her testimony with you.
A few weeks ago we shared testimonies at church in preparation for sharing them on this trip. I shared a story about asking questions in my faith while at a Catholic middle school. That story is 100% real, but I have a testimony that is truer to my heart and better represents who I am today.
I have had this burden for a while now and have been praying about it for years. When I was in middle school I began going to Blanchet Catholic School. I’ve been there ever since 6th grade, but it was really hard at first because I felt like an outsider knowing that most of the other kids didn’t believe the same things I did.
Fusion (youth group) on Wednesdays was my home, my safe place. In middle school I was not very close with my family, at least not like I am now. I wasn’t close with many people at school. I was stronger in my faith than ever and had a bunch of appreciation for the people at fusion because I felt comfortable practicing my faith around them.
As middle school wrapped up and some of my favorite people from Fusion were no longer around. I was excited to move onto Thrive. Something new.
As school picked up volleyball games began on Tuesday nights at the same time as thrive. I was super frustrated and missed Thrive for a couple months because of it. I had a chance to come back again on a Tuesday before basketball season, but after small groups and some conversations I had that night I heard a voice inside saying, “you’re not welcome here anymore. You skipped for too long. How will you be able to justify that to your friends, or leaders, or even God?”
I was overwhelmed with guilt. I remember zoning out through the entire message and worship and small group, fearing that everyone was judging me for finally showing back up after being gone for so long. Once again the voice filled my head saying, “Go away from here. This isn’t your home anymore”
And so I did. I ran from Thrive, not showing up for years. I ignored texts from my leader. I made up excuse after excuse for why I couldn’t make it that night. I ran further and further away until I couldn’t see God in anything around me.
Then my mom told me we were going to the DR my sophomore year. I remembered being so happy the first time I went in 6th grade, helping build the chapel and having fellowship with people from church. This would be the solution for fixing my space I had created between me and God. But when I was on the trip, I found myself searching for feelings of satisfaction from helping people, while never giving God any of the credit. I figured if I just did the things that would better his kingdom, he would be happy and I would feel at home again. I left the trip feeling more empty than ever, knowing even my actions could not fix the divide.
Junior year, one of my current best friends and I were just becoming close. We talked about religion and family values one time. He told me in his life his priorities were God, Family, Friends, and then Basketball. He asked me, “What’s your order?” I told him probably friends and then family and then school and then God. I told him I didn’t really like church much and hadn’t gone since middle school and he told me that was interesting. I heard this new voice in my head. “Maybe you just need to go home. Something is holding you back and God wants you to come home Abby” I didn’t understand how he knew to ask me that considering we had never talked about me leaving church before, so I knew it was a sign from God.
My first fix was my relationship with my family. I got closer with my sister grace as she entered high school with me. I am proud to say she is my best friend. I fixed my relationship with friends, cutting out those who kept me away from church or were toxic and bringing in or keeping ones that made me a better person. My friend circle shrunk, but I was happier than ever.
I convinced myself “well I’m two for three so I think my relationship with God will fix on its own at some point” I tried to read the Bible and do devotions at my house, but nothing ever stuck. Once again the guilt of absence overflowed in my heart, and I started to walk away.
My mom told me about this DR trip happening and I was like yeah no way am I going on that. I barely know anyone there anymore because I’ve been hiding for so long. I prayed and prayed until finally Grace told me, “I want to go, but I’m only going if you do” so it was decided and here I am.
The other day at foundation Lily, Mads, and I were playing with this little girl Mia and her brother Samuel. We were tickling them and talking to them in Spanish. Mia sat beside me and I asked her what color was her favorite and how old she was. Then I asked her where her home was. “Donde esta su casa Mia?” She pointed her finger at the house behind us and walked me over there to show me. Then she motioned for me to pick her up and she said to me, “donde esta tu casa?” Where is my home.
I could tell you where my house was, but in that very moment I felt the same rush of emotion as I had with my friend last year. My home is with God. In heaven. And I know it’s time to go back.
I saw God this trip in the broken plane and last minute changed plans. I see God in the foundation teams hard work all day Monday. I see God in all of the children I got to high five and smile at this week. I see God in my sisters contagious laughter and ability to bring me back to God. I see God in Maddy’s kind heart and love for the Lord. I see God in Kari’s bear hugs and how safe they make me feel. I see God in the relationships I haven’t been present in on this team, but still feel like family after all these years.
This trip has helped me to see that running away from my home and leaving because I felt judged and isolated doesn’t mean I’m not welcome. I’m invited with open arms to come back, stay here, and rejoice in the opportunity to be home once again.