Valeria's story is part of an initiative by Eternity Church, based in Mirrabooka Perth, to share how Jesus changes the lives of real people in their congregation. For more inspiring testimonies, go to wherewillyouspendeternity.com.au
Growing up in a broken home with many troubles at school, I found it difficult to achieve much. Running away from home at the age of 14, drinking, doing pot and then injecting speed at 15, I spiralled into addiction and prostitution.
I fell pregnant with my beautiful daughter, but because of my drug lifestyle, my mum took custody of her. Drugs, crime and violence surrounded me.
After coming out of prison for the third time, I started going out with a man who was violent. I went back to drugs, committed crimes and I would often fear for my life._I ended up falling pregnant and had twin boys and then another son. Because of my lifestyle, my four children were taken away from me.
In 2013 I was sent to prison for the fourth time. I was angry, I hated the world and I hated myself. Every time I left prison, I would have good intentions. I wanted to do the right thing. I wanted to break the cycle I was in but I just didn't know how.
I first heard about Jesus in 2013 in prison. This is when I first started to read the Bible and pray.
Another prisoner encouraged me to join a fitness program. Little did I know that this program would eventually change my life._I heard the facilitator share her story of beating addiction through a personal relationship with Jesus. I went to church with my mentor and there I felt God saying to me that I needed Him if I wanted to turn my life around and so on September 7, 2014 I committed my life to Him. I asked Jesus for His help and forgiveness, to be my Saviour and my friend.
For so many years I lived in bondage to addiction, crime and violence but in Jesus I finally found hope and freedom.
I made a promise to myself that if I were ever to get my life together, I would use it to help other people.
After I was released from prison I joined a mentoring program. Like many women leaving prison, I had to face my fears and address my unemployment, lack of education and the worry of not being able to pay the rent.
However, my mentors taught me "the fight in me must be greater than the fight against me" and I refused to have a victim mindset. Against all odds, I began to fulfil the dream in my heart to help others.
I graduated from the Yellow Ribbon Project mentoring program and went on to complete the Teen Challenge program. Despite my learning struggles, I have gone on to study and have achieved a Certificate 4 in Community Service Development and a Certificate 4 in Leadership/Ministry. I recently became a Street Chaplain and I also coordinate a Community Eats dinner through my church every fortnight for people in the community who are doing it tough. I also get the privilege of sharing my story in schools.
I also have now got a job as a retail supervisor in a busy supermarket and I am happy to say that I no longer rely on government housing.
My greatest achievement and biggest miracle of all is that my case with the Department of Child Protection, which was initially an 18-year order, is closed and I now have full custody of my son and full visitation rights to my other children.
I am so thankful to God for helping me and my family back on our feet.
I will continue to be focussed on building a better tomorrow and seeing other people receive their second chance just like me.•