Hi, my name is Heathyr Gavlik. I have three children and I live in Tyngsborough. I grew up in the projects with an alcoholic mother and an absent father. Being the oldest I would be left alone at night to take care of my brother at a very young age. I can remember being afraid many nights. My mom and dad yelled and screamed at each other and it always made me scared. Sometimes I still fear the night as an adult.
Growing up I didn’t have any religious background but even as a teenager I was searching for what my purpose was. At this time I developed anxiety and depression, and kept questioning, “Why am I even here?” Around this time I met the man who would become my husband. We were high-school sweethearts. I graduated, got pregnant, and got married.
My husband was away in the military when my oldest was diagnosed with special needs. I thought that when he came home, things would get easier, but instead our marriage became abusive. I had two more children, but the relationship just got worse. The police were called for domestic disturbances many times.
During this time I was trying to fill the hole in my heart, but with all the wrong things: toxic relationships, pleasing others, making wrong choices. One of those choices was believing in the wrong religion. My husband’s family was Jehovah’s Witness, also known as JWs. When I had just had my youngest child, I got baptized by the JWs. I had some Biblical knowledge, but it wasn’t the right path.
I attended church three-times a week, went out in service, knocked on people’s doors, and did all the requirements, but there was no fellowship and I felt very alone. I had no community or friendships. My kids weren’t allowed to do any sports in school. I couldn’t go to college or vote. They told me to stay in the relationship even though they knew about the abuse. I asked a lot of questions but never got answers from the Bible. They kept telling me “only the faithful and discreet slave” know the answers to the questions. They told me only 144,000 get to go to heaven, and I was not one of them.
I stayed in the abusive relationship with my husband for 20 years and with the JWs about 15 years. I kept searching for answers anywhere and everywhere, asking others of different faiths for answers. I was always trying to fill voids. By this point my marriage had gotten so bad the Swat Team was called to our home and my kids and I were diagnosed with PTSD. That relationship ended in divorce but I quickly got into another toxic relationship. That was what was familiar to me. My kids kept asking me what I was doing, but I didn’t leave the relationship.
Then one day my old neighbors, Kayela and Billy Oder, invited us to Cornerstone. At first, I felt too preoccupied with the relationship to come. But one day I finally said yes.
When I first came, I didn’t expect to get accurate Bible knowledge. I thought the JWs may be right, but I got a totally different perspective. One of the number one things I’ve always struggled with is the Trinity and believing that Jesus is God. JWs don’t believe in the Trinity or take the Lord’s Supper. As I partook in the Lord’s Supper and listened to the message, I felt God’s Holy Spirit. It felt like a great light turned on, and I looked around the room and wondered if anyone else saw it. I even asked my kids and they told me to “quit crying!”
Here I learned that Jesus died on the cross for my sin. I let Jesus come into my life and heart and I felt Jesus’ love for me. He accepts me with all my flaws and everything. Thank goodness he was waiting for me. He filled the void of why I am here and what my purpose is. I’m here because God wants me here, he loves me, and wants to use me to praise him. He’s filled every void in my life with Jesus and is no longer letting the past define me.
After that first worship service, I went home and ended the toxic relationship because I knew it wasn’t pleasing God and I wanted to please him. I still struggle with depression and anxiety but I have hope, have more peace, sleep better, and have less nightmares. I now feel like the Bible is God’s word. It’s not a mystery anymore. I’m reading the Bible a lot and can’t imagine going a whole day without reading it. I recently discovered one of my favorite Bible verses, which is not in the JW’s version of the Bible. It tells me Jesus is God.
John 1:1-2 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”
I like to tell people Jesus is my new BF (Best Friend!). If you have any more questions, please come talk to me. Thank you.