Brittany Mendoza-Pena is a sophomore at Drake University. This is God’s story in her life which she shared before she got baptized this Spring.
Hi everyone, my name is Brittany Mendoza-Pena. I am a current sophomore at Drake University. Before I even get into my story, I want to give some context with the stories of my parents, Jenny and Pedro.
My mom is originally from San Pedro Sula, Honduras and my dad is from Caracas, Venezuela. War ridden and filled domestic abuse, their childhoods were stripped of innocence. They both, respectively, decided to leave their countries and come to America. Through enlisting in the military, they both gained citizenship and ended up being stationed in Spokane, WA. Without their families to shepherd their decision making, my dad ended up abandoning his wife from an arranged marriage to be with my mom. My mom and dad decided never to marry, and began a new life apart from family and religion, rooted in the only constant they knew–the military. By the time my brother Ethan and I came around, she had already learned to navigate motherhood on her own, as my dad served overseas in Afghanistan. My dad came back from war with a demeanor filled with anger, anxiety and melancholy, which I later learned were symptoms of PTSD. This dysfunction became the norm of our family dynamic. I began to cope by piling on commitments. I got involved in dance, sports, choir, and advanced classes. It was my mission to conceal the brokenness that was actually weighing me down. However, that front wasn’t sustainable. My dad got worse, losing his composure more easily and becoming more physically abusive. This whirlwind of change resulted in further division of our family. Ethan became distant and resentful of all of us. School and extracurriculars no longer held the same comfort that they used to.
In high school, I began to seek out something more to anchor myself in. I’d date a boy and then settle for months of adoration, always hoping that it would transform into love. My tactic of male affection also wasn’t enough and it eventually transformed into weed and alcohol. By the spring of my junior year, I was excessively drinking almost every night of the week. Throughout all of this change, I also began going to a youth group called Praxis. While they were an enjoyable group to hang out with, I never really internalized truths about the Gospel. One night, the summer before my senior year, things got out of hand at a party and my mom found me out on our street, drugged and choking on my own vomit. I almost died that night, and part of me still doesn’t know if that was my intention or not. I clung onto my community within Praxis, knowing that they would support me through the emotional wreckage I was experiencing. However, true reconciliation with Christ did not occur, even though I abandoned my vices for a period of time. This superficial relationship with the Lord became clear once tragedy struck. The spring of my senior year a dear friend mine, Sierra, died suddenly from a pulmonary embolism, following a mission trip to St. Louis. I became very angry at the God I thought I knew. He did not fit into this equation of adversity. In my first semester at Drake, I preoccupied myself with work, school and rehearsal, as a way to mask my grief. The emotions that backed my “convictions” toward God faded away. I thought I could hide behind the lie of martyrdom by now being the “mom” among my friends, not “actively” engaging in sin. But I knew deep down that I was living in disobedience towards God. I was absolutely miserable.
But God is faithful. Through the persistent and intentional pursuit of the people in Campus Fellowship, my curiosity for God surfaced again. They had anchored themselves in the truth of Scripture, instead of the emotional highs I saw in my youth group. I was absolutely intimidated. I maintained a halfway relationship with CF through the end of spring semester, unwillingly to fully trust their friendship. Then, school ended and I returned home. A month into break, my dad fell into another one of his episodes and almost shot himself and my mother, blinded by his rage. I decided to leave home for good.
In reflection, I have learned to fondly regard this period of life, spanning from my junior year of high school to last summer. In those years, God transformed my heart from apathy to honest skepticism to certainty. Some of those moments are more distinct than others, and I am grateful for the refinement I am experiencing in this time of sanctification. Now, leading up to this semester, I had not considered the spiritual state I was in prior to college. I was sure I was saved and had even experienced a baptism my senior year of high school. However, the degree of doubt I was experiencing, regarding God’s character and the purpose of Jesus, made it very clear that I did not know the Lord. Part of this wrestling I can attribute to a lackluster version of the Gospel I was introduced to, in my previous congregation. The inconsistency I saw within the church leadership along with selective application of Scripture made it very confusing for me to envision who God was, especially once adversity entered into my life. I did not have a true foundation to stand on and therefore “walked away” from God. However, I can pursue the Lord with confidence and knowledge of His role in my life, through experiencing the love and convictions found within the Walnut Creek church body. As outlined in 1 Timothy 5:1-2, “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters in all purity”. I have sisters who encourage me daily and remind me that I have dignity, beauty and grace as a daughter of the King. I have brothers who fearlessly protect my heart and regard their role as leaders earnestly. Coming from a broken family background, I can recognize the power in each man and woman understanding their respective agency, value and responsibility under the Lord. I take comfort in knowing that I have a true family in Christ and there is no other community I would want to celebrate this transformation with.