In 2011, Maria* entered the Hope Program as a seventeen-year old. In July of 2017, she graduated from nursing school as a young woman confident in her abilities. Recently, we sat down with her as she shared what she hopes for and how she believes the Lord has never left her.
How would you describe yourself entering the Hope Program versus now?
I was really insecure in the beginning. I cared about what others thought of me – I was concerned with being liked. Throughout my time I made plenty of mistakes, but when I saw people still loved me, I realized I couldn’t earn people’s love by what I did or did not do. This changed me.
So you are graduating. How do you feel about completing this part of your story?
(laughs) I honestly can’t believe I’m graduating and everything is falling into place – I know it was God who got me to this point; I am still thinking through what is next for me, but I know whatever it is, God will carry me on to the next thing. I don’t think I’ll be able to fully know how I feel about graduation, until I am actually walking across the stage. I just can’t believe it’s here.
How did you overcome moments when you wanted to give up?
There was a time I felt I constantly had battles in my mind, because of poor choices I was making. But I had to remind myself I don’t battle with people – I battle in the spiritual realm. I told myself it is more important to focus on developing my spiritual life than controlling my behavior. So anytime I found myself thinking I couldn’t do it anymore, I would seek refuge in God. I trusted Him and He picked me up, giving me the strength to keep going.
What would you say to current Hope Program students?
I would tell them to seek God, but specifically to seek His promises. I would encourage them to put their lives completely in God’s hands – not to think they have to be perfect and then God will do what they want. Instead to believe, ‘God loves me, the simple fact He loves me means He will fulfill His promises in my life.’ In my own life, one promise He is restoring, is relationship with my parents. I went 18 years without seeing my father. I have been praying for a long time to share God with him. A year ago, my dad reached out to me via Facebook and shared he had gotten a hold of his addictions, and was in relationship with the Lord. I had always imagined I would be in a hospital, sharing God with my dad, begging him to accept Him into his life. When I read the message, I couldn’t do much more than sit there with my mouth hanging open. This is just one of many ways God is fulfilling promises over my life. I would share this with Hope students and tell them to hang on and allow Him access to their hopes and dreams.
You’ll turn 23 soon. How do you see yourself at 24?
Twenty-four-year-old Maria will be learning more in school – I’d like to go into a specialty. I am in a time of my life where God is taking a lot away – there have been things, relationships, that have held me back and kept me from growing with God. He’s removing those obstacles, and I feel confident this next year will be good. I will be more mature and will have grown a lot.
Fifteen years from now, what does an almost 40-year old Maria look like? What is life like for her?
I see a big clinic with a little church next to it. A lot of sick people will come who need help and I, along with a big team of people, will take care of them and then we will go to the church next door so we can share God with them. I would also like to have a family who also serves God right alongside me.
On July 10th, dressed in a black cap and gown, Maria* crossed the stage and accepted her college diploma. Maria has learned to keep God at the front of each of her days and every decision she makes. A short documentary, 1/163,000,000, was made highlighting Maria’s story. At the end she said, “. . . if [sons and daughters of God] decide to follow Him, He will do greater things – I know I don’t deserve it and I understand it is not because of me, it is only because of His love.” We will all be watching these greater things unfold in her life, grateful for a God who redeems.