Growing up Apostolic - Sandrea Dennis’ story - Part 2
Being a youth in the Church comes with its unique struggles, and being of a faith not truly understood by others and which is seen as extremely restrictive is an entirely different pool of challenges to contend with.
Last week, we shared the story of a young Apostolic Christian who, though born and raised in a Christian home, still found it difficult to deal with the pressures of society.
This week, we look further at some of the challenges she encountered and how she handled them.
"It was only after I started university that I began to really, really appreciate the difference between my denomination and another. The more I saw people embrace their natural hair and skirts and looking modest is the more I became comfortable," Sandra Dennis told Family and Religion.
She explained that there was even a religious support group that was nothing short of a blessing in her life.
"I met other Apostolics on campus and I became friends with them. I was a part of a campus ministry called Universities and Colleges Apostolic Ministries (UCAM), and every year, nationally, we as Apostolic tertiary students would meet for some events. That support solidified who I am and what I am representing - hundreds of young people across the island who share the same beliefs and can enjoy good, clean fun in each other's company and then worship together. It's just amazing."
Certainly, after looking back, Dennis is happy she was not drawn in by the influences of her friends to attend a university in Kingston that would give her the freedom to live without restrictions in a world of secular music and diversity in dress.
But that was only one aspect of her life that needed careful consideration. The other rested in whether or not her choices in partners were good enough.
Dennis revealed that finding an Apostolic man has never been a challenge because of the extensiveness of her involvement islandwide. However, she has had her heart torn in a million pieces.
SEX STILL TABOO
"I started dating when I was 17 or so, against the advice of my parents, because one of the things, too, in the Apostolic church is that sex is still taboo, especially with the generation that is over 40, and to them, dating may lead to fornication."
She added, "I recognised from early that even though I wanted to keep my sanctity, not everybody would understand, and I've always had it in my head that I would date Apostolic men. But men out here do have values, but are just not of the same faith."
Dennis, who was in a five-year relationship with a partner whom she thought would become her husband, at one point just walked out of the relationship and is due to get married to another. This left her devastated.
"I think that particular experience was rooted in how I was raised in the Church - sheltered. I was torn and it was at that turning point (that) I really understood who God was. At one point, I thought I was going to die or lose my mind ... . I was driving and running red lights, I almost hit a man from a bicycle once. I had so many near misses with accidents because my mind went for a walk."
Dennis said it was a series of prayer and fasting at her church earlier this year and a closer, more intimate, relationship with God that helped her through.
"I'm certainly not laying blaming on my ex for the break-up. I am simply sharing my story to show that heartbreak is something that permeates the Church, and so many persons are carrying around hurt and bitterness, causing them to harbour suicidal thoughts, thoughts of worthlessness, or they become crude and callous towards others. I want them to understand that just as how Christ healed my heart, He can heal them as well."
Dennis believes that she was wounded to effectively minister to the wounded and is ready to love again.