Often times, we as humans seek what we can’t find around us. We seek and hunt down a possible change for the emptiness inside our hearts to be filled with joy. What I needed the middle of my junior year was some silence where I could find myself and God, even though I didn’t fully realize my need at that time.
I attended the local high school; and through a poor choice of friends, I had become involved in a life of drugs and gang violence—completely rejecting the God I grew up with and the values my mom taught me. Even though I was still using drugs as an escape, I had tried the end of my sophomore year to disassociate myself from the gang I was involved in. Now in my junior year, my past associations were coming back to haunt me. A friend who had also tried to quit the gang was shot and in a coma, and the word on the street was that I too was on a hit list. My mom was desperate, so she pulled me out of school. But I couldn’t just stay at home and do nothing. Then one evening my mom came up to me with tears in her eyes, telling me that while she was doing the dishes God had put a strong impression in her heart to send me to Rio.
My mom had tried to get me to come to Rio since my freshman year, but I had refused. Now I was desperate, though, and Rio was my last resort. I needed to run away from the mess I had made of my life.
Through Rio, God granted me the silence I had been longing for. And it was through this silence that God spoke to me. One Wednesday evening a month after I arrived at Rio, I was depressed and feeling crushed with overwhelming guilt. Mid-week praise that week was outside at the cross in Church Park. After everyone else left, I stayed. Falling to my knees beside the cross, I cried out to God, asking him to forgive me for all the wrong I’d done, all the people I’d hurt, and all the tears my mom had shed because of my stupidity. What happened next is difficult to describe. I was just thinking about all the stuff I had done. I knew Satan was just trying to discourage me, but I still couldn’t shake my depression. Then abruptly I audibly heard the words, “I forgive you.” I looked around, thinking a faculty member was talking to me, but no one was there. At that point I started sobbing uncontrollably because I knew that God had spoken to me and had reassured me of his love. Instantly, my guilt was gone, and I knew then Satan had no power to hurt me any more. From that point on until now, I am a new person. I thank God every day for bringing me to Rio and changing my life.
Sometimes in this world infested with hate and self-indulgence, we need a place to run to, a place where God has the opportunity to touch our lives—a refuge— and Rio is my refuge.