Throughout my childhood I faced many challenges. I didn’t feel normal. I lost my innocence pretty early on in life, coming face to face with violence, addiction, sickness and death before I turned 18. I was scared of the world and the things it threw at me, it felt like everything was against me, nothing for me. I struggled with my mental health and didn’t see a future ahead of me.
This changed when, at 15, I came to know Jesus. Discovering I had a Heavenly Father that loved me unconditionally, that protected me always, and that never left me, altered my view of the world, and myself. It made me realise my value and worth in the knowing that God created me for a purpose. He chose me.
This relationship with my Heavenly Father helped me come to terms with my own father’s death, allowing me to not fear death and feel at peace knowing my dad was destined for Heaven. Having put life on pause for 3 years, going to University was a fresh start.
Coming to university opened my eyes in so many ways. The verse Jeremiah 29:11 gave me so much courage in uncertain moments: ‘“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”’ It made me realise that God wants the best for me, like a father does for his daughter. Instead of looking back with sorrow and fear I began looking forward with a new hope and determination to praise God for all that he had done to save me and to see what it was that God had still for me.
I have always loved children. I love their innocence, their joy and their lack of fear. I especially love spending time with children whom, like me, have not had the simplest start to life. Since starting university I have felt like Jesus has been leading my heart towards those society has said “no” too. God has broken my heart for the children of this country that are forgotten about, those that have never known anyone to ever love them. Those who are just labeled “naughty” or even found scavenging for food in the bins without anyone taking the time to investigate why. Whilst God hasn’t revealed to me exactly what and where my calling will be, it’s clear that He is calling me to seek justice for those that do not have a voice that is heard. I believe that every child deserves to feel safe, experience love and have equal opportunities for education – something that currently is not fulfilled in our country.
I could be in a very different place if I was not granted the support I needed from local charities and my family. I have always felt like if I use what I have been through as a big almighty positive and a chance to disciple to a whole new generation of broken hearts, the devil cannot win. He did not break me, he did not hold me back and he can’t stop me from soaring forwards towards the plans my God has for me.
With this so firmly on my heart, when God provided me with the opportunity to begin a one year placement at a residential school for boys with additional needs who had experienced childhood trauma, I could not say no. Although it meant a big move, 12 hours from home, I knew it was one that God was dangling right under my nose for a reason! It was a new start, in a new place, in a job I knew pretty much nothing about. But God was clear in his direction and I knew I had to follow his lead.
At a similar time God gave me the word “leadership”. I never really regarded myself as a leader. I was quite happy to let bigger characters take the lead and just sit back and enjoy being in his presence. But God challenged me. I waited in the knowledge of this word and just said okay God if you say so!
Since arriving in Glasgow, wow has God shown up! Over the last 5 months God has continued to provide for me. He has blessed me with the most amazing home, housemates, friends, church, job and colleagues. He showed his incredible provision when my placement suddenly offered me a PAYED role! And He also showed me that when you are patient, those callings that He spoke over you will always come about. I was blessed with the opportunity to lead an Alpha small group, begin a monthly Girl’s breakfast and then by His incredible grace was offered the chance to become a leader in my church’s student ministry. I couldn’t believe how much God showed me what it was like to be a leader. He taught me, guided me and knew me a lot more than I new myself!
When it comes to finding and following your calling, trust in the knowledge that God knows you better than you know yourself! God uses the sinners, He uses the broken. It is often in our greatest trial that our greatest triumph grows. Don’t ever disqualify yourself for the plans God has for you – the only qualification you need for His plan is grace, and that’s so great because it’s free.
Words by Ellie-Jo O’Connell