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To the Girls

April 15, 2024

It’s a chilly Monday morning. My hands cradle the coffee cup as I try to calm my nerves. I’ve repeated this process dozens of times, yet I can’t stop the pounding in my heart when the alarm goes off at precisely 9:30 am. It is time to go to jail.
My name is Amber, and this is my testimony. In the last thirteen years, God has taken me on an incredible journey, and it would be remiss of me not to share it with you. This one is for the girls. If you are finishing up high school or feel immobilized and are waiting for the next step in your life, I want to encourage you as you begin the next chapter.
Let’s start at the beginning.
It was 2011, and I was seventeen years old. It was graduation year for me. Like any proper homeschooler, I grew up conservative, where there was a particular mindset for young women and girls to be running a household and raising a family by the time we reached our twenties. Well, that wasn’t the case for me.
I grew up in the country and learned to work hard and diligently alongside my family. I am so thankful for the knowledge I’ve acquired from them, but, as time marched on, I was no longer satisfied waiting at home. Please don’t misunderstand—my family is amazing. I could go on all day about how awesome they are and how much I enjoy them. But, that would be my parents’ life. I needed my life to start. I needed to graduate.
With my future looking a little different than I expected, I shared with my parents the restless and unexplainable urge I possessed to do . . . something with my life. I wanted it to be something meaningful that would impact not only me, but others as well.
Then Costa Rica happened. I wasn’t planning for it, wasn’t even looking for it. But I was looking for something, and God provided. A family friend from long ago contacted my older sister and me to see if we would be interested in joining them on a week-long mission trip to Costa Rica. I was beyond thrilled; it was an answer to prayer and to the unshakable voice that wouldn’t let me go. I had already done extensive traveling, and my passport was ready for another stamp. I didn’t yet know that it wasn’t going to be the stamp or the gorgeous countryside that was going to change my life.
That week in Costa Rica was indescribable, so I won’t bother with details. I will tell you that my brief experience there taught me more about Jesus and his love than anything else ever had. The time flew by too quickly, and I found myself leaving reluctantly. I told the woman who operated the home to give me a call if she ever needed more help. But at the time there wasn’t a need, and that just about broke my heart.
I returned home and went about life again, including back to my job as a substitute teacher. But the yearning I felt had only grown stronger, and I needed a change. I just didn’t know where to go. I had no clear direction, no plan, just a feeling that wouldn’t go away. And then, as he always does, God provided. I received a call, and man was I thrilled to see that the caller ID was a Costa Rican number! The woman on the other end asked if I was ready to come back, this time staying for the summer.
I’m sure you can guess my response. I told my parents about the call and all they said was “When do you leave?” The answer? Two weeks. I halted my teaching position and happily put all my savings toward a ticket that would carry me to where I would spend the next three months of my life.
My time in Costa Rica was not something that could be considered good by normal standards. The days were long, making more rice than I cared to see in a lifetime and exhausting my social battery with needy people. There were late nights cleaning the kitchen after the kids went to bed. Cold showers and earthquakes. And then there were the times when I sat in my room at night and cried, trying to process what the children confided in me and what they had gone through.
But God doesn’t have normal standards. When I felt at my lowest, he comforted me. When I couldn’t go any further, he carried me. When I couldn’t find the words, he spoke through me. I learned things there—in my weakness, in my uncertainty—that I could never have learned at home. It was hard.
And it was good.
I ended up going to Costa Rica two summers, and while I can’t share every lesson I learned there, I can share one: God never wanted me to be comfortable. Because if I were comfortable, I wouldn’t have gone to Costa Rica, and I wouldn’t understand the depth and the power and the beauty of Jesus and his love to the degree that I do now. And I probably wouldn’t have received a phone call from Debi Pearl, asking me to come work full-time at NGJ.
And I certainly wouldn’t be on my way to jail.
Yes, we’re back to that now. It is present day, and I’m anxious. I drive until I make the final turn into the Perry County Jail and go through the familiar process: park, sign in at the door, make small talk with the secretary, try in vain to quiet my nerves. I approach the looming security doors and pray earnestly to God to soften the hearts of the women inside. I ask him to calm my heart, give me the words I should say, and shut my mouth so I don’t say something I shouldn’t. You see, I’m here on a mission: to share Christ with anyone who will listen.
I go through the final door, heart thudding as it clangs shuts behind me, leaving me alone inside. I continue praying as I move about the room, setting up, getting my Bible, and waiting. The women begin to file in and, of course, there are nearly twice as many as usual. The CO locks the door behind them, leaving me with a room full of women waiting to hear what I have been preparing throughout the week to share with them. If you know me at all, you know I’m not the kind of person to lead even two people in a conversation, let alone spend an hour sharing the Word with almost ten.
I take a deep breath, open us up in prayer, and start the review of last week’s lesson. We are going through Romans right now, and everyone knows the first two chapters are a little rough to get through. Just as God intended, they let you know soundly and thoroughly that you are a sinner and worthy of hell. But, as we begin to read through it, my hands shake with excitement!
“But now . . .” we read in Romans 3:21 “. . . the righteousness of God without the law is manifested . . .” This is shouting material! As I lead the girls through this miraculous gift that the Almighty has given us, I realize that I don’t feel scared and unworthy anymore. My body vibrates with excitement as I share Jesus and his blood!
My encouragement to you is this: fill life with growing experience. Pursue something challenging and meaningful and come away more confident and closer to God because of it. Take advantage of whatever amount of time you have as a single woman and learn to love life and live it. God gave us this life and I fully believe he wants us to thrive in it, not just exist, waiting for something that may never happen.
Seek the Lord for guidance. You will find a lot of things that don’t work. Keep trying! We spend our lives anticipating the big moments, not realizing we measure our lives by the inconsequential ones—waiting to finish school, waiting for a husband, waiting for babies, waiting for them to grow. As you wait in those moments, fill that time with something meaningful. Grow, touch people’s lives, make an impact for God’s Kingdom.
God has a plan for your life, and it won’t look the same as others’. Following Jesus has been the most incredible journey, and I wouldn’t be able to do the things I do if it weren’t for taking that first step. Jesus wants us to wait on him, this is true. But he also wants us to seek him.
Girls, we all start somewhere. But are we going somewhere? Whether you are just finishing high school, in the beginning stages of dating, or you are still waiting for your life to start and don’t have a clue, don’t waste the time you have now.
Spend it wisely.

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