Every once in awhile I get an e-mail that blows me away. This is one of them. Take a few minutes to read it and you'll be blown away as I was. This is a very well-written, funny and, at times, heart-wrenching story that will encourage you to share the good news with those around you…
"Good morning. Or evening. Or day. Or whatever it is where you are by the time you read this. My name is Katie, 17 years old….I'm actually not quite sure why I'm writing this. I'm sure that you get hundreds, thousands of emails just like this one every day. I'm not even sure that you'll read this. But I felt like you should know how these Dare2Share conferences are changing lives, even after y'all have packed up and moved on.
But I should probably start a little bit at the beginning, so you know where I'm coming from. And it would show how cool God is. For real.
I didn't really grow up in a Christian household. I had some things happen to me as a kid that no girl should ever have to go through, especially at the hands of an adult man. Things that affected me and shaped a lot of my personality, even after I thought that I had grown up and moved on. I didn't come from a church-going family- we had a bad experience there and decided that we didn't need no Jesusy religion stuff. Fast forward a few years– I'm a little bit older, about sixth grade. My family was pretty disconnected, and no one had a good relationship with anyone else. In a situation where I was told constantly how useless and worthless I was, I felt myself spinning deeper and deeper in some kind of darkness.
I got this idea in my head that I had to pay for being such a screw up. I had to pay for being ugly, for being fat, for being timid, for being different. So I began self-injuring in sixth grade- I thought that maybe in some great cosmic balance, my bloodshed would somehow make up for my badness. For my mess ups. For my unloveableness. It was like my drug- when the accusations in my head, the voices that screamed about how worthless I was and how I deserved to die got too loud, a little slice would quiet them down. For a while.
And then they'd start again, so I'd go deeper.
I began running with a crowd of older kids, and I made some really stupid decisions, tried some things that I shouldn't have, and did some things that were really wrong.
I felt like I was spiraling out of control.
By eighth grade, I had a suicide plan. I hated being such a burden to everyone and I figured that if I died, it would be better for everyone. Also about this time, my mom became a Christian.
I don't know what it is about parents, but they always seem to know when something's wrong. My mom didn't understand how bad I was, but she knew something was up. On what I had planned to be my last day of school, she announced that I was going to be homeschooled from then on, because she wanted me to learn more about her new-fangled "faith" thing.
I didn't approve. But what could I do?
I continued the self injury on the down low, squeezing it in around my schedule. I thought that it was essential for my well-being.
After being homeschooled for a few months, my mom decided that I needed to get involved in the church she had been attending. She was still in the dark about my situation, but my behaviour, I admit, was getting more and more erratic.
So, against my will, I went. She made me go to all the things- every Sunday morning, evening, and Wednesday night. Every movie outing, every go-karting race, every Bible study. And I hated it.
Then came February. (It's 2009 at this point. Just to keep you up.) It's time for this weekend conference, Dare2Share. And the youth group was going. So guess where I went? Mom had me signed up before the pastor had finished announcing in during the morning service.
I couldn't really tell you the exact date (I just remember the month) I couldn't tell you every skit or drama. I couldn't tell you the worship band. I couldn't tell you a lot of what happened. But I could tell you that on Friday night, at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, MO, this frantic, twitchy little man down on the stage was talking about this God that loved me.
This God that lived and died for me….who bled for me so I didn't have to anymore.
Everything clicked then. I can't explain it more than that. I already understood how terrible I was- believe you me, I knew that I was in some deep sludge. But this God? Who made a way out? That was new, and that was life.
Everything changed. That was my 'conversion' moment, if you wanna call it.
So then I had all this energy, like a little puppy that gets so excited that it piddles itself. You know what I'm talking about? So the next day, I get your book, You're Next. I figured this God was worth everything I had, so I might as well give it to Him….
So, now that you know where I was, now comes the good part– now, this is how good God is.
I spent the rest of '09 really learning the basics of Christianity- what we believed, why, and Who God is. Stuff like that. Lost a few friends for getting too 'religious', but God gave me an awesome youth group to turn to. In Dare2Share '10, I was challenged to DO something. So that summer, I convinced my youth pastor to take us on a mission trip. We went roofing in Evansville, IN.
