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AS A YOUNG GIRL, I HAD TO GROW UP VERY quickly. I had to teach myself how to be independent, look after myself and those around me, and live up to the standards of two extremely perfect parents. Like a lot of people, I grew up in a Christian home with lovely parents who were super-involved with church, super-hardworking, and super-energetic. We were the most adventurous family in the neighborhood, and ‘family’ was the most important aspect of our lives.

When I reached the age of nine, my mom got extremely sick and spent fifty-two consecutive days in the hospital. We were prepared to say “goodbye” to her, but by God’s grace, He was not done with my mom’s life. This crisis made me very independent, but also fearful because the doctors said that my mom would never be the same again. They were right, but the God we serve has plans that will prevail and a purpose that will be carried out, no matter what circumstance we find ourselves in. In the next few years, my Dad got transferred a lot. We had to move a total of six times, and I ended up in seven different schools. I learned to adapt to any situation. In fact, at any point in time, I was ready to pack my bags and move again. Despite the frequent upheavals of moving, one thing which remained constant was the strong bond between us as a family. Unfortunately, due to us not being sure what will happen next, the flip side was that we never allowed anyone to come too close to us. We stopped making friends, and we stopped plugging into church or community.

It became a lonely life and performance started sneaking into our family. My parents started competing in all areas of their lives, and my brother was an absolute genius with everything he did. But I was lost… confused and ‘sick and tired’ of this life. I rebelled in every area imaginable and gave up on this whole ‘Jesus-thing.’ When I reached Grade 10, I had no idea who I was. So I started experimenting with all the wrong stuff and looking for acceptance and affirmation in all the wrong places. I couldn’t care less about God, or family for that matter. I stopped being friends with any of the girls and had no idea what womanhood, sisterhood, or any other kind of ‘hood’ meant at all. I was not interested in friendships, and my independence became ugly. The funny thing is that, no matter how much I tried to run away from God and His love, He was always there, protecting me, loving me, and speaking so clearly to me⎯I could not help but hear His voice. I recognized that I was going nowhere in life, and it took me one split-second to realize that I MUST have a bigger purpose than to just be fearful, lonely, and independent. Those things would bring me nowhere. I realized that I needed people in my life, and I needed to be plugged-in to grow.

In 2015, I somehow decided to join Victory Gap Year, and although it was the hardest decision I I DISCOVERED MY PURPOSED WHERE MY PASSION AND FRUSTRATION MET ever had to make, it was also the most rewarding decision I’ve ever made. It has been one massive journey where God took me and my messed-up identity and showed me exactly WHO I AM. He told me, loud and clear, “Simone, you are My princess. I am your Father. You can do all things. You have a greater purpose. I made you a leader to help raise up young girls. I made you to show them how I see them, and lead them where I want them to go.” And you know what? I struggled so much, and it took months to erase all the lies which the enemy had injected into my brain. I had to look into the mirror every morning and tell myself that, “I am beautiful. I am successful. I am capable of having girls as friends. And most of all, I am where God wants me to be.”

Only now can I confidently say that every lie has been replaced with God’s truth over me! About two years ago, God gave me a dream that I should work with young girls and help them establish their identity and discover their purpose. I literally laughed at God and said to myself that, “There is no way that I am doing such a thing. I hardly know how to dress or talk like a lady, and now God wants to me teach others?” But the dream didn’t go away. In fact, it became ALL I could think of. Then one day, I realized that for all these years, God has had a plan and was just waiting for me to surrender to Him and embrace His will for my life. The enemy has relentlessly tried to convince me that I’m not worthy to work with young ladies, and that’s where he comes to rob us from our heart’s desires. We need to take back our frustrations, align them with our passions, and start walking in the purpose for which God has made us. I couldn’t help but be obedient. I started a mentoring group for High School girls called “SHE IS.” I am currently leading this mentoring group with five other leaders who have a heart for the next generation of powerful young women⎯leaders who love God and love His people. I am still trusting for massive miracles regarding my Mom’s health, my Dad’s career, and my younger brother’s journey with God. But the God we serve is so faithful, and if He can do it for me, He can do it for anybody. I am still learning a lot about God, His love and grace, how to love others the way He wants me to, and how to trust Him in all areas of my life. I am currently studying BA Psychology through Cornerstone Institution and am still part of VGY.

He has gone before me and has made all my ways straight. God picked me up, carried me, and has never forsaken me. His plans for my life are good, and I am so excited for my future!

Simone is part of Victory Gap Year’s graduate programme in Jeffreys Bay, South Africa.