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Encounter helped Ria to end abuse and self-harm 

After suffering abuse as a young teenager, Ria Fergusson experienced an incredible healing encounter at a Christian camp, and now supports young people as a youth leader at Soul Church in Norwich.

Helen Baldry reports.

Ria had a loving upbringing within a Christian family and a supportive church in Suffolk. She describes herself as a ‘classic church kid’. Life was not without its challenges; Ria’s parents divorced when she was eight, and belonging to a church family helped her navigate this difficult time. 

Between the age of ten and 13, Ria became immersed in online grooming by a child exploitation ring. During the grooming process she was exposed to a lot of unhealthy, impure, mature things at a young age, which led her to an addiction of self-harming along with horrifically negative thoughts about herself.  

Ria’s story shows that a Christian upbringing and commitment at a young age does not protect a person from problems. She said: “I had grown up in church. I was around the things of God and was on fire for Jesus. It doesn’t make you any less of a Christian when you are going through hard things.”

The abuse left Ria feeling emotionally overwhelmed and she started self-harming in order to reduce this pain. She said: “My self-confidence and worth in myself and how I thought I should be treated was completely warped.”

A turning point for Ria was at the age of 15 when she had an incredible life-changing encounter at a Christian summer camp when she experienced an amazing revelation of God’s love.

Ria said: “I came to that camp not expecting much. I walked into that camp hurt in my heart and on my body in physical ways.” One evening there was a talk about self-harm and those who struggled with this issue were invited to come forward for prayer. Ria responded and a youth leader prophesied over her saying that God would cut away the trauma and set her free from it.

Ria explained what happened next: “The weirdest thing happened. I felt this tingling sensation along my stomach and thighs where these self-harm scars were. They were prominent, they stung because they were quite recent.” 

She said: “ Later that evening, when I was alone, I took a look at my stomach and my thighs there were no scars left on my body. There was no evidence that I’d hurt myself in such a horrific way.” 

Ria felt God speak to her softly: ‘Ria I took those scars all those years ago when I died on the cross for you. That’s not something I want you to carry anymore’. Since that day, Ria has never harmed her body again and her levels of self-confidence are rising every day.

Ria’s unique understanding of self-harm, shame and the associated effects of anxiety and depression place her in a position to help others. Alongside her studies at UEA in English Literature, she is a youth leader at Soul Church in Norwich and believes that consistency and building trust is important when working with young people. She said: “God’s heart is for us to be a community and share our burdens with each other. We want every youth to walk out of the building knowing they are loved by Jesus.”

Ria speaks to young people, some of whom have gone through the same things she did. She said: “We don’t know what a young person’s life is like. Showing them that they are not alone is important. It’s brilliant for them to have other adults they can trust in their life.” 

Ria gives thanks to God for pulling her out of a dark situation and giving her opportunities to share her personal story of faith.


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