Eighteen-year-old Katelyn is reaching a goal. Only weeks ago, she and her cottage father Tim Johnson loaded her things in the cottage van and drove to Mars Hill University in Madison County to move Katelyn into her dorm.
“Going to college is important,” Katelyn says. “I finished high school, but I wanted more. My parents didn’t have the education to get a good job. It’s going to be different for me. I’m planning on getting a nursing degree.”
Katelyn’s mom and stepfather struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. She says they were “super bad on drugs.”
“Mom was so messed up that she would forget she had kids,” Katelyn remembers. “She left us alone one time for three days because she forgot about us. She had a lot of problems.”
Katelyn doesn’t remember being afraid, but in the chaos of her home life there was hardship and days when she and her younger sister did not have food to eat. She says she didn’t realize until she came to Broyhill Home in Clyde a little more than two yeas ago that she was malnourished: “I was so skinny then.”
Katelyn grew up being constantly bullied. Her family moved often. The parents’ money would run out and there would be no money for rent. “I was always starting a new school. It was normal to me, but I knew my life was different from the other kids’ lives. They knew it, too, and they made fun of me.”
As a teen, Katelyn’s world crashed in on her. The pain of a life lived on the edge of her parents’ addictions became overwhelming and she turned away from the real world, turning inside herself. Instead, she began living in a world of self-harm –– hurting herself to lesson the inner pain she suffered.
“Things seemed to only get worse and I began using drugs,” she confesses. “I never wanted to, but they numbed me inside and I wouldn’t cut myself.”
Despite the ups and downs, Katelyn and her stepfather were close. He was the only father she had ever known and she was a “daddy’s girl.” His drug-related death broke her heart. She says, “He developed an infection from a bad needle. The infection was horrible, damaging his heart –– it was like eating it away. After a second surgery to stop the infection, he died.”
It was almost unbearable. The daze Katelyn lived in wouldn’t lift until she came to Broyhill Home.
“It took me a while to find my way,” she says. “It hit me one day that everyone around me was trying to help me. I had never experienced that before. I recall thinking, ‘They really care about me.’ I realized that they loved me.”
Katelyn began to enjoy life like other teens. She no longer had to take care of her sister. She focused on her school work and became friends with the other children on campus. But the biggest change in her life came just a few months after Katelyn arrived: “I got saved!”
“I watched my cottage parents,” she says.
“I began to see in them something that I didn’t have and I realized I needed it – I needed God.”
Katelyn attended a Christian youth meeting. There was singing and a speaker. The speaker talked about life being turned upside down and tumultuous without God. He told the youth that Jesus could be the “anchor” in their life. When the altar call was given, Katelyn stepped forward. She went up front and kneeled.
“I love the verse Hebrews 6:19: ‘We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure,’” Katelyn recites. “That night I surrendered. I knew Jesus could save me. I realized that night just how big it was –– what Jesus did for me. That night my life connected with Jesus.”
Katelyn is willing to share her story with others. She tells people about her past, but she also tells them about how her life has changed. “God doesn’t want people to suffer like I did,” she says. “That’s not who He is. God has given me a loving, stable environment where people love me. I now have ‘hope and a future.’”
Katelyn hasn’t cut herself in two years. Her mother is off drugs and “is clean” and lives near her parents. Katelyn visits with her often.
“Mom has come a long way,” Katelyn says. “She is attending church. Things are better.”
Katelyn has found the “key to life.” She says it is God. All the love and acceptance one looks for is found in God. “It all begins with Him.”
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