For the first 27 years of my life, I could not identify God and I felt alone.

In elementary school, I was bullied. I learned at an early age that I would embrace the golden rule we all learned growing up;”treat others the way you want to be treated”. In middle school, the bullying got worse and the abuse I suffered became physical. I always told the truth of what was done to me, the people I called ‘friends’ abandoned me, and the adults in my life believed my abuser over me, so I was left to defend myself. I lived my life in total fear.

When I arrived in high school the abuse stopped, and I had to start putting the pieces of my life back together. That was a challenging thing to do since I did not trust anyone. I could not really understand the depth of how much the abuse had affected me, and fear controlled my life. My brother was my inspiration to keep going, and when I was 16, I was going to need that inspiration more than ever before. I took the city bus to school, and I was hit by a Ford F-150 pick-up truck while walking across the street. My right knee was never the same after that. It was during this recovery time I considered suicide. I felt physically broken because of my knee and emotionally broken because of the abuse I suffered, and all I ever wanted was for someone to believe me and not let it define me (even though I let it define me). Every day I had to tell myself that my brother, who is autistic and diabetic with the mindset of a young toddler, would never understand why his only friend and sister was never coming home, so I kept fighting my demons for him.

When I was 25, I made the decision to start Taekwondo. If you do not know, Songahm Taekwondo is a Korean martial art. When I started, I just wanted to learn to defend myself and get in shape. I have spent most of my life overweight. As I continued my training, I gained not only knowledge of defending myself and losing weight, I gained a family; a family that supports the decisions I make to better my life, that cheer me on when I want to quit, and just be people that accept me for who I am. In August 2018, I earned my first degree black belt. It is not something that everyone does and it represents the dedication to study Taekwondo; determination to overcome any and all challenges that we face (and everyone has them), and it is a sign of a new beginning, since you are not the same person you were when you started your training. My new beginning started with wanting to stop letting my past control and define me. Two of my mentors, had the answer to the question I was asking myself: How do I overcome the past I have let control me for more than half my life? The answer: CHURCH.

On January 6, 2019, I walked through the front door of the Praise and Worship Center for the first time. I had no idea what to expect. I had never been to a church service before, but I trusted my friends and was willing to give anything a try at least once. As I kept going back again and again, I wanted more. I wanted to learn who God is and what he is capable of. I learned how to read the Bible, I listened to our wonderful pastors declare God’s word, and I watched myself change to the person God wanted me to be. I learned how to forgive those that hurt me, those that did nothing, and myself. As I grew spiritually, I became more involved in different ministries so that I could continue to learn and give back to others. I have found peace only God could give me. My joy for life is genuine, and I consider it a privilege to share with others the love God has given me. I have reached the point in my life where I want to give myself completely to Jesus and I want to share that with all the wonderful people who have been part of my journey.