Part One - My Testimony
Looking back over the years of my life from where I sit today has challenged me in many ways. It has been at times confronting and overwhelming to face the demons of my past but has also been extremely freeing and encouraging. When I first began my walk with Jesus in 2011, my life was drastically transformed. It was the first time I truly felt safe to peer over the walls I had placed around my heart and as I began to slowly move the bricks of those walls, I started to open up about my past to the people around me. I knew in myself the journey I had been on but hadn’t ever thought of it being ‘inspiring’ in any way so when I was first asked to share my testimony at the 2012 Adventist Youth Conference. I didn’t think too much about it and with nothing written down, I stood up and blurted out a whole lot of information in front of about 400 people. And the reception was humbling.
As time went on and I attempted to sift through the broken memories of my past, I noticed it became increasingly difficult to share my testimony. My brain was unearthing memories that had long been buried and each time I went to prepare to speak, it allowed me to go that little bit deeper and I began feeling extremely drained afterwards. At the time I couldn’t understand what was making it so hard because I wanted to shout from the roof tops what amazing things God had done for me! I prayed about it a lot and as my mind kept revisiting the depths of what had essentially made me who I was, I realised that it was becoming so much harder because I had been hanging on to this ‘YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’VE BEEN THROUGH’ idea and rather than dealing with the things that had happened to me, letting go of the hurt and embracing who I was becoming as a woman, I had allowed the idea to control any true expression of myself. And in that realisation, I began a journey of true self discovery. This is my Testimony – Part One.
I grew up in New Germany, a small town situated just inland of Durban in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. My parents separated when I was six and after my Dad moved out, my world as a child was pretty much flipped on it’s head. We faced various challenges which for extended privacy reasons I cannot elaborate on, but some of the things I witnessed and experienced left me a very emotionally confused and hurt little girl. Trying to fit in at school amongst these struggles was difficult. My identity became so tied to the brokenness of life at home that I struggled to fit in. I was very shy and awkward and was always scared of getting hurt by people that I didn’t make friends easily. I always tried to pretend like nothing ever bothered me but deep down it all hurt.
Once I started High School I started getting a lot of attention from older boys which I had absolutely no idea how to deal with. My only real experience of love to that point had been seeing my Grandparents 35 year strong marriage. I had always dreamed of meeting someone who would give me that fairytale ending and would love me all my life but my heart was more guarded than I could even understand. I dated the first boy who asked me out with this hopeless romantic idea of him being the one, only to realise that I was never really interested in him and quickly broke it off. Relationships didn’t get easier after that and I often found myself either falling too deep or setting things on fire before I got burnt.
My mother worked long hours but continuously struggled financially and we often had to move home. We were never settled in any one home for very long before having to move again and eventually my mom decided that she was going to marry her partner who lived in the UK and we (my sister, brother and I) would all be moved over there. Everything we had ever known was packed up and before I knew it we were on the flight to London. When we arrived, we went to the house we would be staying in only to find that it was a slightly oversized room with a built in kitchen and a separate bathroom. There was another man there who my Stepdad told us would also be living with us. My mom was beside herself as she had been led to believe that we were moving to a beautiful home and that life would be very different for us over there. Exhausted and quite bemused, we dragged our suitcases back to the bus stop and headed back to the airport. At the airport, my mom made contact with some friends she knew from South Africa who lived just outside of London and they kindly agreed to put us up while we figured out what to do. Eventually after about two months, my mom found some work in a little town called Banbury and with the help of my Aunty who also lived in the UK, we were able to find a house to live in.
Once everything settled, I started going to a new school where I once again found myself struggling to fit in. I was different with my red hair, freckles and awkwardness and I quickly became a target for bullying. I found that one girl in particular took a great disliking to me, making school my least favourite place in the world to be. I was always somewhat overwhelmed when a new person started talking to me or showed any interest in me because I really just felt like a nerd with no value to offer. Over the years I did make some really great friends but also picked up some bad habits along the way like starting smoking in a bid to look ‘cool’ around my piers, skiving off school and smoking pot all day.
When I was 14, I had to do a work experience placement and found myself working in hospitality at a hotel restaurant. I loved the work and when my work experience finished, I was offered a job working there casually while I was still at school. I started getting invited to the pub after work with some of the people from the hotel I had made friends with and to my surprise was let in with no one question about my age. I started drinking a fair bit as I felt it was the only time I could really ‘be myself’ around my new friends and would often go on big nights out to the club with them. My biggest problem though, was that I was not able to just have one drink and often ended up spending my entire wage and waking up with little to no memory of the night before.
Moving house was something we did a lot so we were used to packing and unpacking. Getting excited about the new house but not being there long enough to enjoy it. The worst move came when we had to move into a ‘middle’ house while we waited on the list for the next available council house. This was a house where we had one room and lived with about ten other people. My sister and I stayed there mostly while mom stayed at her ex husbands house and my brother stayed with friends. I mostly just remember it being freezing. I would often sleep in my pyjamas, with a dressing gown, socks and shoes, as many blankets as we had and a dooner cover and still feel like I was frozen from the inside. One night after being out drinking, I had a big fight with the guy I was dating and as I sat in this freezing cold room questioning my life, I grabbed a box of pills and swallowed the lot. I was completely wrecked when I got a call from a friend checking if I had made it home ok and as soon as he realised something was wrong, he came and picked me up and took me to the hospital where I spent the rest of the night and the next two days vomiting.
Although I didn’t know God personally that night, I am so thankful that He felt it necessary to preserve my life. By His grace I lived to fight a new day. I was completely humiliated by my actions and after I got home from the hospital, I called my Dad and asked if I could stay with him for a while. My Dad had moved over to the UK not long after us and had just moved into a two bedroom place with his new wife. I didn’t want to ask given they had only just moved in but they agreed and so began the journey into Watford, London….