When Kayla arrived, she was an older student at 20. She was profusely grateful simply for somewhere to stay. She was agreeable and compliant, willing to do what was asked of her. Kayla had graduated high school at 19 having worked hard to catch up after missing four years of school in her pre-teen years. A year later, she had hoped to be farther along on her way to asserting her own independence. She had worked different jobs, including management at a chain restaurant.
However, outside of work, Kayla’s life was vastly unpredictable. She felt the most in control when she was at work. She knew what to expect and what was expected of her. She could maintain a sense of order and cleanliness and check off the boxes. Outside of those double doors, chaos reigned.
Kayla was introduced to a guy a couple years ago by someone she trusted. As time passed, his lifestyle became her lifestyle, and the choices she was making were unrecognizable to herself. The relationship eventually became abusive. Kayla was stuck and she didn’t know where to turn.
When Kayla was at a pregnancy care center in town, the woman at the desk recognized her. She saw her need for support and presented her with options to get help. The application process went quickly, and in July 2020 Kayla set foot at Christian Encounter.
Kayla had bounced around from place to place so often in the past year that it seemed this may also only be a temporary situation. The people seemed genuinely kind and caring, but Kayla kept her guard up. Her aloof demeanor caused division between her and the other students. Then came time for everyone to don their backpacks and head into the wilderness for two weeks.
With only the essentials on their backs and the day’s destination before them, Kayla saw her teammates plainly, as they did her. She recognized that she would need to lean on others if she was going to make it through the trip.
As Kayla continued on at the Ranch, she began to recognize she was in a safe place. Safe from physical harm, but also safe to process her pain. When she shared her story, she found that people didn’t turn away or take advantage of her vulnerable state. Instead they listened, they cried with her, they encouraged her to keep going.
When the four-day snow camping trip came around in February, Kayla braced herself for the challenge of enduring the cold. “I didn’t realize how strong I was until I got out there. We were marching around our makeshift kitchen to stay warm at night when I thought, ‘I’m not going to be stuck here forever!’ I could control my thinking and choose to enjoy the trip!”
Kayla states, “When I came here, I didn’t think I had any control over what I did or how I felt. I would always find a way to justify my actions. But I realize now, I do have control, I do have a choice. I’m practicing how to choose to take responsibility [for my actions]. It’s been a key part of my healing here.”
Kayla has enjoyed participating in classes at the school, and the sense of
accomplishment it has given her. It has also given her a trajectory for her future. Kayla is looking forward to her second backpacking trip with Christian Encounter and for the opportunity to pursue further education in the fall.