By Michael Ashcraft —
It really bothered Stephany that she couldn’t understand — or even hear — the lyrics of Christian music played by her aunt and uncle.
“I was a lost child. I wore tons of makeup to try to fit on. I got into lots of fights. I was really depressed. I tried killing myself several times while I was in middle school and in my freshman year. I felt very unloved,” she says. “I didn’t have the Holy Spirit. The way Christians sang was like another language to me then.”
Because her parents got into drugs and alcohol, she was physically abused and neglected and fell into the foster care system.
“I was very angry at the world. I hated people because of my upbringing. I didn’t understand how God could have let this happen to my siblings and myself. I was just angry at God and I didn’t even know God. I hated God.”
Stephany and her siblings would sleep on floors of just about any friend’s house. One couple was very nice and even offered to adopt.
Mom was incensed by the idea that someone wanted to take her kids from her. So when Stephany returned, mom started beating her viciously. “My mom wasn’t well,” says Stephany, who had just finished her freshman year of high school.
In response, she ran away and hid in another friend’s house.
Her uncle and aunt took her to Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, CA. They played Christian music, which Stephany found incomprehensible.
“When my aunt and uncle played Christian music, I couldn’t understand the words,” she says. “That really bothered me because I didn’t understand.”
When they sent her to youth group, she thought the other girls were strange.
“Ew!” she squealed to her aunt. “Nobody wants to be around Christian girls. Don’t ever send me with those crazy Christians again.”
She projected a tough exterior, but inside she longed for a love she never felt.
“I felt so lost, so abandoned. But at the time I felt God pull on my heart,” Stephany says. “All I wanted was to feel that freedom. But I didn’t feel like I was good enough. How can God love me, not even my mother loves me?”
One day her aunt shared the complete story of the gospel with her. Still, the message of God’s love didn’t penetrate.
“The more she shared the gospel with me, the more I felt saddened because I didn’t understand God’s love,” she remembers. “All I felt was that I was doomed because of how awful I was and how I was abandoned.”
Finally at a Greg Laurie Harvest Crusade in Angels Stadium, she relented and descended to the baseball field to receive Jesus.
“That moment that I stepped out into the grass, because my heart longed for him, I felt his presence surround me,” Stephany says. “I prayed and cried. From there I felt like I was really open to the Lord. I asked God for forgiveness, and I asked him to love me.”
She surrendered her life to Jesus and was born again.
A few nights later, her aunt “caught” her listening to music late at night on headphones. She asked what Stephany was listening to.
With tears in her eyes, Stephany said: “I can hear what they’re saying!” It was Christian music.
But the idyllic life with his aunt and uncle came to an end. Mom went to court to ask for the return of her daughter and Stephany was forced to return home. Unfortunately, mom was still unstable and allegedly “wanted to kill” Stephany.
On Dec. 2, 2002, during her sophomore year, Stephanie went into foster care — but not with her uncle and aunt.
It wasn’t easy. Her foster “sisters” teased her for being a “crazy Christian.” it was the same pejorative she had used, but now it stung when she was on the receiving end. Her brothers were scattered in other homes and she longed to be closer to them, so she was placed in a home nearby.
It was at another foster home that she met Andy Herrera. He was attracted to her and tried to initiate conversations. He began asking about her and visiting her. He would throw a pebble against her window at night to get her attention and when she looked out, blow kisses.
Andy was a Christian guy and won her heart over. Their boyfriend/girlfriend relationship was going well, but her foster situation was not. So her social worker set her up to become emancipated and live in her home with rent assistance. She found several part-time jobs while she completed high school.
Then on a trip with her future in-laws to their native Guatemala, in the jungle outside a Mayan pyramid, Andy pulled out a ring and spoke.
“Will you marry me?”
“What did you say?”
“Will you marry me?”
The formerly unloved girl found love in God and love of a husband and a family.
“There was a sunset and everything,” Stephany says. “It was very romantic.”
Stephany and Andy Herrera now have five children. She studied to be a beautician and then got a degree in early child development. While Andy works as an exterminator, she home-schools the kids.
“The Lord called me when I was covered in darkness. He took out of me like a bowl of darkness and filled it with Him,” Stephany says. “He overflows in me. He’s changed my life dramatically. He’s taken me out of all that I knew before and he’s set me on a path to glorify him.
“I look at my life and I see pain and struggle, but I can also see that it led me to Him. I belong to Him. I’m so grateful to God for leading me and loving me. He’s been so gracious. The day that I asked him to love, God really has been so loving and gentle with me. God spoiled me.”
In addition to doing Christian journalism, Michael Ashcraft helps people make money, save money and minimize taxes as a financial professional.