“The Duluth Vineyard was a tool God used in transforming my life. I began attending this church as a freshman in college. I had gone to church when I was younger but after several devastating life events, my family decided to stop going. When I came to college, I realized that it was time I began forming my adult life and I had to decide the kind of person I wanted to be. I knew I wanted to be a follower of Jesus, thanks to the positive church experiences of my childhood, but I thought following Jesus just meant going to church every weekend and adhering to a strict list of other rules. I did not fit in with the “churchy type.” But a friend invited me to come to the Vineyard with her and I agreed because I knew I need more out of life.
I felt like there was this hole in my soul that I was trying to fill with all the wrong things. At the time, I would binge drink on the weekends and began experimenting with some drugs. I was also trying to heal from a horrible breakup that had happened just before I came to college, so I was searching for love in all the wrong places. To make up for my feelings of rejection from my dad abandoning me as a child and the boy I loved breaking up with me, I wound up with any man who paid attention to me or called me beautiful. This outlook on life resulted in me becoming a victim of sexual assault. I felt so used, so broken. I felt like there was no hope. I coped by putting on this false identity that made me feel strong on the outside. I told myself that I would commit to a life of singleness because I couldn’t bear to be hurt by another man. I laid down my dreams of ever being married or having children. I decided I would go at this life alone. I isolated myself and became severely depressed. I hated myself and attempted to “punish” myself for what I had allowed my life to become. I struggled with an eating disorder and anger issues. I would punch walls until my knuckles bled. I was so angry all the time!
Flash forward to four years later, where I am right now. God has transformed my life. He has healed me of my past hurts and redeemed me from my title of “victim.” As I slowly began coming to the Vineyard as a lost and broken 18 year old, Jesus invited me into a community where I felt accepted and loved. Rather than judging me for my mistakes, people actually helped me pray to God and ask for His forgiveness. My tendency to isolate myself was broken when I began engaging in small groups and started volunteering at the church in VineyardKids and Street Outreach. Little did I know at the time, but Jesus was capturing my heart through compassion. I was able to give people the same generous love that He gave me when I showed up here wounded and desperate. Over time, the leaders here began empowering me to take leadership roles and step into the calling that God has for me. Before I knew it, I was leading small groups and street teams and now I am an intern at the church!
The transformation that occurred in my life is just amazing. My friends from high school say that I’m not even the same person – which I think is a good thing! And as far as my commitment issues go and my decision to be single…well, God broke my walls down there, too and I am now happily married! Because of the love of Jesus I realized that I AM loved, I am worthy, I am valuable, I am wanted, and I am made new. It was this love that transformed me and it is this love that pours out of me. I hope this story of hope can offer hope to someone else! Because no matter how broken you think you are or how far you feel from God, Jesus can ALWAYS restore you; He has never stopped pursuing you and nothing you have ever done can separate you from his love. There is hope for EVERYONE through the love of Jesus and I hope my story gives a testament to that.