I was born in the worst slum in Port au Prince, Haiti. My mother was a prostitute. That’s something I don’t have shame admitting anymore, and that’s all because of God.
My birth dad was horribly abusive. My mind has blocked a lot of those memories. When I was three, my mom dropped me and my little sister off at an orphanage, and when I was six I was adopted by an American pastor and his wife. That’s actually a miraculous story, but it would take too long to tell.
As I grew up, watching my new parents follow God step by step in ministry, I embraced their faith. But as I got older, tension with my siblings at home and with the church my dad pastored made me feel betrayed and angry. I began to question my childhood trust in God. How could Christians act this way? Why didn’t God stop them? Why wasn’t he rewarding our obedience? It threw me into years of storm and sinking.
With each difficult circumstance that life brought, I added another brick to the wall I was building against God. Even as life calmed down a little, I still carried that pain. I couldn’t take it to God because I was too mad at him; I just got better at hiding it.
So I came to DTS angry, hurt, and unwilling to be real with people about the issues I didn’t even think I had. I thought I already knew everything because I was a pastor’s kid.
But God totally smashed my wall.
God showed me that I’m his precious daughter and that he finds joy in me. It left me crying at his feet, saying, “After all the blame I put on you? I yelled at you and said I hated you! I acted like the perfect Christian when I really didn’t want anything to do with you! And you still take delight in my company?” God’s answer, of course, was “Yes!” And then he said, “This is only the beginning. I have so much more planned for you.”
I’d always wanted to go to South Africa, but when I went there with my DTS team I did not expect what God did. We were ministering in Overcome, a tough township full of crime, poverty, and addiction. I saw myself in the people of Overcome. I’ve lived what they live and I know their struggles. As I got to know them, God began bringing up memories from my childhood in Haiti, memories that I’d repressed because they were so traumatic. God brought up the buried memory of the day I huddled scared in the corner while while my birth dad beat my mom. She took his abuse, but when he came after me, she got in his way and said, “I’m done.” That’s the day she took me to the orphanage. I remembered her dropping me and my sister off, saying, “I can’t take care of you anymore, but they can. I pray you have a better life.”
As hard as it was to relive all of that, it was good for me. God helped me forgive my dad for his abuse and my mom for putting herself in that situation. And then God began to heal me of my shame. He broke the lie that I was going to end up like my mom – that if I got too close to a guy I’d make the same mistakes. He delivered me from the false mindset that if I had never been born, my dad wouldn’t have treated her so badly.
One of our last nights in Overcome we were ministering to people in the street by doing a drama and presenting the Gospel. I felt God leading me to share my testimony, including how my mom was a prostitute. I didn’t want to do it! I’d only ever told one or two people, so most of my DTS team didn’t know my story. God said, “I want to set you free from shame and feeling like you’re not good enough.” And I told him, “I trust you.”
The crowd was milling about, restless and distracted. Then it was my turn to share. “I was born in the worst slum of Port au Prince, Haiti. My mother was a prostitute.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I had their attention. And as soon as the words left my mouth, God lifted the burden of shame.
God used my past to share his love with people in South Africa. And he used sharing with people in South Africa to set me free from my past.