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“To proclaim the year of the Lords favor, and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.”    Isaiah 61:2-3

My name is Savannah, I am 23 years old, and the oldest to three siblings. I have always learned that Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I guess you can say that I never really saw my life as something beautiful, at least not until God got a hold of me and showed me the truth. I was raised in a single parent home; and before the age of five my father was sentenced to life in prison. Around the same time in my life I was sexually abused by my step grandfather and soon realized that my innocence and purity had been stolen from me. That is where the void in my heart began to grow, turned out my mother’s love wasn’t enough; nothing seemed to be enough to fill my broken heart. And even though I was raised to believe in Jesus I soon forgot about Him and started to chase the world. Growing up I was teased and put down—I felt as though I was worthless. And by the age of 17 I found myself entering into heavy drug addiction. Although the drugs and alcohol filled my life I seemed to function fine as an addict or so I thought. My life drastically changed from normal high school activities—like playing basketball, cheerleading and singing in choir—to a slew of bad relationships, drug deals, and a heavy heroin addiction. At 21 years old, I believed that I was going to die a lonely, pathetic drug addict, overdose or worse, the truth is that I didn’t even care anymore. You see God had very clearly let me know as a child that He had a call on my life. I chose to turn my back on God and go down my own path, and that is when the burden of life became too much for me to carry. I can remember the night I cried out to God, I had no desire to live. I was in a state of desperation, filled with despair, and covered by shame, I begged God to let me die. “Take my life now or change it, fix it, do anything you want but don’t let me live like this anymore!”  That was the night I received the Holy Spirit, and decided to let God take control.

My family found a yearlong program called Teen Challenge and I entered Hannah’s House—a women’s center in Eugene Oregon—on October 3rd, 2011. That is where, for the first time, I experienced God's love. The day I walked through the doors of Teen Challenge I never looked back. God began to work in my heart; He uprooted all the garbage in my life and began to replace within me a new character, a new person, a new creation. Looking back I am overcome with gratitude and thankfulness to God for never letting me go. But…. unfortunately there was a time of mourning within my transformation period,  six months into my program I had to trust God in a completely different way, this time my mother passed away suddenly due to prolonged health issues. Again I was experiencing loss, what was the point in trying anymore? I had something different though, instead of turning back to drugs as I would have in the past I chose to let Jesus have my pain, I made a choice to trade in my life of ashes and mourning, for beauty and praise. I have never experienced God so close to me the way I did during that first week of my loss. I made that exchange in a moment of sheer weakness and He gave me the strength to return back and finish my program. I completed November 3rd, 2012. I chose to stay on and complete a year-long student internship with Teen Challenge Ministry Institute, during this time I was given the opportunity to help young women from the ages of 13-17, at the Teen Challenge Boise Girls Academy.  I am so thankful that the Lord brought me to Boise to work with these amazing young women.

During my TCMI Student Internship here in Boise, I have learned the true meaning of humility and what it means to really lay down your life for another. I have been blown away by the strength in these young women, they inspire me to make a difference in the lives of others, and they have given me the opportunity to see my own heart. I had fear of failure at first but now I am proud to say that I graduate my TCMI Student Internship officially October 31st, 2013. Not only has being obedient to the Lord blessed me beyond measure but God has been so faithful in allowing me to get accepted to New Hope Christian College in Eugene Oregon. God instilled within me a passion for music and compassion towards other people. I start school this spring, and hope to stay on as part time staff within the ranks of Teen Challenge. I do not know exactly what God plans on doing with my life, but I do know that this is only the beginning to my future, He has made many promises and I can hold onto this, “He who began a Good work in you will carry it on to completion until the Day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 I can now see God’s the beauty in my life, and I think it is time to encourage others to do the same.