Hi! I’m Rachel! This is my testimony. In a nutshell, when Christians want to give you their story of how Jesus found them, how they received the message of the Cross, etc., that’s called their testimony. This is mine… I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. My mom’s family is Christian, but my dad’s is not, or at least not in the way my mom’s is. My parents, together, just didn’t make church, or “faith,” a big priority, or even one at all. When I was ten, my parents divorced. I was in fifth grade when it happened; I had to go to a different bus stop halfway through the school year. Middle school started, and I was in a new district, and I only knew around 10 others who transferred there with me from my old district. I had to make new friends. I had to learn how to stand up for myself, be funny, put on make-up, and how to be socially “cool.” All these things were really hard for me, and with traveling the longest mile in between my parent’s houses in the mornings and in the evenings, my self-esteem and self worth fell to an all time low. I was in a slump of self-pity and inner-misery for almost 7 years. I think I hid it pretty well, though. I was known for my laughter and my ability to turn serious situations into laughable ones. No one suspects a depressed soul underneath a hearty laugh. My senior year, a friend invited me to her youth group. I thought, “Why not? I got nothing to lose.” (At this point, I had really bad social anxiety, so it actually scared me to death to enter this situation, but I think God gave me the push I needed.) This youth group was different. People loved each other there. People my age! They sang their hearts out during worship, and I was confused because I thought worshipping God meant standing up straight, reading/singing out of a hymnal book or off of a white PowerPoint. They took interest in me and in my passions, like writing and music. They cared about my feelings, about my depression. They wanted to introduce me to Jesus, their best friend. I had never had a friend like Jesus: one who could save me from death and listen to my heart-cries. They all would usually tell me “It’s going to be okay.” (Which never really helps, does it?) I gave my life to Jesus Christ during worship some Wednesday night in the spring of 2012, with my hands up, singing to God, “I surrender.” I felt like I was carrying every tear and every mistake I’d made on my shoulders, and my legs were soon to give out, and Jesus said, “I love you, and I want you to give it all to me. This is why I died for you.” Ever since then, I’ve still been making mistakes, but I don’t carry them around with me. God gives me grace and forgives wholly. I don’t deserve today, yet I’m still here, breathing. Right now, as a senior at UW-Stout, I serve in a local church and in Street Level Ministries. I am full of joy. P.S. A quote that has stuck with me since my first semester at Street Level in the fall of 2012 is by Tim Keller: “Religion says, "I obey, therefore I am accepted by God." The Gospel says, "I am accepted by God through Christ, therefore I obey." This is how I remember that I don’t follow a religion. I follow Jesus.