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It’s Like I’m Experiencing the Childhood I Never Had
Hard times are good if they lead you to search for things that are eternal. After you’ve experienced them, you can help others.

To look at Tara Morden and to hear her infectious laughter, you’d assume life for her is good. It is… but it hasn’t always been that way. In fact, Tara has crammed a lot of living into her young life and much of it has been hard.

Tara Morden

In grade four she lost her best friend to cancer. “I waited for her to come back and play on the swings, but she never came,” Tara recalls. “I ended up losing someone I was close to every year until grade eight. I began to think I was making people die, that I was a bad person.”

That negative self image was reinforced when, at 14, Tara was told that she would never marry because she was ugly and unlovable, and that she was a mistake. “I began to shut down,” Tara says. “I didn’t want to let people in, so I’d push them away and keep them at a distance.”

Life dealt Tara another traumatic blow when she was raped as a high school student. “It was really hard for me to deal with that,” Tara admits. “I was trying to hide it because in my family the way to deal with problems was to ignore them. So I just held it in. I thought the only way that I would get over this was to leave.”

That horror, coupled with the hardships in other areas of her life, cemented a decision to leave home immediately after graduation. While Tara admits now that she was running away from her problems, what she ran to was not much better. With $100 in her pocket, she headed to Toronto on a one-way bus ticket. “I got to Toronto to find out I didn’t have a place to stay like I thought I did,” says Tara. “I joined up with a carnival and traveled around with them for about a year and a half. Got to see some interesting places like Miami and New York, and saw a lot of life that the tourists don’t see, because we were often right in the ghettos.”

Tara worked the food stands. Breakfast often consisted of mini-donuts, and dinner of curly fries. Sometimes she worked a stand that provided her with one of her favourites… mozzarella sticks. At night she would often sleep in an unheated semi.

It was during her time in the carnival that cracks of light began to appear in Tara’s spiritually darkened mind. She had been taught to distrust Christians, but certain experiences caused Tara to begin to question that mindset. When setting up in a new location, the younger crew were often left to work all day without food until sunset, at which time they were free to try to find something to eat. At certain places on the circuit, groups of Christians would come and bring bag lunches for the workers. She found herself wondering why these people were so kind.

Tara and Jackie

Once a Christian group had a booth in the carnival, and gave Tara a Bible. She didn’t get to read it, as it quickly “went missing.” But she found herself questioning, “What was that Bible about?”

On another occasion a lady in a mall in New York offered Tara and another girl a ride. “Don’t talk to her. You never know what she might do to us,” warned the other worker. When the lady had driven them to their destination she asked, “Are you girls Christians?” Tara’s friend immediately said “Yes” to end the conversation, and was angry to hear Tara answer, “No.” The lady gave Tara the book The Prayer of Jabez, telling her it was a good book and might help her. “My friend took it and just gave it to someone walking by on the street. I never got to read it, but again I was left thinking about this Christian lady’s kindness,” says Tara.

Tara discovered that leaving home did not help solve her problems. “They just followed me around wherever I went. Instead of dealing with them, I hid them by smoking, drinking, and doing drugs to try to find a way to numb the pain.”

Just before Christmas 2003, Tara decided it was time to come home. In January she emailed her friend and confidante, Jackie… a classmate throughout her school days from kindergarten onward who had become an anchor point for Tara. Jackie offered to take her to church and Tara started to attend on Sundays.

Tara also noticed signs advertising the Alpha course. “I saw the signs for Alpha and became curious, so I looked it up online. I called Jackie and told her I was interested.” The course at their church had already started, but Tara found one online in another city. Jackie offered to drive her, and attended the Alpha course with her.

Tara was 21 by now, and her search for truth was on a fast track. “I was very entertained by Nicky Gumbel. And our group leader was great in explaining things and answering my questions,” Tara recalls. “I grew up hearing Christianity was bad. When I started Alpha, my brother was convinced I was being brainwashed. When I told him about the good food at Alpha he said, ‘Don’t eat it! They’ll poison you!’ I discovered that what Christianity is about is what Alpha shows: it’s about the truth, about needing God and loving each other.”

In September 2004 Tara took the Alpha course again, this time at her own church. She was becoming steeped in God’s love and truth.

