My father wanted to have a son instead of me, his daughter. So my story begins even before I was born,” said Katarina*, a young woman staying at Youth for Christ’s Kralova Lehota Ranch in Slovakia. “His disappointment and rejection was so strong that I never knew a father’s love. On the other hand, I knew shouting, punishments, beating, kicking, being grounded. I became a victim of physical and psychological abuse.

“I couldn’t find love and understanding at home, so I started to look for it with others. I tried to find someone who would love me, who would be interested in me, who would praise me, understand me and accept me. Every day at home, the lack of understanding led me to greater and greater rebellion.”

After leaving to attend university things only got worse. “I found friends for whom I was willing to do anything just so that they wouldn’t exclude me from their group, Just to belong somewhere. To be popular at last. They drank? I drank with them. They smoked? So me, too! I did anything just to avoid being alone again. But still, I had a feeling that I wasn’t far enough from my home,” Katarina said.

The desire to be far from home and the control of her family led her to take a job abroad. But even there she couldn’t escape her problems. “I longed to be free my whole life,” Katarina said, “but no freedom came. Instead of that, I got into the devil’s claws, and he held me so strong that I became his slave. Addictions, fears, anxieties, fights, one bad situation after another. This is how I would describe my life abroad. My life became one big disappointment. That’s why I tried to end it three times. Thank God, I didn’t succeed.” Katarina had little contact with her family.

Meanwhile, Katarina’s younger sister gave her life to Jesus at Youth for Christ’s CampFest, a music and teaching festival held annually at Kralova Lehota. One evening she called Katarina and prayed for her. “When she prayed,” Katarina said, “I knew that the words did not come from her. I knew there was something more. Something stronger and greater than we are. This prayer touched my heart and mind. I wanted to have it, too. To live a free life without fear, full of life and respect.

Katarina ended up moving to Kralova Lehota and getting involved in Youth for Christ’s Christian counseling programme there. “I imagined Kralova Lehota as some kind of prison for young people, where my closest ones can come to visit me in a guarded room for a few minutes,” said Katarina, “something like what you can see in the American movies. But the power of my sister’s prayer got me here in the end. I tell you that it was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

At last I feel that I’m not deceived and I am loved. To get to know Jesus and understand who I am, that I don’t have to go through life on my own, it was the most important truth that I lacked my whole life.”

Cooperating with and mobilising churches and other Christian organizations, Youth for Christ in Slovakia runs three counseling centres, hosts multiple conferences, produces LifeTV that reaches over 600,000 households, and has over 80 musical concerts around the country annually.

Their signature event, CampFest, held at the Kralova Lehota Ranch each August, draws over 6,000 people each year for three days of Christian music, teaching and fellowship.

The Ranch is a place where God shows his glory every day,” said Katarina. “I know that God saved me, and he used my sister to do so. I pray that he uses me, too, to reach others.

For more information about YFC in Slovakia, visit sk.yfci.org or www.mpks.sk