It was hot.
And pretty freakin' awesome.
We get back, and I'm ready to go all gung-ho on missions. Think a teenaged Mother Theresa. Obviously, parents say no.
Buuut… I felt God was telling me to keep moving. So I begin praying for a way to serve Him, so that He would use me, however He wants.
I begin looking. I ask my pastor, and my youth pastor, and basically anyone who would listen. Finally I stumble onto this little mission group, iSalt. (isalt.org) They seem like a really cool group, and I pray about it. And pray. And pray.
See, this looked like a really great opportunity, except for one thing: this was a 'leadership training and discipleship programme'. They only went on one mission trip: a three-week long excursion to this little country in eastern Europe called Bulgaria.
Yes. Bulgaria. You ever heard of it? Congrats if you had- you'd have been the first person, including myself, that really knew anything about it.
Now, please understand. I had never spent longer than a week away from my family, and even then, it was never very far. So over three weeks in a country across the ocean was pretty terrifying. To say the least.
But if God wanted me to go, then I'd go. And man, He worked everything out exactly perfectly so that I could go. Last summer, in July 2011, I spent nearly the entire month with God and His people. It was the most intense, insane, awesome experience that I have EVER had.
Did I deserve to go? No. You read a little bit of who I was. Of all people, I would be among the least qualified. On my own, I did nothing to be able to go.
But I think sometimes God likes to use the most screwed-up individuals so that everyone'd know that He really is in control. Like this huge concept of 'Challenge Accepted.'
I come home, as on fire as any 16 year old could be. (I'm 16 by this point.) Taking what I had learned from Dare2Share conferences and from iSalt, I began living THE Cause in whatever way I could. I dedicated my entire life to God, to use however He wants.
And sir, He has moved in such a way that anyone who sees what He's doing cannot deny Who He is.
He's started a high school and women's Bible study. In the middle of McDonald's. We've had some great conversations as a result of our public setting.
He's started a homeless ministry in my church.
He's started a fundraiser for World Vision- raising over $280.
He's started a small-mission team in my community, where we do physical stuff (cleaning parks and whatnot), prayer walks, and street witnessing.
He's started a fire in my community, a group of people living THE Cause because it's what Christians are called to do.
He's done all of this. God. Jesus. Yahweh Himself is moving down here.
And the funniest thing is, He's using me for all this. That's the most amazing part- because NONE of it is based on me. I'm so unworthy of this, and yet…
He's using this twitchy, insane, crazy, quirky, messed-up, 17 year old girl from backwoods Illinois. Why? Just because He can. He's using me because He's God and He can do whatever He jolly well pleases. So that everyone will know that He's God, and He's got it.
He's calling me to full-time overseas missions, living in areas where I know that Christianity is not accepted. I know if I am called to persecution, then He'll keep me strong. What an amazing opportunity, though- to be living so close to God that Satan gets scared and begins fighting back! Why? Because God's that cool.
Like I said, I'm sure that this email will probably never be read by anyone, which is part of the reason why it is so long. Even if someone started reading it, they probably stopped midway through, deciding that I was too long-winded to listen to anymore. If you're still reading this, point for you.
And like I've said, I'm not sure why I'm writing this.
Mostly to tell you that you're making a difference in the world, whether you realize it or not. Your ignitions are growing into raging fires. And hell itself knows this. And Satan is scared.
With God's power, we're winning!
Winning more than Charlie Sheen.
Winning more than games.
Winning more than competitions.
We're winning souls.
We're winning the race that was set before us.
And God's moving.
Listen to me, one last thing, and then I'm done. The reason I'm saying all of this is to make very clear this point: With God, We don't wanna change the world.
We're gonna change the world.
If you have made it this far, I'd love an email, but I know you're a busy man. I am praying earnestly for you and your ministries. I can't wait until Dare2Share next year- I'd love to chat face to face. And if that doesn't happen, I'm convinced we'll meet in heaven! 2 Timothy 1:3-10."
Thanks Katie. I'm never too busy for an e-mail like your's!
It was worth the read wasn't it?