To clarify, I am writing in addition to Lexi’s take on Tuesday, our first day at the juvenile center. I felt it was important to share the same story again but from a different perspective because of how powerful the day was.
Hello. This is Anna typing. As of right now I have a lot of thoughts running through my head, so I am sorry if what I write is word throw-up. I’m kind of famous for my word throw-up, so… get excited. I was asked to share my “Testimony Part 3” by our Service Planning Team. This was comical to me because I had just told our leaders, Daniel and Bekah, before we left that I WOULD NOT share my Part 3. Ever. For those of you who do not know, our “Part 3” testimony is very long, detailed and intense. But the opportunity to share my Part 3 presented itself and the Lord gripped my heart. I knew I was supposed to share my testimony, but I did not know how I could do it. Or at least, I did not know how I could do it alone. I needed The Lord.
Mimi and I are staying in a host home together (get to know her, she’s pretty cool) and honestly I don’t know if I would have been able to say my testimony without hearing what she said to me. She said something that really struck me deep. I was confessing to her that I did not want to share my testimony even though I knew I needed to. I did not want to talk about the dreaded subject… my mom’s recent passing. Mimi told me, “Anna, your story is not ultimately yours, it’s really God’s. So you should share all of it because holding back means holding back on God’s story.” Sounds harsh but it is so true. I knew I needed to tell the Brazilian girls about my mom. I needed to explain how I am struggling right now. Being real is more effective than trying to come up with a happy ending.
Walking into the room where we held the service for the girls was intimidating. My thoughts ranged from “I’m gonna throw up” to “Is the Holy Spirit even here?” The girls walked in and I could feel that this crowd needed to hear what the Holy Spirit had to say through Angie and I. Sitting there soaking in anxiety (and sweat) I waited until the service started. After the drama, Angie shared her testimony. As she was speaking, it became obvious to me that we were chosen to give our stories during the same service for a reason. The Lord was going to use both of us to get across exactly what He wanted.
I had been furiously going over my notes to calm my nerves, but I felt a peace that God had this in his hands. I put down my notes and began to worship with everyone else. During the songs, I still had doubts running through my mind. Immediately as a doubtful thought would pop into my head, someone would come pray for me quietly. First Kalli and then Bekah. It was crazy to see how God’s timing was perfect. The song ended and I walked up there. I had a strange feeling come over me. All of a sudden, I felt peace. I knew that the Lord would give me the exact words to say. What needed to be said would be said and what needed to be left out would be left out. So I went into my story. I explained how my story is a lot like Jonah’s from the Bible. I did not trust God’s plan in my life, so I ran away from Him for a long time, just like Jonah. I had a turning point in my life, and even though it wasn’t after being in the belly of a whale for 3 days, it was still a memorable moment for me. I was clinically depressed for quite some time, always trying to fill that hole in my life with things of this world. When I said this, Mimi and Eryn were painting a mural behind me of a big, black blob to visually depict the hole in my life. Using other colors around the hole, they represented all the worldly things that did not satisfy. But my turning point came when my mom pushed me to start going to counseling and taking medicine. I realized that no matter what I had done in my past, God still wanted me back. I came out of depression 2 years ago, and I rededicated my life to Christ. I had found the missing piece in my life, and it was Jesus. As soon as I said that, Mimi and Eryn took off some hidden tape from their piece of art to reveal the word “Jesus”. Jesus was the only thing that could fill the hole in my life.
Next, I made sure to explain that just because we are Christians does not mean bad things don’t happen to us. I’ve had a lot of bad things happen to my family recently. The funny thing about Jonah’s story is that the ending isn’t a happy ending. I’m sure everything is resolved eventually, but the Bible doesn’t tell us that much. It ends when Jonah is angry with God, sitting on top of a mountain. God simply asks him, “Do you have any right to be angry?” And that’s how the book ends. So, just like Jonah’s story, I don’t have a happy ending to my story either. That is because right now is not the end. My story is not over. My story continues on until the day that I go to heaven and see my mom again. I explained that the girls could have a relationship with Christ like I do. He wants to hold their hand and walk with them through the hard things like He is doing with me.
Immediately after finishing my story, I sort of hid. I needed time to myself to let God hear me cry. While I was having a moment by myself, Lexi explained the gospel and gave the girls an open invitation to receive Jesus Christ. I could not pull my-sobbing-self together to experience that prayer, but it’s okay because I got to watch their faces from far off.
After the service, I went to talk with some of the girls. I expected to be giving them advice and wisdom, but instead, it was the girls who came up to me encouraging me to keep relying on the Lord. It was so evident the Holy Spirit was inside them. I could see it on their faces. One girl gave me a piece of paper with lyrics written on it. It was a Christian song in Portuguese that she explained helped her get through the hard times. That piece of paper will forever be my Ebenezer for today. As Daniel explained to me, an Ebenezer is a physical item that represents a certain moment in our life. I can look at it and remember what an amazing, heart-wrenching, Spirit-filled day today was.