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"I would wake in the middle of the night, and my mother would be there in front of me, but I couldn't see her, and I was screaming trying to reach the front door to escape," Kimberly recalls. "She started to hang crucifixes in my room and pictures of angels and a rosary around my bedpost. I think intuitively she knew that God was the only protection, but she wasn't aware that our practices were actually opening the door to that sort of attack."
Kimberly clung to a crucifix for years, believing that there was power in it to ward off evil spirits. Still, the Shumate family moved deeper into their practices. Then, when Kimberly was only 17 years old, her mother died of cancer.
Since Kimberly and her family followed Hinduism, Kimberly was a big believer in reincarnation. But her belief in reincarnation brought her no comfort. She faced more tragedy when her brother was killed in a motorcycle accident. Her father withdrew from Kimberly. His grief drove him to alcohol and eventually into a rehabilitation clinic.
"All of a sudden, I was left alone in the house," Kimberly explains. After her mother's death, Kimberly says things fell apart at home. "All I knew was that there was a God and He was looking over me but not so much looking after me, so I decided to leave school and hang out with the juvenile delinquents."
Kimberly decided that Satan was the strongest and most intimidating figure she could emulate. To keep people at arm's length, she dressed as ugly as she could.
"I was starving myself," she admits. "That started around my mother's death when I saw her slipping away."
After five years of practicing black magic, Kimberly delved into voodoo. That's when she realized that she had gone too far. So Kimberly switched gears and took on the role of a psychic. She moved to Hollywood, California, rented a small roach-infested apartment, and landed a job as a manicurist making $50 a week.
"At that point, you'd think I'd look around and say, What has happened to me? I didn't. I thought it was great. I was going out to clubs. I had my mother's crystal ball. I had acquired quite a library on books with an occult topic. I thought that I pretty much knew it all," she says.
But in the back of Kimberly's mind, she often wondered why the universe wasn't taking better care of her. Kimberly's efforts to find truth were frustrating. But then there was that client of Kimberly's, the one who came into the salon always wearing a smile. Kimberly found this woman thoroughly annoying.
"It finally got to me one day,' she says. "I was feeling very depressed and just physically hurting. I said, 'Joyce, what is it about you? You're always so happy. ' All she said was, 'You need to come to my church.' I thought, The only avenue I haven't pursued. I have tried chanting with the Buddhists. I have tried Hinduism and every occult practice conceivable. I thought, I'll try it. Everyone was standing with their hands raised, wearing those smiles, and some were crying, everyone was singing, and they were so happy that it made me so uncomfortable that I couldn't stay.
"It took a long time. Again, I found myself back at that church. I sat through the service, and the good news infuriated me. It was irritating because there was only one way to God. They were saying that that was through Jesus Christ. I thought, How arrogant and closed minded could you be! It made me so mad that I walked out, but I found myself back there the next Sunday. I could not stay away. It was the weirdest thing."
Then Kimberly met her match in a guy named Scott. She was in for the fight of her life.
Says Kimberly, "I had a Bible that I was reading, but I wasn't reading it to find the truth. I was reading it to find fault with it and to argue my points. Scott's Bible was being held together by tape and highlight marks and ballpoint pen; it was falling apart. I felt confident that he knew that truth well enough to make an argument, but I still thought my argument was stronger."
But after an hour of debating truth and what it meant, Kimberly was exhausted.
"It was the defining moment," she says. "It was unsettling to the point where it frightened me that all those 29 years were wasted on a lie."
Kimberly sat silently in the car as a friend drove her home. She had lost the argument.
"There was a sick feeling coming over me, and at that moment, the Holy Spirit came in and He showed me the truth. I couldn't believe what it was. It was Jesus!
It was so overwhelming that all I could do was cry for the next three years," Kimberly says. "It was probably a great day in that church because I arrived the Sunday before to argue, and the next Sunday I was standing up in front of everyone sobbing and accepting Jesus."
In time, Kimberly threw out her library of New Age books, her charms and tarot cards, and, finally, her mother's crystal ball. Kimberly tossed it into the Pacific Ocean.
"I thank God that He doesn't give up. He never gives up. It has taught me that no one is beyond saving. You could have passed me on the street 15 years ago and shook your head and said, 'I will never see her in heaven,' yet God is bigger and He's great and He's merciful."
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