Sara Aguirre’s early years in Houston, Texas, were full of trauma, abuse and exploitation, about as bad as it could get. And that didn’t change as she grew up.

She was placed in a girls’ home at 14, then moved in with her older sister in Waco at 15.

“During my time in Waco I continued to use substances to cope with the trauma and almost died from alcohol poisoning,” Aguirre said. “I only remember waking up in the hospital room with tubes pumping out all the toxins my body consumed. I attempted suicide to end the emotional pain I was enduring. I felt hopeless.”

But not too long after, she heard the gospel for the first time. Even though she felt out of God’s reach, she felt drawn to Him and became friends with some students at Baylor University who took her to church with them.

And after about a month, Aguirre gave her life to Jesus.

“I remember a peace that I have never experienced before. The joy of the Lord broke the feelings of hopelessness…I would spend hours at the church prayer room soaking in the presence of God,” she said.

She started serving in the church, went on several missions trips and had a passion to share the gospel with everyone she could so they too could be healed and restored.

But she would find soon she too still needed some healing.

“After years of walking closely with God and being involved in the church, my mother passed away,” Aguirre said. “Her passing brought up tons of past pain. I thought as a believer that stuff is not part of my life anymore, it was dusted under the rug.”

And when she realized she still had trauma to deal with, she became angry with God, and her heart drifted from Him.

“What God set me free from I quickly fell back into. I started using drugs, self-harming, sexual sin and battled with bulimia,” she said. “These addictions almost cost me my life. My body was shutting down from the eating disorder and drugs. My doctors were concerned and didn’t think I would make it if I didn’t get treatment.”

So in 2014, Aguirre entered a long-term recovery home called Grace House, where she began to deal with her past pain and the root of her addictions. While she was there, she found out about Christian Women’s Job Corps of McLennan County.

“I came to CWJC kicking and screaming. I had trust issues,” she said.

But she realized soon that God was bringing more healing to her life. She finished the Career Track program there, worked her way through financial literacy, computer and job skills and resume building. She reenrolled in college and started working toward a degree in social work.

“I’m glad I didn’t run away from the amazing opportunity,” Aguirre said. “I came to CWJC with no direction or self-esteem. During my time at CWJC, my confidence grew, and I began to dream again. After completing the program, I had confidence and built my character.”

She also took a position as administrative assistant/receptionist at CWJC, which grew into a position as programs director and site coordinator.

Lydia Tate, executive director of CWJC of McLennan County, said Aguirre’s “care for each woman who walks through the door is breathtaking and honoring to each woman’s journey—everyone loves Sara at CWJC.”

Tate said Aguirre’s own journey has served as a sign of hope for the women who come there.

“Sara holds a life-changing testimony of God’s grace and goodness working in one woman’s life through the care of CWJC to bring about a full change from drugs, alcohol and suicide to a fully licensed social worker who wants to specialize in recovery and poverty alleviation.”

Aguirre completed her master’s degree this spring and is now working on her licensing with help from a recent honor. In late April, she was presented with the Sybil Bentley Dove Award, which the WMU Foundation gives annually to a recipient who desires to improve herself through the acquisition of skills or academic pursuits that will lead to self-reliant living or to give assistance and nurture to the development of her children.

The award comes with an endowment that will help pay the costs of getting her licensing finished as she moves into a new role as director of early intervention for Unbound Austin, an organization that fights human trafficking. She’s also getting married in October.

“God has opened so many doors, Aguirre said, and help from CWJC has “literally brought me out of poverty.”

“It has really given me an opportunity to grow and taught me how to set up that nurturing environment for others so they’re able to grow and able to heal,” she said. “I have learned so many tools from CWJC.”

Laura Graves, a board member for CWJC of McLennan County, said Aguirre has “outstanding character, persistence and determination.”

“Knowing Sara for four years, I have personally observed her heart for Christ as she serves the women of Waco and surrounding areas,” Graves said. “Gracefully, Sara juggles work, family and school while pouring love and kindness into everyone she meets.”

Aguirre has hit many roadblocks in her life, but her faith keeps her going, Graves said. “She inspires me as she strives tirelessly to further her education in order to serve others and point them to Christ. Sara lives her life bringing hope and encouragement to those around her.”