This month we had a victory! Our youngest woman graduated from NH. We celebrated her graduation—socially distant, outside, and with individually wrapped snacks instead of a meal—thanking God for what she has accomplished and for what lies ahead. This woman defines what it means to be a survivor: raised in foster care, no parental support, lacking basic life-skills … but she overcame. She worked hard, leaned into her healing, and trusted the NH program to guide her toward a new future. And this woman loves Jesus! Perhaps her greatest gift back to NH is her love of prayer and how she has blessed so many of us by her fervent prayers fueled by faith.
She beat the odds. I recently read an article about a young woman who reminded me of the women we serve at NH, but with a tragic outcome. A 2016 Netflix documentary star, Daisy Coleman, took her own life because the pain of her sexual assault was too much to bear. The articles stated, “Coleman’s death underscores how sexual assault is not a one-time event, but a trauma that ripples, sometimes with impacts that last a lifetime. Trauma increases suicide risk, and people who’ve experienced sexual assault are 10 times more likely to attempt suicide than those who haven’t, according to a study by the National Victim Center and Medical University of South Carolina. For a woman, the odds of attempting suicide is 3 to 4 times greater when the first report of sexual assault occurs prior to the age of 16.”
My heart hurts for this family and the loss of this young woman. And I pause to think that programs like Naomi’s House have a lot of weight on our shoulders to provide tools to help young women recover from their traumatic experiences. Most of the women at NH suffered from dozens of sexual assaults mixed with manipulation, coercion, abuse, and addiction …. usually before the age of 16.
Our most recent graduate could have been this statistic. She almost was. She considered taking her own life several times while at NH. So this graduation, this healing, signifies something beyond words, a demonstration of the power of Jesus and His love for us.
In this tension-filled time in our world, I believe homes like NH are needed more than ever. Where else can women come and heal in a safe environment filled with the hope of the gospel? When I see women utilize our program—lean into their strengths, set and accomplish goals, enroll in educational programs, apply for jobs (and get them!), and then move into NH4 for transitional living—I see them do unthinkable feats. Hebrews 4 says that we can approach the throne of God with confidence because we have a Great High Priest who can empathize with our every need. Can you imagine what that feels like for a person who has been sexually violated? That she has a Great High Priest who sees her, identifies with her pain, and welcomes her into His holy presence? It’s the opposite of what we naturally believe … things that are unnatural, experiences that makes us feel “dirty,” make us want to run and hide from God. But God pursues us, not even when we feel far from Him but especially when we feel far from Him. We see this every day at NH, and we celebrate this recent graduate and her ability to believe God when He welcomes her into His presence, no matter her past. I sense God saying to each of us, “The deeper your pain feels, the more I want you.”
I hope you are encouraged today – you helped lift this woman up. Thank you. And if you need to run to God today, I encourage you to do so.