Written by: Emily Doolin
I grew up in a Christian home surrounded by incredible Christian influences. My parents, grandparents, and other relatives taught me the importance of loving and serving Christ at an early age, but I was never really "on fire" for the Lord until I started college at the University of Kentucky.
During my junior year of college, I was blessed with the opportunity to study abroad for a full semester in Spain. While I was there, I lived with a family and roommate who did not place much emphasis on religion. I was cut off from my church family and my biological family and was living in a culture in which God is not important. I found myself surrounded by glorious, old, European churches with no one in them.
The Europe that I had come to know and love seemed to be spiritually dead. Before I knew it, I went through several extremely difficult situations abroad that completely tore me down emotionally, spiritually, and physically. Some of the people I was closest to in life broke my heart and betrayed my trust while I was 4,000 miles away. I found myself alone with my mind clouded by the darkness of my circumstances and without any spiritual support to help me get back on track.
In my suffering, I made some horrible choices. On top of those choices, I started giving up on God— buying into the lie that He isn’t real. I observed all of my Spanish friends living without Him and thriving. Satan had convinced me that they were right and that I could live without Him too.
When I returned to the States and the University of Kentucky, I was met with the realization that I had previously signed up to be a student leader at Christian Student Fellowship. Honestly, I thought long and hard about backing out of my commitment because of the new mindset I had brought home with me from Spain. But for whatever reason, I decided to do leadership anyway.
Upon accepting the leadership position at CSF, I was automatically placed into a Bible study and accountability group of girls called Core Group. My core group leader forced me each and every week to tell the other girls the 3 S’s – Spirit, Struggle, and Serve. I had to talk about my weaknesses, how I had seen the Lord work in my life during the week, and how I had tried to serve Him during the past 6 days. My core group leader Katie pushed me to truly see how the Lord was moving in my life. Much to my surprise… He was. I could clearly see each week how He was weaving together pieces of my story.
In June 2013, I was given the chance to go to San Pedro Sula, Honduras with Sparrow Missions to take the love and mercy I had found in Jesus to the people who live down there. The experience totally changed my life. If there was ever any doubt that God is real, that one week in Honduras eliminated any and every trace of it. The Lord pressed Honduras on my heart so much that I returned to San Pedro Sula just two months later in August 2013. He blessed me with the ability to share my testimony on that trip and the pain I experienced in Spain with women in poor villages and young girls left in neglected, government - run orphanages in their native language.
I experienced some heartbreaking things in Spain, but I learned Spanish fluently through it all. In Honduras, I was able to see God take my hurt and my Spanish and use them for His glory to help others find the same acceptance I’ve found in Him. Now I teach Spanish in Anderson County public schools. I use Spanish -- a skill I learned during difficult struggles and pain abroad -- to be a missionary to students in my classroom every day. The Lord is still using the hurt that I experienced and skills I learned through it for His glory -- because that's what He does best. He redeems.
CSF and Honduras challenged me to grow deeper in my faith, to watch for how He is working—because He is constantly and actively working—and to share the love and gift I’ve been given with others. I thank God for their influence in my life, and I thank the Lord for continually loving me and using me even when I fail.
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