As a child, Ali remembers being homesick and making regular calls to her parents begging to come home while attending Scioto Hills Christian summer camp. She couldn't see beyond her anxious heart to visualize the adventures waiting for her. Fortunately, she allowed herself to enjoy parts of camp and only made the occasional, panicked calls home. Her greatest camp, and life, adventure became making her relationship with God “official” when she was nine years old.
By junior high, Ali developed an eating disorder which would follow her into her high school years. As she rapidly lost weight,she began to spiral and cut ties with friends. In her desperation, she gave God quiet permission to be her Savior. God call her back to Scioto Hills Camp, this time as a counselor. Her parents reluctantly allowed her to go, despite the risk to Ali's health. Ali received the gift of healing from God that summer in the uncommon wrapping paper of ten, tiny campers. The control of her mind and body, the control she thought she needed, was given to God. Ali counted campers instead of calories and spent more time looking into the bright, young eyes of her charges rather than a mirror. Her inward, selfish thoughts began to morph outwardly to thoughts of God and His children. Ali’s faith was nourished when she began to let a community of Christian friends in. She was no longer lonely. She was no longer homesick. God revealed to her the true home she had in Him. She did not need her childhood home or her cabin at Scioto Hills to feel safe and complete.
The following summer, Ali attended Cedarville University along with many camp friends. The years at Cedarville strengthened Ali, built up by Christian community and God's Word. While Ali grew in her faith at Cedarville, cancer grew within Ali's mother at home. Despite her ailing health, Ali's mom urged Ali to continue life as normal. She didn't want Ali to worry. God continued to gift Ali through her education and relationships. Ali graduated from Cedarville with a nursing degree and later married a man she met at Scioto Hills while working as a camp nurse. They settled in Miamisburg, attended Apex, and joined a house church community. When Ali visited home, her mother acted as if nothing was different, but Ali's nursing training was too thorough. She recognized the signs. At one visit, Ali's mother shared with her, "I think God's purpose for me on this earth is to encourage other people."
When Ali's mother passed away, Ali vowed to encourage others in loving memory of her mother. However, she was angry with God. She began to isolate herself again, from God and others. She soon found the Lord wooing her back to Himself. She allowed herself to be honest with Him, sharing her anger and grief. He offered Ali hope by providing her brother with twins, bringing new life into her grieving family. Ali reflects, "God gives, and he takes away. We don't know why he put us through this, but we saw God's faithfulness to our family. He took something from us, but he has blessed us immensely. He is a loving Father, and he doesn't do anything out of spite. That was a very dark time but in the dark is where we grow the most. In the dark, you have no choice but to see God work." When Ali's mom passed, Ali and her husband we not connected with their house church. The couple spent six months in prayer, and the Lord moved them back into their old community. The cycle of giving and taking continued. Ali began to experience suffering again, this time through multiple miscarriages. Ali wanted her mom’s comfort, encouragement, and her hugs. Her grief resurfaced
Ali knew she had to find her home, her true home, in God again. Though she still suffers from grief and anxiety over the loss, she is strengthened by her sufferings and recognizes God's unique gifts in her present life to help her. She receives encouragement through women in her house church who have also suffered miscarriages. Her husband has also grown in his faith, becoming a servant leader to Ali. God has given Ali opportunities to serve and encourage others, through house church and her job as a school nurse. She calls her heavenly home often, ending her prayers with renewed hope for the adventure awaiting her. She knows one day the suffering will end; she will face her Savior and she will be finally, and forever, Home.
Author: Jillian Vincent
Photographer: Sarah Maigur