I was the child of a teenage mother who said, "You're a mistake." My dad wasn't around. Growing up, I lived with my grandparents.
The year I turned 17, my grandmother died of lung cancer. I asked God, "How could you do this?"
I became distant. I was angry with God and didn't want to know Him. I decided I could do life on my own.
My first year of college, I got involved with people who drank, and so I did, too.
One night, I missed dinner in the cafeteria and saw a sign for free pizza at a Campus Crusade for Christ meeting. My curiosity and growling stomach told me to go, so I wandered in.
As I munched on pizza, an announcement was made about a spring break trip called Big Break in Panama City Beach, Fla. I decided I wanted to go because 75-degree weather sounded better than 50 degrees in North Carolina.
At Big Break, I immediately noticed people were different. The students had joy. They talked about how Christ is the One who gave them life, and nothing could take that away.
Growing up in church, I had been taught how to pray. So, I prayed God would show me how to get the joy I was seeing all around me.
The next morning, I met Heather, a student I had become friends with, for a walk on the beach. As we walked, I told her my story. I was crying.
She asked me, "If you were to die tonight, what would happen?"
I thought, Well, I'm a pretty decent person. I haven't stolen, I'm nice and haven't broken any major laws. So I guess I'll go to heaven.
But to my astonishment, I replied, "I'm going to hell."
Heather explained how Jesus lived a perfect life that I could never live. On the cross, Jesus willingly died a death I deserved but took my place so that I could accept His gift of forgiveness.
As my tears dripped onto the hot sand, I asked God to take control of my life.
Beginning a relationship with Christ is like learning how to walk again. There have been many challenges but I believe God has helped incubate my faith. I've learned how to forgive and how to not harbor bitterness toward my family.
God is showing me I'm stronger because He lives within me. I can walk in faith knowing I'm not doing it in my own strength.
Nikki lives in Charlotte, N.C. She works for the American Red Cross as a lab technologist in the Nucleic Acid Testing Lab. Nikki loves being around friends and the families from her church. She enjoys working with children and teaching the 4-to-6-year-old Bible class on Sunday mornings.
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