Editor’s note: This is Tyona’s story in her words, as shared from a reservation basketball court, during the On Eagles’ Wings® Summer of Hope.
Hi, my name is Ty. I’m going to tell you a little bit about myself.
I grew up in a Christian home with both my mom and dad. But with that, I was still feeling lost, confused and scared.
My dad was an alcoholic and abusive father. It was really hard, because my siblings and I all experienced that abuse.
My family turned toward drugs, alcohol and gang related stuff. That took its toll on me. My Mom was depressed so she was never there for me.
My siblings left as well, too, because they didn’t want to be around. I had to grow up myself and with my little sister.
I was really scared because I had no one to look up to. I even told people in my church what was going on around my house, and what was happening in my family. But they just brushed me off. They told me, “It’s your family. You deal with it.”
I had hatred and anger in me, because these are people who were supposed to be there for me. But they weren’t. I started to hate everyone around me and to bottle up my emotions. I looked for encouragement somewhere else.
My dad became very verbally and physically abusive toward me. He would tell me I’m worthless, and I am nothing. He said I shouldn’t even be here.
I took those words to heart. I believed every word my dad said toward me. It came to the point where I didn’t want to be here. I didn’t want to live here and live through this pain. I didn’t want to have this anger and all these emotions bottled up with no one to talk to.
When I was 12, my cousin committed suicide. I was actually thinking about it myself. I shouldn’t be alive right now.
The very next night, I went to an On Eagles’ Wings® event like this near my reservation. I heard a girl tell her Hope Story, and how she grew up around abuse.
This girl really helped me. Because she told me there is someone out there who loves me just for who I am, and that I’m never alone.
I started crying because I never had that love in my family. I didn’t have someone who actually cared about how I feel, who actually wanted me to be here.
That day, she introduced me to Jesus.
She told me that Jesus loves us no matter what. I heard we are created and made for Him. And even though we go through all these troubles, He still loves me.
With all my self-doubt, and with every word I heard growing up, I wanted that relationship! I wanted to feel safe.
Hearing that prayer, and this girl talking about Jesus - saved me. That night, I chose to begin my relationship with Jesus.
Without this girl talking about this Jesus who loves me, I wouldn’t be here right now. I wouldn’t be here traveling to different reservations talking about my story to help change people.
Thank you for listening.