Graduation Testimony

This weekend we had the privilege of celebrating the graduation of one of our wonderful young ladies from our program! The graduation ceremony was truly a beautiful time of worship and praise to our Savior for rescuing and changing lives. Check out some of the testimony graduate Julia shared with us!

I grew up as a missionary kid, and at the age of 4 I prayed a prayer for Jesus to come into my life because I didn’t want to go to hell. I knew I was supposed to be good, read my bible, and go to church. But it was just rules to follow…it was the missionary life style. I
never understood how it was all about a love relationship with God. 

By the time I was 4 years old my little girl dreams were already being shattered. This marked several years of being sexually abused. I was so terrified and hurt. I didn’t know how to make sense of things. I wanted so badly to be safe, to feel safe, but all I felt was
extreme fear and panic. I felt used, nasty, tainted, ugly, worthless, dirty, like an idiot and a piece of garbage that could never be used again…I was ruined. I couldn’t live with these conclusions so I did the only thing I knew how to do…I became an actress. I convinced myself I wasn’t the same little girl that all those horrible and nasty things were happening to. I put a pretty little smile on my face and I completely blocked it from my brain without even knowing that’s what I was doing. This set the stage for my whole life in the acting
career, although my acting didn’t change who I was at the very core of who God designed me to be. It didn’t change that I craved the idol of safety or any of my fears. I just had to work harder at disguising them with other things. I had major fears of letting people who were supposed to protect me get too close and start to see the real Julia. I couldn’t let people see the real me… I couldn’t even let myself see that.

One of the ways I didn’t let myself see the real Julia was that I created worlds and rooms inside my head where I would go to escape my reality. They were worlds that were clean, perfect, peaceful and pretty. It wasn’t hard for my mind to go to these places when things were really hard, when I couldn’t handle things, or when things where just not how I
wanted them to be. This began an enslaving addiction of never thinking. I literally never thought or processed anything; partly because I didn’t know how and partly because it scared me tremendously. While not thinking worked for a while, situations happen and hard times still came that I didn’t know how to handle. I needed other things to help me live. I couldn’t do it on my own.

Around the age of 10 I figured out another way to cope with life. We came back to America on medical evacuation because my dad got deathly sick with typhoid and another disease. I wanted to fit into the American culture so badly, to be pretty and feel accepted, so I
started to make sure I wasn’t eating much. That didn’t last for very long until I swung over to the other side where I ate all I wanted and however much I wanted! I remember certain times people commenting on how much food I ate and how I was getting fat. Then I started restricting and over excising by running. This lasted for a few years, and I knew one thing…I couldn’t let myself gain weight! I needed to be in control of this part of my life when everything else seemed so chaotic. I didn’t know how to handle anything!

Also when I was about 12 or 13 I found yet another thing to help me survive. I would cut or hurt myself to make the pain go away. It seemed like magic! It worked so well…or so I thought. The next 8 or more years I was trapped in the addicting cycle of restricting,
exercising, binging and purging over and over. We left America to go back to the mission field when I was 16, and I felt so alone and afraid. I had JUST started to feel like I was making friends and starting to adjust to the American culture and now I was being torn away once again! Everything was out of my control. I had to deal with things…the only way I knew how. Anytime it was a stressful time in my life my eating addictions and cutting would get worse.

I started to adjust back into our former culture and convinced myself it would be okay and I could handle the changes. Missionary kids are supposed to be able to adapt to change easily, right? Well due to some mission problems it was only about 8 months till we were leaving again. I didn’t understand why this would happen. I felt like God was trying to
see just how much I could handle before I would break. All my life I felt like every time I started to adjust to things I would get ripped from that place to somewhere else. I didn’t want to have to start ALL over another time. The summer that followed and the first few months into my senior year of high school were all HORRIBLE. I wanted to have a reason to live. I wanted to feel loved and valued. I wanted to be listened to, and my eating disorder played that role at the time. Cutting became my drug, and I used it for almost any
reason you can think of.

Going to college I was really excited to be on my own and making more of my decisions but I also felt very alone and lost in a big world. My eating struggles and cutting were still horrible. My life was meaningless and I was fighting suicidal thoughts constantly. I tried
to make my life have meaning by controlling my food and weight but it didn’t give me the meaning and worth that I had hoped for. I didn’t know how to handle feelings of hopelessness in my life, so I turned to my sinful tools. I had been struggling with suicidal ideations since my junior year of high school. I was done. I just wanted to die. I didn’t want to live anymore. I was overwhelmed and VERY alone. My fear came true. There was no one and no one cared.

