As an outsider looking in, no one ever guessed the turmoil that I lived in every day. The abuse I experienced as a child was to me “normal.” I lived a very sheltered life and as a result did not have any healthy relationships with adults that I felt I could confide my secrets with.
My family was constantly changing churches, and at a young age I developed the belief that I was “predestined not to be a child of God.” At the age of thirteen, after suffering once again at the hands of my abuser, I lost all will to live and drank fingernail polish remover, fully expecting not to wake up in the morning. Yet by God’s mercy I did wake up, though I saw it as a curse and not a blessing. I couldn’t die and had no idea how to live. As a result, I fell into a life of silence and was known as the quiet, good girl. No one knew I was screaming inside.
I eventually left home for college where I pursued a degree in deaf education. My silence slowly began to break, as I was able to express myself through sign language. At the same time I became involved in a campus ministry where I heard for the first time that God truly loved me and had not rejected me. Hungry for the truth, I fell in love with this God who loved and accepted me.
My new friends encouraged me to get involved in a local church, yet because of my past I declined over and over again until one friend suggested that I serve at a homeless dinner and attend the Bible study afterward. For me this was a perfect compromise. Through serving at the dinner, God began to light a passion in me for the inner city. I began attending church regularly, and six months later with two of my friends I moved into the inner-city neighborhood where my church was located.
I graduated from college and began pursuing my dream of teaching and interpreting. My past still haunted me, but I pushed it aside, assuming that this is what Christians do.
After three years of living and working in the inner city, my world came crashing down. I was gang raped. I had been carpooling to my new teaching job with one of my co-teachers. After a month of carpooling, one day on the way back home my coworker turned off the normal route and delivered me to four men who took turns repeatedly raping me. When it was over, my co-teacher brought me back home and drove off.
Falling back into a life of silence, I coped the only way I knew how, and that was to not say anything. I began to be tortured by memories of my past as well as what had happened recently. I lived with the secret of what had happened for months before I confided in my best friend. It became clear to me and my friend that I could not continue to minister to the youth in the neighborhood when I was so broken myself. My friend suggested that I apply to Mercy Ministries. (We had books in our home to reference for the young ladies in the neighborhood. Never in a million years did I actually think that God had planted those books in my home for me.) Mercy provided a safe haven for my healing, addressing lies that I didn’t realize I still believed about God, authority, and myself. At Mercy I was given the space and love to help me find my voice again. One thing that I will always remember is when the staff would say, “You never know who is on the other side of your healing.” Yet, for me, I did know some of the faces of the youth in my neighborhood who were waiting for me on the other side.
I graduated from Mercy in June 2007 knowing in my heart I was being called back to the inner city. It was a definite transition back; there were many years, but at Mercy I had been given the tools to fight the lies and the fears that tried to steal my joy.
In the summer of 2008 I was approached by one of the pastors at my church and asked if I would consider being the director of the tutoring and dance program and help develop a nonprofit in the neighborhood where I lived. With great excitement I accepted. Mercy taught me how to stand on the truth and what it means to trust God even when life is not making sense. I face heartache every day at my job; I hold broken children every week and have the privilege of pointing them to Jesus and showing them a different way. Because Mercy was there in my darkest hour, I am now free and living out my freedom among others that they may see God’s love and invite Him to heal their young hearts as well.
This is one of the true stories told by Nancy Alcorn in her book Mission of Mercy: Allowing God to Use YOU to Make a Difference in Others. Copyright ©2013 by Nancy Alcorn. Published by Charisma House. Used by permission. Nancy appears this week on LIFE Today.