My name is Katy Byrd, and I am a graduating senior this year. I am a third generation member of St. Luke’s, and could not be happier to have been born into such a loving community. I attended Sunday school throughout my childhood, and sang in the children’s chorus. When middle school came, I joined the youth choir and began attending small group meetings weekly. It was so amazing to have a community where I could make friends and grow in my faith at the same time.
When I was in eighth grade, I began to go down a very dark path. While my faith in God remained, I experienced growing symptoms of depression. I was being bullied at school, and I suddenly felt shut out by my friends at church. Due to my mental health issues, my safe place no longer felt safe. I began acting out, and chose an entirely new group of friends, until my behavior caught up with me. I would get in trouble at church, and endured an abundance of family meetings with my pastors, switching small groups, and therapy sessions at the affiliated counseling center. When none of this worked, I was no longer welcome at any St. Luke’s youth groups, events, or activities. Throughout my first year of high school, I was given opportunity after opportunity to integrate myself back into church, but I continued to shut God out and fill my void with drugs, alcohol, and sex instead of prayer. I felt ashamed, because I was afraid that every family at St. Luke’s knew that I was trouble. I chose to be angry at St. Luke’s, when in reality they were doing the best possible thing they could have done for me. If the church hadn’t expressed concern and given me consequences, my parents might not have had the courage to get me help.
After about a year of rehab out of state, I came home and jumped back into St. Luke’s Student Ministries. I rejoined my original small group, attended retreats, and showed up as a leader in the community. I was reminded that my youth ministers and small group peers had been there for me all along, but needed to love me from a distance in order to let me grow. I was asked to share my experience, strength, and hope in God at Sunday school, on retreats, and at The Story Houston. My relationship with Jesus has grown tremendously, and I have accepted His love more and more each day. I have recently celebrated three years of continuous sobriety, and it is truly amazing to know that St. Luke’s is proud of me. As a result of their love, support, and forgiveness, I have been able to accomplish things that I never thought possible. In the fall, I will be attending Pitzer College in California, the school of my dreams. I truly feel gratitude and freedom today, because God, through St. Luke’s Student Ministries has changed my life and given me a future.