Thoughts of killing myself flooded my mind! One night while I was still in high school I came so close to that decision – the pills were in my hand and I was ready to take all of them – but for some reason instead I put them back into the bottle. I couldn’t hurt people
in my life by doing that to myself even though I hated life SO much! My only choice was to run to other things…other tools…paint a pretty little smile on my face, what I had always done….and become an even better actress. Telling everyone I was just fine and that I loved life. No one really knew I was daydreaming and fantasying over killing myself every single day. Cutting became the way I handled these thoughts and I used it to help convince myself I wasn’t crazy.

When I was in college in November 2009 I was majorly struggling with suicidal thoughts again. I thought about killing myself ALL THE TIME! Those kinds of thoughts literally consumed my mind day and night! They controlled me. I started to have reoccurring nightmares that later turned into flashbacks of the sexual abuse from when I little and some other times when I was a teenager. I would wake up from them screaming, crying or in a panic. I didn’t understand what was happening to my body. I desperately HATED
my life! I covered all this up for months by trying thing after thing after thing to make the thoughts and the lies go away and to find meaning to my worthless life…but nothing, absolutely nothing, worked! I would cry hysterically for hours upon hours for no real reason that I could name. I was sure I was going insane.

Everything came crashing down on Wednesday April 21 2010. I had a horrible night the night before and was going to commit suicide that evening but was pushed by some friends that said it really was going to be okay…then when I woke up the morning of April 21st I realized NOTHING had changed. So I wrote my good bye notes, took handfuls and handfuls of pills, climbed back into my bed and awaited my death. Everything went black
and I passed out. My boyfriend at the time had come just in time to take me to the ER. I woke up throwing up over and over – they were pumping my stomach. I was in a hospital bed in the ER and had IV’s all in arms. I stayed in the hospital a few days and then in the psych ward, finally getting discharged a week or so later. My only goal became to make everyone think I was perfectly fine. I was scrambling to find meaning for me to live. At times I still felt suicidal and hopeless, but I kept that all to myself. I discovered that change
helped me not to think about life but to focus on what was happening right at the moment and the exciting things I was doing. I changed where I was living three times, finished my semester of college, quit my job, got hired by two other jobs but didn’t end of taking them, moved states, switched churches, broke up with the guy I was dating, started teaching my cousins’ 1st and 3rd grade, joined a missionary board and moved countries all within 5 months. The more things I had to do the less my thoughts consumed me. My plan was working perfectly. I started to think I was really okay. My addictions weren’t really
addictions…I didn’t know what people were talking about. God allowed me to go back out to the mission field for what I thought would be 10 months. In November of that year things started to slowly fall apart once again. I started having nightmares more often, panic attacks and went head first back into my addictions. I left the country in January 2011. I started wanting death once more. I found out that my dad was pursuing a divorce and my family was rapidly being destroyed right in front of my eyes. My mom also found out that she had an aggressive stage of breast cancer around the same time. I didn’t know how to handle life at all and I was afraid I was going to get how I had been back
earlier that year – INSANE. Suicidal thoughts consumed my life yet again! My situation went from bad to horrible and ALL I wanted was to die.

I came to Vision of Hope with these thoughts still consuming me. I came up with plans of different ways I would kill myself but I really wanted God to just make me die by His own doing. EVERY night I would lay in bed at VOH and beg God to please just please kill me! And yet every morning I’d wake up with the realization that I was STILL breathing
and I was STILL alive.  I wrote my goodbye letter again and planned to take my life. I knew this time when I did this it wouldn’t just be an attempt at killing myself…I would MAKE SURE it worked.

The night that I had planned to do this I ended up being in a whole suite alone, so it would have been really easy to carry out my plans. But God’s plans are much bigger than mine. I cried and screamed kicking my hands and feet while laying on the floor of my bedroom like a little girl. I had panic attack after panic attack most of that evening. God
wasn’t about to let me take my own life. I didn’t know God as my Lord and Savior then but He definitely had plans for me that were far greater than mine.

