I was a freshman majoring in Spanish, so a year in Mexico seemed to be the perfect place to go for an exchange year: Hispanic men, no drinking age, lots of dancing, and oh yeah – I might learn a little Spanish in the process.
I had been a Christian my whole life. I do not remember ever NOT knowing God. I have heard His voice and felt His presence since I was eight years old. But when I got to college, I got a little too much freedom a little too fast. I won’t go into details, but I will say I made some rather dumb decisions.
Mexico seemed like a place where I could REALLY have fun. My parents agreed to let me go, as long as I lived with a family from our prayer group. I was ecstatic.
But little did I know that I got tricked.
Three weeks before I was scheduled to go, some friends came back from a mission trip. They told me about how different the Mexico branch was, and how they were much stricter than in the USA. No dating, no drinking, no clubbing – even in college.
My bubble was burst. But by that time I had told EVERYONE I was going, it was too late to sign up for classes, and worse of all, I had no housing, so if I did not go, I would have had to live at home.
The first 6 weeks I was miserable. I bought beer and would drink it alone in my room at night, I would smoke on the roof when the family was gone. I normally did not cry, but there I would cry every Friday and Saturday night, I wanted to be out dancing and partying.
One Friday night I decided to go to youth group. It was a three hour prayer service. Not my cup of tea. But afterwards they hung out, and that was worth enduring the service. Anyways, it was better than staying home and watching “Las Munquitas” with the kids (grown women dressed like dolls – just kill me now).
As I was walking to the bus stop, a man passed me in his car, he was blasting dance music. Immediately I started thinking about what I could be doing if I was back home. Out with my friends, dancing, drinking, smoking. But then I started thinking, yeah I could be drinking, but I would be out of control of my actions. I would define my worth by how many guys asked me to dance that night. Then there were the memories of that night, that awful night, where I was dancing with my hands raised. That is when I heard a forgotten voice inside me say “WHO are you praising with your hands lifted up?”
It was as if scales fell out of my eyes. That was not freedom. That was slavery disguised as freedom.
I do not remember the rest of my journey to church, but I know that when I got there it was because I WANTED to be there.
I spent the rest of that year getting my life back in order, being strengthened. Studying the Bible. Praying. Forgiving myself. Forgiving others.
When I got home, I was changed. It was the start of a new life, one where I followed God because it was MY faith, and not just the faith of my fathers.
It’s been almost 20 years, and I have never looked back.
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More information about my prayer group in Mexico (in Spanish). http://www.jesed.net/