Yes, He Loves Me

By Fanny Pena

I used to think of myself as a stereotype. I was a Mexican, poverty-level single mom. For years, I was what society said I’d become.

But that’s not my identity anymore.

My mom—a single mom herself—brought me to the United States illegally when I was just 4 years old. Life was hard. She was a migrant worker. We had little money. A few years after we arrived, my brother came to live with us. He started physically, emotionally and sexually abusing me. When I was 12 years old, I finally stood up to him and told others about my abuse. He was sentenced to prison. I was sentenced to a lifetime of remembering what he did to me.

When I was 16 years old, I got pregnant. I wanted my beautiful baby girl to have a different life than I had. My mom always had to work two or three jobs to support us. That meant I was alone quite a bit, even on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I didn’t want my daughter’s story to repeat mine.

But I built walls. I never shared my story. I didn’t let anyone in. I had a wall around my heart. I was broken, and that was just the way it was.

One day at school, a girl named Lori invited me to a Christian youth event. When I got there, I looked around and realized no one looked like me. It was a bunch of middle-class white girls. I thought I was their charity case.

Lori told me that night, for the first time, about the love of Jesus. But I didn’t buy it. No one loves you that much. I was sure of that. And certainly no one would love me that much.

At age 19, I got pregnant again. People told me I’d never graduate high school, but I did. My kids walked with me to get my diploma!

Not long after that, I heard about Jonathan Housing, a ministry to single moms, youth aging out from the foster-care system and adults graduating from a nearby recovery program and shelter, started by Bill and Penny Roullier.

I also started attending Denslowe Community Church, which Bill pastors. I learned a lot about God. I began to see that what Lori had told me about God years earlier was true.

He really did love me.

That realization changed my life. I committed my life to following Jesus. I now feel like I can make a difference in the lives of other people—starting with my kids. With Jesus’ help, they’ll have a different life than I did.

I’m also opening my home to another young lady who was walking down the same path I walked. I’m looking forward to helping her see what Jesus can do in her life.

I’m still a single mom who works full-time. Following Jesus didn’t make life easy, but it guaranteed that I can face every struggle with Him by my side.

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Published October 12, 2017