My personal story challenge

Published 9:20 pm Friday, May 1, 2020

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By Tonya S. Swindell

A significant event occurred in September 1989 when I was 16 years old. It changed my life and how I interact with God and others. As I write about my experience via this article and social media platforms, I challenge others to share their own stories. Many readers may find comfort in what I and others have to share.

A boy and girl who barely knew me became my friend more than 30 years ago. The girl, whose name was Laquita, asked me for a ride home from volleyball practice. Her boyfriend, Anthony, often accompanied her during those rides.

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Laquita and Anthony were very nice to me, and I appreciated that. They were also fun loving, likeable and friendly toward others. People seemed to be drawn to them, especially Laquita, who had a huge smile, boisterous laughter and an excellent sense of humor. She stood out as a talented volleyball and basketball player, too.

Anthony had what I considered to be a strange habit for a teenager. He carried a big, black book almost everywhere he went. When I peeked through the rearview mirror of the compact car I was driving, I typically saw him reading or flipping through crisp pages of the book he seemed to treasure so much.

I admired Laquita and Anthony, and after several weeks of them riding in my car, I felt like something was missing from my life. Despite many Sundays in which I sat on a pew eating candy and passing notes at the church my father pastored, I felt an emptiness I couldn’t explain. Even though I had access to pretty much anything I may have wanted or needed, I still felt an unexplainable void.

I had grown to trust Laquita and Anthony’s judgment, so one day, I asked them how to fill my empty space. After listening to their answer, I dropped them off before going home. Then I closed my bedroom door, got on my knees and began to pray.

I asked God to forgive my wrongdoings. I also confessed my belief that Jesus Christ, His Son, had died for my sins and was supernaturally raised to life again. Finally, I asked Jesus to fill the empty space within my heart by becoming the Lord of my life.

Since then I have experienced ups, downs, highs and lows. But memories of the ways in which Laquita, Anthony, my parents and others modeled their love has stuck with me. Although I may question certain situations, feel anxious or unsure at times, I am still grateful for having overall peace that surpasses my own understanding.

Some people may relate to feeling empty. They may also feel curious to learn how others have dealt with similar feelings. My hope is that individuals will accept my challenge by sharing their own salvation stories within their local newspapers, social media outlets and perhaps during casual conversations. Similar stories may inspire others at a time when it is greatly needed.

Tonya Swindell is an occupational therapist. She is also a teacher for Kingdom Building Institute ( She can be reached at