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I grew up culturally religious without really knowing God. At the age of 16,

I decided that I was going to be a physician. This pursuit defined me and what followed were ten of the most grueling years of my life. In 2020, I had finally made it to medical school, but I was so worn down. Despite a deep sense of pain and exhaustion, I stubbornly kept pushing. In Spring 2021, we had two deaths in our family. I began developing depression and my doctor encouraged me to start medications as soon as possible.

The brain fog from the medication drastically impacted my studies. At the end of the semester, I received two C’s, resulting in a dismissal from the program. The morning I got that email I broke down and finally let everything go. I had come to the end of myself, yet in the midst of this, I was suddenly overtaken by a deep sense of peace. In my heart, I heard someone say, “Tampa.” Now I can see God was speaking to my heart.

In early December 2021, my sister Zulema told me about an opening at her company and I went for it. By January 2022, I had a job offer locked in. When I arrived in Tampa, people from my sister’s church (Cornerstone) helped us move in. I was so surprised by how selfless they were. Some friends of hers started to come by to hang out and I began to see the love of God through them. After we moved in together, my sister started going through some pretty hard trials at work. Yet there was this strength about her that I knew had to be from God. She introduced me to a campus minister from Cornerstone, and her story about coming to know the Lord really spoke to me. She chose to let go of her career ambitions to follow the call of God and she had no regrets. I really wanted what she had - to know God like that.

Shortly after this, in August 2022, I started going to church at Cornerstone. My first time there, I felt God’s presence so strong. I remember being shocked when the pastor said “just ask” the Lord for salvation and it will be freely given. On September 11, I responded and prayed along at the end of church to give my life to Jesus. I began meeting for weekly Bible studies with a campus minister, who has helped me walk out my decision to follow Christ. She encouraged me to start reading the gospel of John. I got to the chapter about the woman at the well, and learned that only He can give you living water. Again I thought, “All I have to do is ask?” I have prayed and asked God to heal me. There has been so much transformation already. I am no longer on any medications! During all my years in school, I had to sacrifice so much and now the Lord is giving me a double portion. His unconditional love and patience drew me in, and I feel more like myself than I ever have. I know this is who God created me to be! ~ Paola


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