How God Used a Nightmare, a Church, and an Australian to Bring Change to Durham, North Carolina
As a young girl, Abbi Tenaglia experienced something that no little girl should ever have to go through – sexual exploitation. Having been manipulated online, she found herself states away from home with a much older man who had stolen her innocence. She was terrified, alone and vulnerable. Fortunately for Abbi, she was able to escape, but the nightmares remained. She experienced inescapable pain and addiction into her teen and college years, and her life felt hopeless.
“Exploitation, addiction and abuse are familiar to me,” she shares. She preferred death over the pain and the nightmares. “After ten years of pain, all I wanted to do was die, but I decided to try one last thing – God.”
At her lowest point, homeless and alone, Abbi took a leap of faith and stepped into newhope Church in Durham, North Carolina for the first time, not knowing what to expect from the service, or if anyone would even relate to what she was going through.
Pastor Benji Kelley stood up front, and began to tell his own story of pain, abuse and addiction. For the first time in a long time, Abbi felt known. She felt understood and like she belonged. She was overwhelmed by the idea that God could make beautiful things from what had been broken. “I realized if God could do anything in Pastor Benji’s life, God could also do anything with me.”
“Freedom, joy, and hope didn’t come naturally. I had to learn how to find them and where I found them were in the arms of my Savior.” Instead of ending her life, she gave her life to Jesus, and fell in love.
Abbi’s love for God overflowed into service, and she quickly began getting involved with the church, serving everywhere she possibly could. So when the opportunity to serve at the 2010 Global Leadership Summit came, she took it without hesitation.
Christine Caine spoke that year. Abbi knew nothing of Christine except that she was from Australia, so Abbi decided to slip into the auditorium to hear her accent. Little did Abbi know what Christine Caine was going to say, and the impact it was about to have on her life. God was orchestrating something bigger.
Abbi listened to Christine Caine speak about sex trafficking, abuse and exploitation. She couldn’t sit still in her seat. Christine inspired her with a message of hope and transformation. The passion in her grew. Abbi was being called to do something to eradicate the terrible reality of trafficking and sexual exploitation in her community. “Since then, it has been clear to me that my mission on earth is to help guide others who are enslaved (commercially or not) to hope and true joy,” Abbi shares. “Because of what I have been through, I am committed to using my one and only life on earth to fight for the freedom of those who have been trafficked.”
She left the Summit with a vision and a passion. In that same year, she launched Transforming Hope Ministries to serve her community, and eradicate sex trafficking and exploitation in her city. Ultimately she wants to create a safe community and a healthy environment for kids to grow in.
On her journey, she’s realized how real spiritual warfare really is, and how important it is for her to remain closely connected to God, and remember his truth. “It’s important to prepare yourself to know the truth, and recognize the true enemy,” she said. “We need to know how the enemy works so we don’t let fear overtake us. As a leader, I need to remember God’s truth and fight from a place of victory.”