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Tindell Baldwin »

Spring break

I often try to run from my past but there are some days it hits me right in the face. I am a different person now, determined to live a different life but I can’t forget the mess God found me in. The news on CNN reminds me how close I can to never being able to tell my story. I only believe I am alive today because of my praying family, a God who is mighty to save, and the still quiet voice reminding me who I really belonged to.

It was senior year spring break, a mark for any high school kid. My friends were all going on an all inclusive trip to mexico (the kind every parent dreads) and my dad told me if I wouldn’t go on the trip he would take me and my two best friends any where we wanted. We picked aruba, partly because there was no drinking age and partly because we wanted to see the clear water and sandy shores. The three of us had a knack for getting into trouble and when we first arrived we found a liquor store and bought the nastiest coconut rum I have ever had. It tasted like banana boat and pina coladas all tied into one but it did the trick. We sat around the pool at the house my dad had rented and drank rum until we laughed at anything. After a great dinner out we decided we would steal the rental car and go out to one of the local clubs. We had no concept of danger and at 2:00am with everyone fast asleep we drove the tiny Toyota corolla to Carlos and Charlies. We had heard it was the best club and we were eager enjoy the laws of Aruba. We made friends with all the bartenders and danced all night long. Around three the bar was starting to close and I was lonely. My two friends were dancing with a tiny Mexican man but being 5’10 I was left standing in the corner. I heard a voice behind me ask if he could buy me a drink and when I turned around I noticed he was different than the other guys in the bar. He wasn’t from Aruba but defiantly wasn’t from America. He was tall and kinda cute and I was on the mend from a broken heart so I figured why not. We ended up kissing and when I started to leave with my friends he followed me out, he kept asking me if I wanted to leave with him and I knew that wasn’t happening. A kiss was fine but leaving with a stranger was something not even I was dumb enough to do. He told me he’d find me tomorrow and before he left I caught his name, Joran Van Der Sloot. We went home thinking nothing of our new found friend and the next day he found us on the beach again. Once I had sobered up something inside me told me he wasn’t to be trusted and when he asked me if I would go out with him alone I refused. Thank the Lord I did. He got my number called me a few times and emailed me but I never responded. My friends asked me why I blew him off and I told him something about him gave me the creeps.
Six months later my best friend calls me screaming to turn on the news, I did and there was my Aruba friend suspected in the disappearance of Natalie Holloway. I gulp. Suddenly life becomes a little clearer than it was five minutes ago, its not a game. I tried to put the memory behind me, I wasn’t proud of my lapse in judgement or how careless I had been with my safety but I had survived and I didn’t know why.
Years later the past is flooding back as he is suspected again in another young girls murder. I can’t help but wonder why not me? Why did God spare me? I didn’t deserve it, I was as careless as these girls but I had lived to tell about it. I have debated over whether or not to tell this story. After all it just seems like another MTV spring break night mare story but I have a point I promise. Reliving these details is about as much fun for me as swallowing a bucket of nails. I hate admitting how careless I was but I have to hope that if the story hits a little closer to home then some young girl might not make the same mistakes I did. I write this with the prayer that my rugged past might make your future a little more smooth. Part of me never wanted to share this because of my pride, how could I be this dumb? Then again pride has no place in my faith and if I am going to help girls I need to start being a little more honest.
I don’t tell you this to scare you into behaving, like most mothers would hope, but to make the danger in this world and the enemy who loves it a little more real. It is shown that girls from ages 15-21 have a part of their brain that is underdeveloped, the part that experiences fear, so we feel invincible. I thought I was invincible. I was far from it and I cringe to think what might have happened if God had let me learn the limits of my humanity.
It seems that all crimes are against women, every time I turn on the news I hear of another victim of abuse, rape, or murder. We live in a scary world but that why God assured us to “take heart he has overcome the world”. I also tell you this because God is mightier than man, God is all powerful and as a friend of mine said who is going overseas “if he wants you to be bullet proof you will be”. This doesn’t mean you can test God or live life like it is a game but it does mean you can pray with confidence for your kids, friends, and family. I truly believed my mother is the only reason i am alive. She would spend hours on her knees begging God on my behalf. My brothers and fathers did the same but my mom wept for her lost child and because of her faith and trust in the Lord I live as a reminder what faith can do.
I say all of this knowing that many have lost loved ones, many have been victims, and I do not know the ways of the Lord but have faith that he has you here for a purpose. This is why my calling is so clear, he saved me so I can help others and for that and so many other reasons I will tell my stories until I meet my protector.
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