Coming to Vision of Hope some of my views of God were that He was mean and wanted to see how much pain I could handle before I would break and that I had to do things for His love. The first 5 weeks I was there everything I thought I had grown up knowing got shattered to pieces. I didn’t know who God was…Their God wasn’t the God I knew all my
life. On July 7, 2011 after much searching, asking questions and reading the Bible I decided that I wanted to know the one true God. I wanted to become His slave for life. All my life I viewed myself as ruined so in my head it didn’t matter what else happened to me or what I did. I didn’t understand God’s point in suffering. I know now that my suffering is a chance to let my life scream there is a God and He is good. When people watch how I handle suffering they will ask how can you do it? And I’ll get the opportunity to share with them the God that I love. Suffering lets me look more like my Savior every day. And I think it’s a privilege to be able to cry out to my Abba to know Him more.

In the summer of last year there came to a point where Jocelyn told me I had one week to decide if the program they were offering was really what I wanted. If my answer was yes then I had to be willing to talk about and work through really hard topics that I had been
unwilling to talk about up until that point. That week was a horrible week but God got my attention. I walked into counseling the next week and my answer was yes I’m willing to work hard and do what you guys are asking of me. I want to love Jesus more and this is what He’s asking. We started to see how much I didn’t think about things and didn’t even know how to think or process things. I remember one counseling session I was sitting in
the chairs in Jocelyn’s office and her looking at me telling me that my life
was proof that the Bible was true. Romans 1 says:

“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies
among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”

I had given myself over to simple and foolish thinking for my whole life and now I was receiving the consequences that I had asked for. It started to hit me….my life was proof that the bible was true, but I didn’t want it to be the negative example. Learning what God says about how I should process and think about things has been a long journey for sure, one that I am still on. It was extremely difficult and terrifying in the beginning. I didn’t understand how to do it but with much
help, prayer and practice I’m slowly learning how to become a hard thinker. I’m learning to value what God values.

Another major area that God has proven Himself faithful to me in is relationships. I never knew what real relationships were. I was terrified of having them. Before I was fake and never able to go deep in my relationships but now I am learning how to be real and
vulnerable with others. God has and is still continuing to change my views of guys. When I came to Vision of Hope I had decided that I wanted nothing more to do with guys…they had screwed up my life so many times that I was done trying with them. Since being here it’s been awesome to see some really godly man even if that was watching them from a distance. God is showing me that He created men just like He has created me….to honor and love Him. He’s completely changed my heart! Like it says in Ezekiel 36:26 – 27 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you and cause
you to walk in my statuettes and you will be careful to observe my ordinances.” God is doing what He promises to do. He has taken my heart of stone and has given me a heart of flesh!

Like the psalmist said “You are good and do only good”. My God is a good God. He is constantly still teaching me to rely on Him for my strength.  I need to cry out to Him when this life is too much for me. My weaknesses are opportunities He is giving me to
tell others who I trust. I have wrestled with the questions like “God, why would You allow horrible abuse happen to a little innocent girl?” “Why would You let my family crumble apart?” “Why would You have me struggle with life dominating addictions?” And so on…but my answer’s always come back to….I serve a good God! He has my best interest at heart and will bring me flat on my face looking up to Him. Looking back on what all God has taught me because of the things He’s ordained in my life to happen….I can honestly say I would do it all over again if that’s what He wants for me to be able to love Him more with all my heart, mind, body and soul. I am His and He decides the plans for my
life.

I never really realized after all these years that I was putting my hope in the cleansing power of my own blood when in reality I found it was all in the cleansing power of Jesus’s blood which had already been sacrificed for me.

Not all of my questions have been answered but I can see how God has used the circumstances in my life to convince me of my desperate need for Him! I cannot wait to see what God has planned for my life! All I want is for my life scream that I serve a good, loving and trustworthy God!

Bethany DunnBethany Dunn
Bethany heard about Vision of Hope while attending Word of Life Bible Institute in Florida. When she began praying about what God wanted her to do after graduating, He kept bringing Vision of Hope to her mind. Knowing that there was an internship available, Bethany applied, was accepted, and began her internship with VOH in July, 2012. Since then she has been amazed at the opportunities God has given her to learn more about His Word and how it applies to everyday life. Bethany now serves on staff at Vision of Hope.
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