I still cry when I think about those kids in Ghana – when I shuffle through their pictures or read the letters they wrote me on the day I left. I was told before I arrived that the kids would steal a part of my heart; I didn’t realize how large that portion would be. I must thank God, though, that my heart was given to such beautiful souls for safe-keeping. These kids opened their arms to my broken self, taking in every inch of my broken heart, and they loved me. I mean, truly loved me.
Before coming to PLNU, I didn’t know what love was. I couldn’t even conceptualize the idea because my perception of a “normal” life was so skewed. I did not experience unconditional love in my daily experiences – and I definitely did not know God. All I knew was an identity of shame.
I have no words to describe the amount of fear, anxiety, and stress I faced on a daily basis. I was sexually molested by my step-father from the ages of 11 to 16. I was deprived of a normal childhood and the ability to form healthy, trusting relationships. I suffered from severe depression and frequent mood swings, and was forced to live a confusing, double life. At school and around friends, I seemed perfect – excelling in sports, school activities, and getting great grades. I was always finding ways to overcompensate for the reality I went home to. Inside, though, I felt lonely and trapped. I kept that part of myself hidden; I was afraid others might find out how broken I really was. I would often lock myself in the bathroom and take hour-long showers, tears streaming down my face while I viciously tried to wash off the dirtiness I felt within. I was unwillingly stripped of my innocence, which left me profoundly hurt and betrayed.
After five painful years, I finally found the courage to disclose the abuse and began the long process of learning to trust people and feel safe inside my own body again. Feeling lost was an understatement. For many years, I watched my mom and siblings struggle to understand and process the truth, as I struggled just getting through each day. I began to suffer from debilitating migraines and was diagnosed with a chronic pain disease.
The prospect of going to college seemed impossible – but I knew I had to enroll. I also knew I needed a smaller, supportive university. I became intrigued by PLNU through beautiful sunset pictures posted on my Facebook newsfeed. After doing some research, it seemed like a good fit.
Having little to no faith at the time, I was very skeptical about PLNU’s Christian environment. However, to my surprise, I immediately became captivated by the joy I witnessed and I began to crave it. I started to explore faith in God, but still struggled immensely with experiencing His love for me. It took a lot of work, but I began to see a Christian therapist and slowly came to a faith deeply personal and unique to me.
At the time, I had no idea of God’s calling for my life, but began reaching out to professors for help. I knew I eventually wanted to dedicate my life to helping victims of injustice, so I became involved with the Center for Justice & Reconciliation and helped spread awareness about human trafficking. I was exposed to the many roles necessary to help victims during their recoveries and became fascinated by the work of doctors. Although they play a seemingly small part – conducting tests for sexually transmitted diseases, for example – doctors have to be incredibly sensitive to patients’ emotional needs. After my own disclosure, I recall being so appreciative for the comfort doctors offered.
God was leading me to become a healthcare provider, but I was terrified. I knew the amount of work this calling would require.
Then came Ghana. The fourth-grade students I taught in the summer of 2014 during a PLNU faculty-led study abroad program inspired the vision I now hold for my life, shaping my career path and helping me solidify my passion for helping and healing others.
A few days before leaving Ghana, my fellow PLNU classmates and I asked the children to write their names and desired careers on white boards, hoping to motivate them to pursue their dreams. I’ll never forget what one young girl named Ivy wrote. Ivy wanted to become a doctor and establish a hospital in her village. She would name it St. Josephine Hospital after her mother, who was very sick. After she also shared how her family members had died from malaria and influenza, and how her young friend died from malnutrition, Ivy peered up at me with big eyes filled with tears, and whispered, “I just have to be a doctor. This isn’t fair.”
Although Ivy was describing the unfair, inadequate healthcare provided in her village, I understood that injustice is everywhere. It’s unfair that people are dying from preventable and treatable conditions merely because of where they live. It’s unfair that Ivy, with her whole heart, wants to become a doctor to help the people around her from dying – but has very limited resources to do so. It’s unfair that less fortunate placement in this world dictates lifespans.
I’m in disbelief when I look at the opportunities laid before me. The riches of my life are abundant: I have God, supportive family members, wonderful friends, and devoted professors who help create the tight knit community of PLNU. I lack nothing.
In that conversation with Ivy, my fear of becoming a doctor completely disappeared.
More than anything, I want to alleviate injustice. I want to devote myself to filling my heart with God’s love and filling my mind with knowledge to pour into the lives of others, especially those less fortunate.
I am moved by the idea of becoming a healer and positively influencing as many people as I can throughout my lifetime. I want to motivate others feeling imprisoned by their current circumstances by testifying that there is hope. God has bigger plans in store for us than we can possibly believe or imagine. I am incredibly excited about God’s redeeming love and what it has done to transform my life – and I am committed to living an extraordinary life, eyes and heart wide open.
PLNU's university publication, the Viewpoint, seeks to contribute relevant and vital stories that grapple with life's profound questions from a uniquely Christian perspective. Through features, profiles, and news updates, the Viewpoint highlights stories of university alumni, staff, faculty, and students who are pursuing who they are called to be.