Shelley Hundley: An Atheist Turns to God
By Mary Ruth Goochee and Debbie White
The 700 Club
"I was born and raised in Medine, Columbia," Shelley Hundley tells The 700 Club. "It was the murder capital and drug capital of the whole world. You’ve got drug dealer money and these guerilla fighter guys trying to take over the government, but their specific target was missionaries. Constantly we were hearing of people killed. I saw people killed when I was young."
But there was something more ominous that threatened this missionary child. From the age of 6 to the age of 10, Shelley was the victim of sexual abuse. The perpetrator was a priest in her own church.
"I suffered in a way I really can’t articulate it. It was sexual abuse, but it had a sadistic element and a physical torture type element. I mean, it was just raw evil."
Shelley’s silence was enforced through fear and lies.
"That whole message, ‘You are the one that’s perverse and you’re the one that’s messed up.’ It was a terror element, a shame element, and just a sense of being trapped. That I can never reach out to anybody. Nobody’s going to understand. Nobody can help me.
"Where I made the false conclusion in my heart that God hates me. God is with him, the abuser, and He is sanctioning what he is doing, and therefore everything this guy says I deserve. I do."
The abuse ended when Shelley’s family moved back to the United States. But the damage was done.
"I’m stepping into my teenage years as a young woman and yet I have such deep shame issues. I really tried to go for God, but the reality was that from that 10-year-old moment where I made that internal decision that God hates me. That had more power in my inner man than I knew."
Shelley immersed herself in school activities and even became an accomplished musician.
"Get the top grades. Do the most extracurricular. Do the sports. Do the music. Do the youth group. Right in the midst of doing it all, I would wander away by myself and just sit in the corner or cry or try to figure out what’s wrong with me that I don’t feel the way that other people feel."
After graduation, Shelley’s parents enrolled her in a Christian college. Shelley became known, not for her outstanding grades or character, but as the most foul mouthed atheist on campus.
"People would just come up to me with well meaning like, ‘Oh! You’re a missionary kid.’ They would talk to me about Jesus, and I would cuss them out, up down, left and right."
As Shelley’s mental anguish worsened, she sought help.
"I knew that I was coming apart at the seams. I tried, but I was un-counselable. At this time I was doing the cutting. I was slicing my into my hands just in self punishment, self mutilation. I would fly into rages and break everything in my dorm room. I was talking about and thinking about suicide."
Shelly began to finalize a plan to end her suffering.
"I was going to jump off the roof landing in the stone courtyard where there would be high visibility of my death. I was hoping to do it on my birthday to make a statement of how unhappy I am that I exist."
But before she could get to the roof…
"This other student from college just all of a sudden just stands in front of me between me and the trap door. She just said, ‘Let’s go to the bathroom and wash that off your hands. Okay?’"
With her suicide attempt thwarted, Shelley was placed in a mental hospital on suicide watch.
"I just lose it. I just start sobbing, because I’m thinking about the shoelaces. And I’m thinking, ‘How low have I gone that I have to have someone take my shoelaces away from me?’ It just felt so demeaning and degrading. I start cussing out the person who abused me and all the hatred and the bitterness starts coming out.
"I said, ‘If there’s a God, You have to show me that You are real, and it has to be between You and me. I can’t believe what somebody else says. You have to show me that You can do something about this pain. If You can’t, I’m dying.’"
Shelley didn’t know it, but that’s when a group of students and teachers began a prayer vigil on her behalf. 10 days later, Shelley was released from the hospital.
"I think God started answering that prayer. When I think back to that time, I think a tiny amount of hope started creeping in at that point."
The college students continued to pray. They even invited Shelley to a Bible study.
"I know that I opened my mouth to say, ‘No, I’m not going to that Bible study.’ I heard myself saying, ‘Yes, I will be there,’ and writing down the directions."
Later that day, with fear and trepidation, Shelley opened a door and heard sounds she had never heard before.
"It’s the first time I’ve seen people worshipping with their hands raised, singing the songs to Jesus with tears running down their faces. Some are laughing. Some are weeping.
"Right in the midst of that, one of the leaders of the Bible study says, ‘Can we pray for you?’ I go, ‘Yeah sure, you know. Pray for me.’ They pull out the chair into the middle. I’d never seen the chair. So now, I’m with fanatics. I have no idea what’s going on.
"But I did have one little thought that I offered up to God, ‘If You’re going to show Yourself to me, You’d better do it now, because I will never come into a situation like this with these types of people.’"
Shelley says that God responded to her challenge that night.
"It was like this weight of the presence of God just rested on me. It felt like all of a sudden I was in a room by myself before God. It was terrifying and awesome. And the big - the dominating thing that was going through my emotions was, ‘Oh my goodness! I was so wrong. He exists. He exists.’ I knew without any shadow of a doubt He existed and He was real and that He was present.
"I just began to break down and cry. They led me through a prayer of salvation and I prayed with them. What I experienced in that moment was like a little fountain of joy, this quiet little joy that started coming up in my heart.
"There was such a radical shift. I mean, it was from death to life. Our campus witnessed it. People around me witnessed it. I could not stop reading the Bible. I was just loving it."
In the ensuing months, Shelley told everyone about what God had done for her. She became a worship leader and Bible teacher at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.
"The blood of Jesus is enough. God can take away the pain. He can take away the shame of it. He can give you a hope and a reason to live. The Lord has made it right. He has shown me my worth before Him."
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