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IN THE SPIRIT: Fulfilling her childhood dream

Naomi Dunavan1 / 2
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It's always a pleasure to meet new people when they come to town. Usually it's a job that brings them and it's heartwarming to hear they not only love their work but also the place they now call home.

Case in point: Kayla Strayer, WDAZ-TV, Grand Forks.

Kayla was hired as a television reporter by WDAZ last November. It seemed I knew her even before she rang my doorbell and came into my living room to be interviewed -- a role reversal for her since she's usually the one asking the questions.

I wanted to meet Kayla because before she moved here a friend of mine sent me two columns she had written when she worked for the Worthington (Minn.) Daily Globe. In one column titled, "Lose self-confidence, gain God-confidence," Kayla encouraged her readers to start living their lives to please God rather than man.

Good advice in my opinion.

Kayla loved her job at the Daily Globe and had been there just three months when she heard of WDAZ's opening. Her childhood dream always had been to have a career in television news. She applied for the job here, prayed about it and wondered, "How can God promote us to a new level in life if we are too scared to leave behind what we already have?"

When hired by WDAZ, Kayla knew it was "God's will for my life," she added. "After all, He closes the wrong doors and opens ones that no one can shut."

Every day is new and exciting for Kayla. "I cover anything and everything and I absolutely love it," she said. "I am so blessed to be in my dream field. My favorite part is meeting new people. I feel privileged to tell their stories and hope I connect with the audience and the people I meet. And I love Grand Forks. I didn't know what to expect. People are so nice. I love the downtown area."

In her leisure, Kayla likes to read and spends a lot of time in the Bible. One of her favorite verses is Matthew 7:7 which she has memorized: "(Continue to) Ask and it will be given to you; (continue to) seek and you will find; (continue to) knock and the door will be opened to you."

Kayla also laces up her tennis shoes and goes running and she walks Sady, her miniature Australia Shepherd.

A middle child, with an older and a younger brother, Kayla grew up in Mount Vernon, Ohio. Always self motivated she went to beauty school while in high school and all through college at Ohio State University, Columbus, worked full time as a hair stylist.

Kayla's parents are divorced and her youngest brother has graduated from high school, so when she moved to Grand Forks, her mother, Kelly, moved with her. "She needed a new start," Kayla said.

Kelly is manager of 'l Bistro in the Canad Inn.

Kayla was raised Catholic. Now she and her mother attend Freedom Church. "It's welcoming to all ages," Kayla said. "The messages Pastor Nathan Johnson gives are in every day terms."

At 24, Kayla looks with eagerness and great expectation toward the future. Yes, she feels privileged to tell other people's stories, but she also openly shares one of her own - a story of intrusion followed by enormous hurt, anger and despair.

"Maybe some other girl will read this and it will help her," Kayla said. "I hope and pray I can now help other people who are going through tough times, whatever they might be. This incident is truly what changed my life and brought me closer to God. I could have taken my life, but I totally turned to God."

As Kayla's neared her college graduation, her best friend's husband tried to sexually assault her. She was able to thwart the attack, but "the assault was like an out of body experience," she says. "I know without a doubt God came to me and took me out of that moment. He was my voice that night. That was God saving me from my own personal hell."

Kayla reported the incident to authorities and they questioned the attacker who denied it. In the end nothing was done because "it was just his word against mine," Kayla said. "I was left in pure misery."

Kayla professors were "more than understanding," she said. They gave her extra time to complete her class work and she was able to graduate on time.

In the aftermath of the attack, Kayla searched God's word for peace and comfort. She prayed relentlessly and one night wrote what she calls "a letter."

Among the thoughts she penned:

• "I wanted to sleep and never wake up. I would take walks in the middle of the night, look up to the sky and beg God for mercy. I was not strong enough for this kind of pain I told Him."

• "The thing I had the most trouble overcoming was why me? I did not ask for this. I did nothing wrong. I did not deserve this. But a lot of hurting people don't deserve what happened to them either. On the other hand, we don't deserve the mercy and grace of God, but each and every one of us gets it. We are all sinners but we all get the promise of God's never ending love.

• "I used to question whether there really was a God. If there was, I never understood how he could allow so much pain and suffering in this world. If he truly created all things, why was there evil and hatred? Why do unspeakable things happen to good people, even someone as pure and innocent as a child? I don't have all the answers. None of us do, or ever will while on this Earth. But I do know there is a God and he takes evil and turns it to beauty. When you accept God in your life, you never have to go through it alone. He will carry you out of the pits into a place so enchanting, words can't describe."

• "God does work in mysterious ways. He will never take away our own free will to do what we want, which is why what happened to me was allowed to happen. But, he is there to save us. He will never leave us alone in our battles."

• "I realized I could not help anyone until I helped myself. And I could not help myself, only God had the healing power of love. In his own perfect timing, God has healed me so much and continues to. Speaking up about this was the hardest thing I've ever done. But it was the right thing to do, and I could not live with myself if I didn't. The truth will always be the truth."

• "Everyone has a sob story. I'm not putting mine out there to say, 'oh woe is me, look what I've been through.' I'm saying, here's a piece of my life and here's how God is turning my pity into power. Before I spoke up, I thought I was so pitiful and that man was so powerful. But God gave me the courage to stand up and do what's right."

Everything changed in Kayla life after "that night," she said, "my school, my job, my relationships, my heart. But, things always have a funny way of turning around. I get more joy out of life now - since I turned my life completely over to God."

I believe Kayla has found the "God Confidence," she speaks of in one of the columns sent to me.

"I've learned not to depend on your circumstances for your happiness," Kayla said. "Depend on God and you will be a more stable person, no matter what is going on in your life. As for my dreams, I want to travel the world, get married, have kids and be a journalist that others in the field will look up to down the road. None of these things have happened yet, but I believe they will."

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