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.
Discover how Send Relief is harnessing the power of the gospel to influence homelessness, illiteracy and hunger and to provide medical needs.
Published October 12, 2017