"I've learned who I am in Christ: I am not defined by my past. I am loved and saved by God...My life has gone from being a life full of lies and darkness to a life full of the love of Jesus Christ."

~Katie, Girls' Home Resident

Aiyanna's Story

AiyannaI was born in Brooklyn, New York. My birth mother was a crack cocaine addict and I was born as a result of a drug deal. I was placed in foster care shortly after I was born, as a result of child negligence. When I was around 2, my grandmother came to relieve me from the Foster Care system and took me into her home as though I was her very own daughter.

​I lived with my grandmother for about eight years. Around the age of seven, the reality of me not knowing who my birth parents were hit me, and it hit me pretty hard. I hated not knowing who they were, not to mention where they were and for the longest time it felt as though I was the only one. It felt as if part of me was missing. My grandmother began to drink when I was probably nine years old. For what reason, I still wonder, but the thought of her being an alcoholic didn't even cross my mind until years later. I thought it was normal to drink. At first, I noticed she would drink maybe one cup a day, but it wasn't long before one turned into one too many and the soft reprimands turned into yelling and flying objects.

​I was between the ages of nine and ten years old when things took a turn for the worse. I would come home from school and I wasn't sure what I would see or hear the minute I stepped in the door. I wasn’t sure if I would get Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde. The cops "lived" at my house because of domestic violence. Every day they were trying to break us up or restrain me from doing something I’d later regret. I was told I was never going to amount to anything, That no one loved me and no one cared, I even had my life threatened.

​In the midst of all this, my cousin invited me to church one Friday. I had no desire to be in church. In fact, I had my own thoughts about God and His so-called "love". My whole life, I heard "God loves you. He sent His son to die for you." "Yeah, okay." I thought. "How could a god who claims to love us so much, send us to the earth which is more like hell, so that we could die and go to hell if we don’t accept him?" I hated this God for destroying my life. I blamed Him for everything that had happened to me. But little did I know that the God I was running away from; was running after me despite the fact that I wanted nothing to do with Him. The minute I stepped into the sanctuary, I saw a bunch of hands in the air, and I heard lots of singing and shouting. I looked around to see young people around your age doing all this to an invisible God. I literally thought to myself , "Each and every one of these people are on crack."

Ironically, after that first Friday, I kept going back. It was the only place I felt safe and accepted. It was nice to go to a place where no one knew what I was going through. It was embarrassing knowing that my teachers knew things weren't right at home. It was even more embarrassing knowing that the whole block knew what was going on even if they didn't know me personally. After a while of attending this church on Fridays, my heart changed and I remember the one night that changed my life. It was a Friday night in May and while I can't tell you what the pastor spoke on or what the songs were they sang, I can tell you the one thing I remember were the words that lead me to where I am today. "If you want God to change the circumstances that you are in, He can." At those words I decided to give in and give this God a try. I remember dealing with God, saying "Alright, God, if you say that this is what you can do, then do it, but I promise you, one mess up, and I’m done." when I went home that night I expected everything to be magically different but that’s not what happened. In fact, it seemed as though things were getting worse. But just when I was about to give up and walk away, God revealed a few things to me. You see, as a way to cope with many of the things I was dealing with at home, I turned to stealing, lying and attempted suicide numerous times. Some things I stole just to be spiteful not doing anything with them. God reminded me of the things that I had taken and still had. He prompted me to return them and I remember saying "What???!!!! I have NO idea what you're talkin about." (You know, that statement you say when someone blew up your spot) Needless to say I returned the items and not too long after, my grandmother began to see a change in me but it wasn't because of what I did but because of what God was doing in me.

At age 11, my grandmother died and I started living with my cousin. After my grandmother died, I felt like I was alone and abandoned. I shut down emotionally and pushed anyone who wanted to get close, away. I was not about to risk getting my heart broken and being abandoned – again. There was no relationship between my cousin let alone with God. At 17, I made the decision to go to The Fold. During my time, I was able to work through a lot of the things that I realized I was still holding on to. It seemed as though every 2-3 months, God was doing something that allowed pain to rise. I walked through so many painful memories but the end result made the tears worth it. I wont lie to you it was hard, but the one thing that kept me going was knowing that I needed to change my life before it was too late. In preparation of graduating the program, I was asked, "Who are you?." This question made me think because for about 8 years I didn't know who I was. All I knew, was that I was born and everyone who knew the most about what really happened in my life, were no longer around. From then on I set out to find my identity. What I learned was that my identity stood in God. Why? Because He was the One that crafted my very being with His own hands. He breathed into my nostrils giving me the life that I live and He sent His Son to pay a price that I could not. Because Jesus saved me and died for me knowing everything that I would do, my identity lies in Him. Not my parents, not even the name that’s written on my birth certificate. When I was a kid I learned very quickly that people were mean and heartless. That no one had any regard for the one next to him or her. There were nights where I found myself yelling at God and blaming him for everything that went wrong in my life. I taught myself to never care and to hate God. I learned at a young age that overall relationships were bad because someone ALWAYS got hurt. So I taught myself to never trust anyone because before I knew it, they would leave and I would be left stranded. But I learned (and still continue to learn), that loving someone else always has risks. The quote, "It's better to have loved and lost, than to not have loved at all", is a true statement in some regards because It’s in loving others, where you truly experience God’s love for you. It's in trusting and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, where you truly experience the different ways God reaches down to touch your heart. There was a time where I hated God and wanted absolutely nothing to do Him, but He never gave up on me. He never stopped coming after me even when I kept running away. He still never gives up on me and He STILL comes after me even when I reject Him. I'm grateful that God restored my relationship with my cousin (whom I now call mom) and I am even more grateful that he restored my relationship with Him. God used the Fold to touch my life in ways that are unimaginable. And while it was hard, I wouldn't trade it for anything in world.

"Love still believes when you don't"
"Having love for those who were in the world, He loved them to the end"