I was born and raised in a suburb outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was a great place to grow up, and I was raised in the most amazing family who taught me a lot of strong Christian values.
I grew up in a Catholic church. I went through baptism, confirmation, and eucharist — even though I would often be playing thumb wars with my sisters in the pews on Sunday mornings. This was it for me: it was just an act of going to church, believing that God existed, and that was about it. My parents, God bless them, are amazing people who taught my two sisters and I the value of responsibility, the importance of a good work ethic, and how to love others.
In high school, I found myself with a great group of friends who just so happened to love partying. With that came many pressures and influences — like a love of social drinking, lots of gossiping and lying, making drunken memories, and of course, the dramas of boys.
I found myself in the middle of some of those dramas, with one relationship impacting me most. It was a relationship that lasted around six years and that came with a lot of heartbreak, breakups, makeups, and tears. It all seemed to me like pretty common high school fusses. But I ended up with anxiety, depression, and — during one breakup — a call to a suicide hotline, followed by some meetings with a therapist. I don’t think I would have followed through on the thought to end my life, but I was definitely at rock bottom.
These relationship dramas didn’t just take place at high school. They continued into university, when I was living four hours away from my hometown. I knew I needed some good quality friends — and fortunately, I was a dorm leader and struck up some amazing friendships with others in the same role. Many of the other dorm leaders happened to be Christians, and they invited me to my first Christian worship event. It was a nice outing. They kindly invited me to a Bible study after that, too, but I wasn’t interested at the time.
The months passed by and I graduated from university. I moved back to live with my parents, and was working full-time, going out on the weekends with friends when they were back in town, or sleeping the weekend away to forget life. It took me a while to realise it, but the relationship I was still in was aggressive and toxic.
In 2016, one of my Christian friends from university came to my hometown for a weekend. She invited me to a service at a non-denominational church just minutes down the road from where I lived. I left church asking my friend why the man on the stage was yelling at us — only to find out that he was actually the pastor, and he was giving a sermon! To me, seeing all those people raise their hands during the music was just weird. It was all so new to me.
My friend left that weekend, but I continued to go back to that same church alone. I attended a few services just before Easter. I always sat in exactly the same spot in the back left corner, where it was too dark for anyone really to notice me, and where I could easily slip in and slip out. My legs seemed tired from standing up during all that worship — it was a different kind of tired compared to the pain of kneeling at a Catholic mass.
Something during one of the sermons just before Easter rang true for me. I heard the gospel for the first time. I was 22 years old and had considered myself a ‘Christian’ my whole life — but the message captured me. It wasn’t the whole picture yet, but for the first time, I knew that even in the midst of hard times, like the toxic relationship that I was in, Jesus could set me free. There was more to life than the pain I was in. There is a God who cares about me, and a man who died on a cross to make me new. It was all so foreign, but all so intriguing. I had to know more.
During that and some following services, the pastor gave what I now know as an ‘altar call’ — essentially asking people if they want to give their lives to Jesus. The pastor would ask everyone to close their eyes and raise their hands if they wanted a new life. In my case, heck yes I wanted that. But there was absolutely no way I was going to raise my hand in the off chance that they might make me leave my cosy back left corner spot and walk up in front of everyone.
So instead, I silently repeated the prayer of the pastor about being transformed. I believed that prayer with all my heart, soul and mind. I believed that Jesus died for me; that he could make me new; that my abusive relationship no longer mattered; that I would still be loved no matter what happened; that I was strong and worthy; and that I would go to heaven if I believed in God.
Although God saved me that day in 2016, I was still a mess. I was broken and I needed some major life renovations. First things first: I had to break off that relationship that had caused me so many years of pain and waywardness. So with some lying, cheating, drinking, and crying, I did it — I broke it off. Following that, I needed an escape plan. So I moved to the other side of the world: Australia.
I spent ten months in Australia and traveling around South-East Asia. It was a time of incredible change, freedom, learning about God, finding a new church, and trying to establish a personal relationship with the Father.
I was definitely growing in my relationship with God, but I definitely was not walking the way Jesus does: I was still partying all the time, sleeping around, going to church hungover, swearing, gossiping, and more.
At one level, it seemed likeI had it all — I had God, I had friends, and I had drunken memories to laugh at. Even in South-East Asia, I was going out in Bangkok, getting lost in the streets, but then reading Christian books occasionally on train rides. I would pray a lot, and I would journal a lot about God, but something was still not right, and God felt distant.
Back home in the United States, in the summer of 2017, something changed. I was finally ready to take the next step from just ‘being saved’ to reading, understanding and living the Bible. Following God was easier said than done. I said goodbye to the party life and sadly lost many friendships in the process. I joined a new church with a connect group back in my hometown. It wasn’t easy, but I was ready to pay whatever price I needed to in order to follow Jesus.
I was back at home in Wisconsin for a year but I was longing to return to Australia. In 2018, God opened the way for me to come back. During the months before I left for Australia, I grew so much in God. I was truly a changed person. On arriving Down Under again, I continued to learn so much more about God; I joined a new church; I met some awesome Christian friends; I learnt a lot more about worship and the Holy Spirit.
In September of 2018, I joined Youth With a Mission (YWAM) in Byron Bay. Jesus radically changed my life there. It was a deeper work than he’d done before, something permanent that would stay with me for the rest of my life.
I 100 percent live for Christ now. I want to breathe, live, talk, and do everything like Jesus does. I want to bring others to a point where they know Jesus like I know Him. I want to learn more and more and more about what the Bible says. I want to know the ins and outs of all of the Bible’s characters. I want to feel the Holy Spirit every moment. I want to tell others about God’s goodness, and pray all the time, and walk with Jesus every step of the way. No turning back!