First Fruits is a service project that has rallied the RBC church body for over 25 years. It is a unique serving opportunity for families, shepherd groups, and individuals to come together and make a difference in the lives and families in our area who are in need of help and encouragement. In addition to providing food and support to local families, a portion of the funds raised goes to what we call the Perseverance Scholarship. This is a scholarship we offer in several local high schools to seniors who desire to further their education. The scholarship celebrates not only the success that may come from persevering, but more importantly the proven character of the person who has persevered and in the process become a positive example and source of encouragement for their peers. This year, Ashlyn was one of the recipients of the Perseverance Scholarship. This is her story.
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I want to say thank you to Reston Bible Church for helping me go to college by giving me a Perseverance Scholarship. I am now a freshman in the Honors College at George Mason University. One year ago I never thought it would be possible to go to college. After my junior year all my friends were starting to visit colleges and were asking where I wanted to go. All I could think was “there is no way that this is ever going to happen” for me. Things were too complicated in my life to consider the idea of going to college – I had no hope that I would be able to go.
For much of the past nine years, I’ve felt like my life was a tornado of devastation. From my father losing his job, to family bankruptcy, to losing our house, to moving from state to state, to growing tension between my parents, to my sister suffering from severe depression and an eating disorder… the list goes on. Watching all this and seeing the impact on my family as a whole left me feeling like I had to be the rock for my family. I had to be strong and supportive- hide my own anxiety and misery and fears to be there for them. I felt so brittle, so alone and weak.
In all of this the toughest challenge was living with my father. Ever since I was a child, my father controlled every living aspect of my sister’s, mother’s, and my life. He was an alcoholic and had been clinically diagnosed with major depression and a personality disorder. He took his medication with scotch and sometimes with a sleeping pill and was abusive toward us. He was incredibly manipulative and gained control over us through “mind games” which included taking guns and knives out and threatening to use them to get his way. Countless times I had to confront him- once lying on top of a rifle to stop my father from loading it. My father’s controlling behavior isolated us and as a result, we never knew how dysfunctional our family was until we finally reached out for help.
After many months of planning and many years of contemplation, this past Mother’s Day my mother moved my sister and me to another place – taking our first steps towards freedom and independence. Even though our future is still questionable and slightly daunting due to our current financial difficulties and present circumstances, moving away from my father has proven to be the catalyst for hope and new beginnings. And I am certain that any future challenges ahead will not be nearly as hard as what we have already overcome.
I couldn’t have done it without all of the support I received from people around my community. Organizations such as Child Protective and especially Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter (LAWS). My friends and teachers have all been supportive of me. And, I am so grateful for the generosity and kindness of my drama teacher, Mrs. Young, and her family. All these people supported me through all of my adversity and have honestly saved my life.
One example I experienced that showed me how things can change for the better is, I remember, sitting down at the dinner table with my drama teacher’s family and being absolutely stunned – there was no screaming, no yelling, tension, crying, negative energy. Everyone was talking pleasantly and eating together. I had never experienced anything like this before. It was so simple, such a day-to-day activity this family had with each other, but to me it was so much more. It gave me hope that real happy, loving families exist. It was an experience I will never forget.
During the early and middle stages of my situation, I was hesitant to reach out for help because I thought it showed weakness. However, I found it is really the most important thing you can do. It shows strength in that you are brave enough to ask for help. At first it is hard to reveal your weaknesses to others, but later you realize it is better to get help then struggle on your own. It is quintessential to seek help when you are in a difficult situation; hiding that pain, anxiety, and stress only lets it fester and build up until you explode. There is always someone out there to help, and there is always hope for better days, no matter what. My counselor and others have helped me realize that the past does not define you- you do not have to be held back something you are not able to change or control. You can move past it and grow from it. The tough times and downfalls I’ve experienced have made me a stronger and wiser individual, and ultimately has taught me to persevere and never give up.
I hope sharing my story will encourage others to reach out for help in order to start a better future for their lives. Starting my new chapter in life at George Mason as part of the Honors College is a dream come true. Thank you to all those that have contributed to First Fruits in any way that made the Perseverance Scholarship possible in order for me to attain my dream of going to college and to know that nothing is impossible.
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For more information on First Fruits and how you can get involved, check out www.restonbible.org/firstfruits.