Photo credit: Allen Taylor

From Lost to Found: Transforming Hearts

My story starts out pretty normal, and you’ve probably heard stories just like this from others. As a child, I was raised in a good Christian home. I went to church on Sundays, was active in youth group and loved the Lord. I was saved when I was 11 or 12 years old, and I

by Joy Young, PA

My story starts out pretty normal, and you’ve probably heard stories just like this from others. As a child, I was raised in a good Christian home. I went to church on Sundays, was active in youth group and loved the Lord. I was saved when I was 11 or 12 years old, and I stayed involved in church until I graduated high school. When I left home to attend college, I was on my own for the first time in my life and I began struggling. I quit reading my Bible and going to church. I thought I wanted to be a pharmacist and applied to pharmacy school, but I didn’t get accepted. I had no clue what I was going to do with my life, so I moved back home. As I continued to struggle with life, I couldn’t escape the feeling of being lost. And while I developed friendships with people I shouldn’t have been around, I continued to draw further and further away from God.

I decided I was going to be a physician assistant, so I applied and was accepted into the program. I was happy to finally begin seeing some direction for my future. During this time, I also met a guy. He was a non-believer, but I was lost myself so it wasn’t that big of an issue. After dating for a few weeks, my parents invited us to church. We went to the service—for the first and only time in our relationship. That day, the preacher spoke on not being evenly yoked. It was more than 17 years ago, but I remember this sermon like it was yesterday. We had a conversation about it after the service, but we weren’t too concerned about it given that my faith and church weren’t big priorities in my life. We dated for four years and then married after I finished PA school.

It wasn’t a bad relationship, but we did have issues from the beginning. I knew it; I just chose to ignore the signs. After six years of marriage, he decided he wanted something different and left. However, we didn’t divorce immediately. I still wanted the relationship to work because I made a serious commitment and wasn’t ready to fail. I may have been lost, but I still had some faith in Jesus and knew He existed. I allowed my husband to come back into my life several times over the next four years, but we eventually divorced after 10 years of marriage. I was devastated. It was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I felt as though my life was over, my future was gone. I had just wasted 14 years of my life with nothing to show except a failed marriage and a broken heart. The pain was unbearable, and it almost killed me physically. I may have survived the physical pain, but emotionally I died. The fun loving, naïve, happy person I used to be was no more.

During this time, I seriously questioned if there was a God. How could this have happened to me? I lived my life right and was a good person. I did not deserve what happened. For the next two and a half

years, I was in an extremely dark place. I was alone, broken, bitter, angry, lost, confused. About every negative emotion you could think of applied to me. This flowed into my personal life and caused issues with every interaction I had. I was difficult to be around. I was hurting, so I felt like everyone else around me needed to hurt as well. I took on a second job and started working all the time to avoid the pain. I just existed and it was miserable.

Then in spring 2015, I met a nurse who began working at my second job. We started talking and developed a friendship over time. She is now my best friend. She started going to a new church and really liked it. She kept inviting me but I always said no. In my mind, I had given up on God and didn’t need that in my life. Then one Sunday morning, she asked me to go with her to church and I finally said yes because I wanted her to leave me alone. I was miserable, but I felt a draw to continue attending. I was under conviction for quite some time. Four months after I started attending, I finally accepted Jesus back into my life on January 1, 2016. But while I decided to follow Jesus again, I was still living for me. I was a part-time Christian, which to me meant I only lived for Jesus if it suited me. I wanted Him to help me, but I wasn’t willing to give anything up. I continued to struggle with life and what my future would hold.

Around this same time, the Lord saw fit to place a man in my life. We met at church and he came out of nowhere. I really wanted nothing to do with him because of my past heartbreak. It had been a long time since I let a man into my life, but the Lord kept opening the door, so I gradually let him be a part of my life and we developed a really enjoyable friendship. He liked to travel so many of our talks were about different places we would like to visit. It all sounded exciting to me since I had never really traveled outside of West Virginia. I applied for a passport thinking I was going to need it if this friendship turned into a relationship. Even though we talked for several months, the friendship never developed into anything more. I was struggling a lot because I couldn’t figure out why the Lord would bring this man into my life and not let something else develop. I questioned what was wrong with me, because I know I’m a good woman with a lot to offer in a marriage. At this point, I decided I had to fully surrender to God’s control and remove my wants from the picture or nothing was going to change. It was the best decision I could ever make because things really started happening in my life once I fully surrendered to Him.

I started studying Proverbs 31 because I felt I needed to become a better woman. During my studies, I realized I was lacking in my service and giving back to others. To start working on developing this part of my character, I began researching healthcare mission trips. I always wanted to go on a trip like this, but was just afraid to do it. I searched online and discovered CMDA and Global Health Outreach (GHO), one of CMDA’s short-term missions programs. They had an upcoming trip scheduled that would fit into my schedule, but I didn’t give it much more thought. A few days later, my daily devotion focused on service and missions. Then the following day a missionary came to speak at my church. I could tell God was talking to me, and I knew He wasn’t going to stop until I finally listened to His direction. The next day I decided to call the contact person for the trip. I got some details about the trip and found out my services as a physician assistant were much needed on this trip to the Dominican Republic. I prayed about it and knew I couldn’t ignore this strong calling from God, so I signed up. I couldn’t believe I was going to do it, but I knew I had to go.

Before I left for the trip I had a discussion with my mom about baptism. I always thought I had been baptized when I was younger, but she told me I had never been baptized. I decided the Dominican Republic would be the perfect place to proclaim my faith in God since it was my first mission trip, my first time out of the country and a new start for me in my walk with Christ. Surrounded by my brothers and sisters in Christ, I was baptized in the Caribbean Sea on June 25, 2016 by CMDA’s Vice President of Campus & Community Ministries Bill Reichart, MDiv, who was also our team leader on the trip. It’s a moment I will never forget.

Do you find yourself going through something similar to what I did? Are you lost and struggling and just not sure which way to go? We are reminded in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (KJV). God’s way is always best, so trusting Him is what is needed in life. If we allow Him to guide and direct us in our choices, we can never go wrong.  Surrendering and trusting Him will open your life up to endless possibilities.

My profession of faith and full surrender to God has changed my life forever. It has put me on a course I never imagined possible. Since that first trip to the Dominican Republic, I have been given the privilege to provide medical care and share the gospel on trips to Ecuador and Nicaragua. And I’m also headed to El Salvador in March 2017. I am no longer bitter, lost, alone or angry. God found me, took that all away and turned me into a loving, caring, kind individual. My heart overflows with love for others. I am no longer ashamed of my past. I don’t regret the choices I made for my life either. Everything has made me the person I am today. I love telling my story to others in hopes they may find the healing power and joy of the Lord. While the friendship that sparked this amazing adventure never developed into anything else, it opened my eyes to make me realize I have the best relationship possible. Jesus is all I need and gives me the best love ever. He is so amazing and wonderful, and I can’t thank Him enough. He has given me so much I just want to continue to serve and give back. I am truly living life because I now appreciate the power of God’s grace and unending love. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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