Childhood was a marathon of domestic issues: substance abuse, custody wars, and cancer battles followed by deaths in my family. In the midst of dealing with illnesses and deaths, I had to tolerate my mother’s alcohol and drug addictions that kept her in jail or psychiatric centers and my father’s lack of priorities, so my only option was to become independent at a young age. Seeking avenues of relief from the constant chaos, I battled with suicidal thoughts growing up. One night as I laid there helpless, I cried out and prayed my first intentional prayer asking God to help me for I was hopeless and didn’t know what to do.
Having the opportunity to volunteer at a local church, I became to know the staff and was able to serve with people that had hope. I craved the joy that they had, and it was from there that my relationship with the Lord started. Still fearful of whether or not I was worthy enough to be His daughter, I waited until my birthday to accept Him as my Lord and Savior. I wanted my birthday not only to be a day to celebrate my birth on earth, but I wanted it to signify a day of rebirth in Christ. Growing closer to the church community, I experienced love with volunteering at the church. I started attending growth groups with people who were much older than me to gain the wisdom that they had to offer me.
Since then I have been blessed with the opportunity of attending JBU. When first arriving on campus I did not think I was going to be able to “fit in,” for neither of my parents was a pastor, and I was not saved at “four years old.” I knew that God accepted me despite my background, but deep down inside I was ashamed to share my testimony with others. I’m now a senior at JBU, and as I reflect back, I see God’s faithfulness and provision in allowing me to attend this Christian university. I have been blessed by the faculty and staff, which I never thought would happen for I was always told in high school that my professors would never even know my name. That statement was proven false as I now meet with professors on a weekly basis and am invited into their homes. I have been shown love and care like never before by not only my professors but also by my church family.
I have been accepted despite all of the baggage that I carry alongside me. A verse that reminds me of God helping me overcome the battle of suicide has been Psalm 40:2 which states “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” It is only through Christ that I am able to find joy in the midst of tribulations and rough circumstances. I have allowed Him to use my story to reach out and share the gospel with others, no longer ashamed of the brokenness I once had. God has allowed me to be part of several ministries on campus many of which deal with helping at-risk children who have a low socioeconomic status. Each child has a unique story, and seeing each one of them blossom despite their circumstances reminds me that God is truly able to “work for the good of those who love Him,” as Romans 8:28 states.
It’s not always easy, but we can find peace knowing that we can come to Him with all our needs. For Matthew 11:28 says “come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” So often His response to me is a reminder of who He is for “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior” (2 Samuel 22:2-3). Thanks to the Christian community that I am surrounded with, I am consistently encouraged by those around me. I’m reminded of the love and peace that God offers me and the price that he paid for me to be forgiven and have eternal life. Thus, I am able to reflect His light in all that I do, and I give all the glory to Him.
Mercedes Walker is currently studying at John Brown University with a major in biochemistry. She has a heart and passion for serving those around her, and she fills that passion through serving in a variety of ministries on and off campus.