In my second year of high school in Kitchener, Ont., I invited a friend to hang out at the mall. She told me she couldn't, because it was Sunday, and she had church—her favourite time of the week. I didn't get it. I was raised Catholic and, to me, church was boring. When she asked if I wanted to come, I agreed, out of curiosity more than anything else. I was surprised to see people singing and dancing and having fun.

And then the preacher said something that touched me deeply. “There is nothing you can't come back from. There is nothing you've done that Jesus can't clean you. So what's your excuse for not serving him?” My insides turned. That was the moment I decided to follow God.

But it wasn't easy to leave my old life behind. I didn't want to say goodbye to my friends, the parties, the drinking, the unhealthy relationships. I pulled one way, and God pulled the other. It was like I sold myself to the world, and he would buy me back, every time. I felt such shame, pain and loneliness—I knew my friends didn't truly care about me; they only wanted the fun I could offer.

In my last year of high school, my world turned upside down. My dad's struggle with mental illness was getting worse. I would come home from my part-time job late at night and find chaos—shouting and screaming and objects flying around. When my mom decided to end the relationship, my dad returned to Colombia. We talked about moving to Quebec to be closer to our only family in Canada.

That summer, I went on a mission trip to Kenya for three weeks. I didn't know where my mom would be when I got back—Ontario or Quebec. I called her from the airport, and she was in Montreal with her brother and his family. I stood there, not knowing what to do. Leaving Ontario would mean giving up my dream of attending McMaster University in Hamilton, where I had been accepted for the fall. It would mean giving up everything I knew, and what I thought would be my life.

I got on a plane to Quebec.

This is where my love story with God really began, where I experienced God in a way I never had before. We met Lieutenants Ricaurte Velasquez and Vilma Ramos and started attending Light of Hope Family Church in Brossard, Que. It was a new church plant and we all had to work hard to get everything done. I began leading worship and slowly learned that it was more than just singing.

The biggest turning point in my faith was working at Camp Lac L'Achigan with Captains Matt and Rachel Sheils, the divisional youth secretaries for the Quebec Division. I saw children's lives being transformed by Jesus. It showed me how real God is. I learned how important it is to spend time with God every day, to read the Bible, pray and sing praise; to surround myself with people who love God and keep me accountable. When I left camp, I had built new relationships, created healthy habits and fallen in love with God in a way I never knew was possible.

Sometimes, God breaks us down to build us back up. He used the pain and hardship in my life to make me realize I needed help, that I couldn't make it on my own. He won me, through love, persistence, grace, acceptance and truth. I stopped pulling in the opposite direction and starting letting him do his work in me. He made me new.

Who I am now is very different from who I was. I know my flaws, but I am also overwhelmed by God's grace. Jesus is the centre of my life, thoughts and heart. I can't contain everything he makes me feel. He makes me want to serve, to love others, to turn my back on temptation, to be in constant communication with him. I have struggles, but my roots are in Christ. I no longer look for ways to fill an empty heart, because my heart is so full of him.

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