My name is Esmaily Mercedes Hodge and I am 19 years old. I assure you that God doesn't forsake his children.
I was born in the Dominican Republic. I grew up in a neighborhood where drugs, delinquency and teen pregnancy were prevalent. I was raised as a Christian and was baptized at the age of ten (10). I spent twelve (12) years in Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Schools. In order to give her family a better life, and since she had residency rights to the country, my mother moved to Anguilla when I was ten years old - years later, my father joined her. After my mother left, my sister and I lived with my great-grandmother. We had to wait five years for our documents to be completed because of an incorrect last name. It was difficult to be away from our parents but God protected us and never forsook us.
Finally, we arrived on Anguilla to start a new life as a family. Unfortunately, after one month we received a letter from the Department of Immigration stating that we had to leave the country within seven (7) days. We were sad and my mom began to pack our bags so we could return - again God didn't forsake us. Our brothers and sisters from the SDA Spanish Group decided to help us and presented our case to the ex-Chief Minister. God worked on our behalf and within a year we got our passports, with the help of two (2) sisters and one (1) brother from the Jireh SD Tabernacle.
Although we could legally remain in Anguilla, we were not allowed to attend public school. My parents enrolled us in a private school, Guishard’s Academy, for one year and God was so great that we were given a tuition reduction. God used my teachers in a tremendous way. They were always there for us and helped us with everything (transportation, books, food, birthdays, graduations, and even after Hurricane Irma). I can say that they are some of the best and most God-fearing teachers I ever had.
Public School and Meeting People
A year after I learned to speak English more fluently, I was allowed to attend the public high school. At first, it was hard because of the language barrier and the lack of friends. However, God used all my teachers to be a blessing in my life and to help me improve. God helped me so much that when I took the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) school-leaving exam, my results were among the top nine (9) on Anguilla. To God be the glory!!! My English improved so much that I am now one of the church translators at the SDA Spanish Group.
Joining the Workforce
I applied to work at a hotel and was told that I could only be employed if I agreed to work on Saturdays – I said no, and left. A few days later, my friend called me and set up training for me at another company. In addition, my mother's friend called to tell me that she had an interview for me in another hotel. After a successful interview, I ended up with two jobs. My sister also got a job in the same hotel where I worked. Praise the Lord!! To God be the glory.
I have always been involved in church activities. One day, two of the church’s youth leaders, Jennyville and Shenique, told me to prepare for Bible Connection. I had to read in Spanish and English. I read several Bible translations in order to understand. I had a lot of help and, thank God, I represented the North Caribbean Conference (NCC) after a lot of studying.
Being in the Bible connection, I can personally say that it is not easy at all but at the end, it is worthwhile. I had so much support from my family, friends and leaders. I am really thankful to them and to God because they gave me the strength and the encouragement to keep going.
We, young people, have to face little sleep, stress, anxiety, fear and the worst part is when you don't get the results that you desired - then comes the sadness. Personally, I didn't understand why that happened. Since I was studying the book of Job, I could relate to his experience; knowing what he went through and, in comparison, what I went through was nothing. So, it was rough trying to be strong but at the same time feeling very weak. I had to demonstrate that I love God because He is God and not as a result of what I can get from Him. As the days passed, I got a lot of support because people understood how I felt. I still wanted God to show me what was wrong (I was acting like Job). God did show me and now (I ended like Job) I know my challenges. God is just and everything happens for a reason. I got from this experience something that cannot be compared or valued with gold or crystal. Its value is too high and it is not found in the land of the living – that, my friends is wisdom, more knowledge, and a deeper understanding of God. I can definitely say that I will try again.
Dear young people - sisters, brothers and friends. If you are far from your family or have problems (legal, school, language, financial or employment), put them in God's hand because He is not going to forsake you. He is faithful and He is the God of the impossible. Trust Him because He never fails. And, remember that whatever you are going through, it can work out for good because you love Jesus.
I also say to everyone, who participated in the Bible Connection, that I really understand and know how it feels. Yes, it is hard, painful and stressful but don't give up - keep pushing, keep going, keep trusting because His purpose in your life is not finished yet. Remember, “For I am the Lord your God who holds your right hand and says, don't be afraid; I will help you” Isaiah 41:13.