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A year and a half ago I was given the opportunity to give my life over to Christianity. Now, I did not grow up in a Christian household; it was not routine to go to church every Sunday and youth group every Wednesday. It just was not my family. My life consisted of going to school, playing volleyball, being involved in student council, and other things at school while also trying to juggle a social life outside of school. I had dealt with a lot of anxiety and not being confident in myself.

My friend, Trinity, really wanted me to go with her to her youth group so I could meet all of her friends. I was nervous to meet them because these were people Trinity had known her whole life and, since they lived 40 minutes away, they did not go to my school. I can remember the exact day she brought me. It was March 13, 2020 right before school and the world “shut down”, it was the second semester of my sophomore year. She had asked me a couple times before I actually went and I was so scared to go, but finally she convinced me to go. After hearing all the great things Trinity had told me about it I became interested to get to know the people there. After school I went to her house then her family drove us to the building that the youth group was being held at. We drove down the two lane highway and the anticipation built up more and more as if a child was stacking up blocks as high as they could in my chest. Then we arrived, we pulled into the blacktop parking lot; I got out of their white suburban and I walked in the glass doors from outside the brown tinned building then through the double doors that led to everyone standing around a pool table and snack bar talking with each other. I was immediately overwhelmed. Through all the emotions running through my head; I was scared, nervous, anxious, and excited all at once. But I never thought that as soon as I walked through those black framed, glass doors with metal handles cold as ice, my life would change forever. Her friends, who were also high school teenagers, came and surrounded Trinity, telling her hello and hugging her— I stood there silently not knowing what to do. All of her friends were asking her who I was and telling me it was nice to meet me. The stress went away, and I felt comfortable. What I did not know at the time was that from that moment on my life would be different and that these people would become my family.

I was only able to attend very few typical youth group meetings before they became on Zoom because of quarantine in March 2020. But that did not matter to me because I knew after that second night that these were people I did not ever want to say goodbye to. I started going every week as soon as life was somewhat back to normal and I started going to church every Sunday. The way I handle situations that may be stressful or overwhelming has changed, the way I act is different, how I handle my emotions has changed, but all these changes are good changes. I have recognized the greatness of life and that life will get hard, but there is always an answer, but most importantly I have made bonds with people that I can lean on when I feel my weakest. Life is good and I know that not everyone gets to say that, but I’m blessed that here in America we have our freedom and especially freedom of religion because that has made the biggest impact on my life that I can not be more grateful for.

© Grace Valentine . All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team and we can put you in touch with the author’s teacher.