Focusing on Tomorrow
by Angela Sanders, Freelance Writer
“Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Nehemiah 8:10
So full of hope she’s often bursting with it, fifteen-year-old Shelby* has laid the burden of her past at Jesus’ feet and is stepping with enviable enthusiasm into a future bright with possibility.
Shelby became a Christian just one week after coming to live at Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children (OBHC). “I went to church with my houseparents,” Shelby recalls, “and heard about Jesus and all He did for us. I thought, ‘Man, He must really love us!’ Then I went to my room to read the Bible they gave me—I’d never had a Bible before—and I knew I wanted to become a Christian. I talked to my houseparents about it, and they gave me more verses to read. I was like, ‘Yeah, I get this. This is for me.’ I proclaimed my faith and was baptized.” Shelby’s shoulders scrunch with joy at the memory. “I put my baptism certificate up in my room for everyone to see. I am not ashamed of the gospel!”
Shelby’s profession of faith in Jesus Christ was the hairpin turnaround she desperately needed on a formerly self-destructive path. “Before, I was always depressed,” Shelby admits, her expression grim. “I grew up in a house where I was abused in terrible ways and neglected, so I started acting out, doing drugs. I didn’t see any reason not to after what I had already experienced. No one even cared enough about me to ask how I felt or even punish me when they found out what I was doing. I even tried to kill myself once a long time ago because I didn’t think I’d ever have a reason to be happy.”
Her redemption remembered, Shelby’s face lights up again.
“Then I met Jesus, and I am better because of Him. Somebody loves me, not just anybody, but somebody important, the Son of God! He set me free, and I literally feel it. My spirit, it has just…lifted. I care about myself and other people and try to make a difference in their lives. I’m more patient, helpful and giving. I struggle sometimes because of what I’ve been through, but I know I’ll win over it in the end. I worry about my sister, but I know God will take care of her just like He took care of me. I trust Him.”
Shelby is a multi-talented young lady with diverse interests. She hasn’t yet determined what God would have her do in the future, but is looking forward to watching Him work through her obedience wherever He leads.
There are so many things I would like to do,” Shelby confides. “Today, I’m leaning toward forensic anthropology. That’s where you study bones and figure out the story behind them. A lot of people say I’m good at teaching. I used to play school with my sister. That was the only way I could get her to do homework. I had to teach it in a way she could actually learn. After working with her, I can look at someone and think, ‘Okay, I see how you learn. I can help you.’ See, some people can be told information and just remember it, but not everyone learns that way.”
Shelby continues, “I’d also like to be a doctor and help people heal. Yes, you sometimes have to give bad news and that’s sad, but it’s better for people to know the truth than not know, right? It’s like my first housedad used to say, ‘It’s better to tell people the whole gospel, sin and all, than just the happy stuff. If they don’t know the bad, they can’t make the right choice for themselves.’ They still may not, but at least they have all the information and the option to turn things around. If there’s anything I know, it’s that the truth sets you free!”
Her independence still years away, Shelby is content to explore the implications of her own freedom under the loving watch care of OBHC adults in the safe environment provided by its donors. “I’m so grateful to the people who support this place,” she says. “It’s my own little heaven on earth. I can sleep without worrying who might hurt me. I know I’m safe here with people who really love and care about me. They have my back, and I have theirs. I owe them so much! They helped me tear down the wall around my heart and live for Jesus, walk my talk. If I hadn’t come here, if this place didn’t exist…well, I don’t even want to think about where I’d be or what I’d be doing. I just focus on tomorrow.”
*Shelby’s name and photos have been changed to protect her privacy.