“In this world you will have trouble… ” (John 16:33, NIV). That is exactly what my life was growing up—trouble. When I was a young child, my father was physically and emotionally abusive to my mother and me. Eventually my mother decided to leave the relationship, but it was not easy. They were both drug addicts.
My mother also had some mental health issues that were not being addressed at the time. For several months, it was as if we were playing a game of chase. We would flee and go into hiding with a friend or family member. It would not be long before my father either found out where we were or sweet-talked my mother back. We were constantly walking on egg shells. Eventually, when I was about six years old, we managed to get away from my father and started a life with just the two of us. Things seemed hopeful, but it was not long before we were bouncing from home to home because my mother struggled to make ends meet. I had no clue that all this was not normal. At that time I began to wonder why my life was so different.
My grandparents stepped in on several occasions and helped us. When my mother ended up in and out of jail, my grandparents took care of me. They began to teach me about God and took me to church every chance they could. Although my grandparents could not afford to take care of me permanently, my grandpa gave me a key to his house and told me that I was welcome any time I felt scared. I still have that key to this day.
In high school things got extremely bad. I would go days without seeing my mother. I never knew if we were going to eat or not. I got a part-time job so I could start taking care of myself. It was hard to manage because I was so focused on school and was involved in many extracurricular activities. I was stressed and worried about my future. My grandpa would always remind me that as a Christian I should not let worry consume my life. He showed me 1 Peter 5:7 and told me I needed to talk to God about what I was going through.
NO TURNING BACK
One night after I got home from work, I walked into my mom’s house. There were about six men in our tiny living room all doing drugs. I looked throughout the house for my mother, but I could not find her. I asked the men where she was. They said she was not there. They asked me to join them, and started making remarks that made me feel uncomfortable. I did not know what to do, so I ran. I took off out that front door and I ran. I did not have anything with me, but my dirty work uniform. That is how I became a homeless, independent teenager.
I was homeless for about a year and spent most nights couch hopping. I spent several nights at an aunt and uncle’s home. They had children of their own, so I hopped from friend’s house to friend’s house as well. Sometimes I stayed with my grandparents, but they already struggled to make ends meet, and I didn’t want to be a burden to them. I praise the Lord that I never had to spend a night on the street.
OVERCOMING THE WORLD
Given my background and situation at the time, I was destined for failure. But I clung to John 16:3: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (NIV). God placed people and programs in my life that encouraged me and showed me that I was meant to be so much more in life. Teachers, mentors, family, and friends supported and encouraged me along the way. A program called Upward Bound helped me get into college so I could make a better life for myself. The summer before my senior year of college, I also got married. My husband and I saved up to get our own place. In May of 2014, this first-generation, low-income, once-homeless girl defied statistics and earned a bachelor’s degree!
Through this whole process I kept a journal where I wrote my prayers. My grandfather was a great source of encouragement. When he’s asked for advice, he quotes a Scripture verse that perfectly fits your problem. He constantly reminded me to seek God during my tough times. He would tell me that he was so proud of me and that God had great things in store for me. My grandpa kept me motivated and encouraged me to seek Christ. He was an amazing spiritual mentor and I knew that I could not let him down, no matter what.
I am so thankful for God’s amazing hand of protection in my life. It is because of Him that I made it out of a broken home and am a college graduate who is happily married with a child of my own. I love to serve the Lord in my corps by teaching Teen Sunday School and Corps Cadets because I know how stressful life can be as a young person. My mom is now clean and sober, too. She is present in my life and is active in my son Michael’s life. She knows that she was not a perfect parent, but she has changed so much and loves to spend time with our family. Ultimately, I know that my story was meant to glorify God. I am living proof that God has overcome the world!
Stephanie Boykin, AOK Division, Southern Territory