In January 2005 she took the Alpha follow-up course A Life Worth Living. It was shortly after that, on April 3, 2005 that Tara Morden gave her life to Jesus Christ. She was listening to her pastor telling about the rich young ruler who turned away from following Jesus because he was unwilling to give up his possessions. “I decided I didn’t want to be like him,” Tara recalls. “I decided to leave all my ‘possessions’ and follow Jesus.”

Coming to faith in Christ set Tara’s life in a new direction, but it didn’t mean her struggles were over. Life at home became a tug of war between what Tara sensed God wanting her to do and what her parents told her to do. “It really became a struggle with the whole honouring your parents and honouring God thing.”

Tara left home and moved in with a family from her church. “I was having a hard time with my parents not accepting the choices I was making. I was having a hard time at work. And then, my next door neighbour and his friend died in a fall on one of the local mountains. It was really hard to accept. It didn’t seem fair, because his Mom was a single mother and he was her only child. I was really upset with God, though didn’t tell Him that. And I didn’t tell anyone else I was struggling.”

Tara got a job in Banff, and left in early February. “I ended up taking off to Banff because, hey, this looks presentable. It’s not me running away to the carnival, but… it was me running away.”

Though her intentions were good, Tara failed to connect with a church in Banff. “I ended up just secluding myself from the Christian world. I started making the wrong choices again and going back to drugs and alcohol to cover up the problems. I still wasn’t over being raped, and I don’t think I ever will be. That was a big torment for me.”

“Then good old Jackie ends up emailing me, like, ‘Hey I haven’t heard from you in awhile. What’s going on?’ It took me a while to finally get the courage to let go of my pride and write her an email explaining what was going on. She sent me this email which was pretty short… ‘I knew when I didn’t hear from you that something was up. Tara… you’re not the same person you used to be. You know the difference between right and wrong now and you know what you have to do.”

Tara handed in her letter of resignation and purchased a one-way bus ticket to Kamloops to meet up with the youth group from church which was attending a youth rally.

On her return another family from Tara’s church opened their home to Tara. They were amazing,” she recalls. “They knew what had happened and they were there helping me.”

Tara spent the summer of 2006 at Camp Tulahead as cook. Up to that point she had struggled with nightmares. But people back home and at camp were praying for her, and she’s never had a nightmare since.

A healing point for Tara happened in an unusual fashion. A guy at camp came up from behind and scared her. He had forgotten that Tara was especially fearful of guys. “I immediately broke down, and he felt so bad. I’m trying to cut carrots and I’m crying.”

The camp director came in and suggested that Tara go away for a few minutes and spend some time with God, while he took over serving the food. “I went and prayed, ‘God, show me through your Word what will help me through this.’ And I opened up my Bible to II Corinthians 1 where it says that God is the God of comfort who comforts us in our times of need.”

“All of a sudden I felt like I could put all this behind me and keep moving forward. Since then I haven’t been bothered by it at all, no matter how many times the devil comes knocking and tormenting that in my face. It’s like, ‘No. My God’s on my side.’

“I found the guy that had frightened me and apologized to him, telling him it was not his fault. I said, ‘You did nothing wrong. It’s just that I got dealt a bad hand in life, and I’m sorry that you had to help me get through that.’

“He’s the only guy I’ve actually allowed to hug me.”

After Camp Tulahead, Tara once again found refuge with a family from church. She now has steady work in a coffee shop. “And,” she happily reports, “I have finally moved out on my own!” She is also one of the youth leaders at her church.

Tara’s life is very much a work in process, but the signs of new life are unmistakable. She looks forward to tomorrow, where once she would dread the prospect of a new day. She is learning that God does provide. She is growing closer to her family, watching the Academy Awards with them recently. She even took her Dad out to a movie, and has begun to understand the forces that helped shape his life.

God has brought people into Tara’s life who care for her, and has helped her deal with her fears. She is feeling the deep joy of being used by God to minister to the youth.

“The kids at camp call me Panda,” says Tara, “because Panda’s are cute and innocent looking, but are full of mischief. Before I became a Christian it seemed like I was so much older than my years, and now it’s like I’m back to being a child… it’s like I’m experiencing the childhood that I didn’t get to really experience.”

“The hard things I now know were good because they led me to search. And having gone through hard times, I can help others by sharing my story. I feel like there is hope.”

Bill Bonikowsky is the editor of Alpha News.

Originally published in Alpha News, Spring 2007.




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