For as far back as I can remember, I have felt drawn to Christ. When I was a kid, my school held regular retreats and reflection days that allowed us to consider God. They gave us Christian crosses and other reminders of God’s love. I knew these people had something I needed, but my father, whom I loved dearly, was an atheist. Wanting to honor him, I denied all things Christian. After all, he was my dad, and I trusted him.

My father and I enjoyed water skiing together. We lived in Western Australia, and he took me to competitions all over the country. We competed for 10 years, and I longed to be a world champion skier. I had the opportunity to represent Australia at various international events.

At 18, I began working at a surf shop in my hometown of Perth. Suddenly, it seemed every time I turned around, there was a Bible thumper in my path. Christians were everywhere!

One day, a coworker invited me to church, and for some reason, I went. Everything the pastor said made sense to me and resonated with something deep in my spirit. At the end of the service, the pastor invited people to accept Jesus into their lives. My arm immediately shot up in the air, and I made my way to the front of the church. I received Jesus as my Lord and Savior that day.

Excited, I went home and shared my decision with those closest to me. But just as in my youth, my loved ones didn’t share in my excitement; they were sure I’d joined a cult. I immediately felt guilt and remorse for going against the wishes and beliefs of my family. Their approval meant so much to me that I never went back to that church, and I denied my faith in Christ.

When I was 21, my father died from throat cancer. His absence left a deep hole in my heart, and I began a subconscious search for a father figure to replace him. Sadly, I didn’t pursue my heavenly Father, the only One who could heal my broken heart. Instead, I turned to the pleasures and offerings of the world. I focused on getting my degree and working hard. And with every day that went by, I grew more liberal and more deceived by the enemy’s lies.

After my father passed away, I began skiing with a Christian couple named Steve and Jenny. I didn’t know it, but they were praying and fasting for me, asking God to help me surrender to His love. There were times that their very presence annoyed me because I felt like they were always trying to influence me with their faith. But in my heart, I knew I needed what they had.

Years later, they told me how they’d shed many tears as they petitioned the Lord to save my soul. They had even grown frustrated, wondering why in the world God wasn’t moving faster. But God had a plan, and He was at work.

In 2012, my mom faced the same cancer battle that my father had, and I almost lost her. At that point, I made plans to move to the northern territory of Australia. I was hoping to escape my pain and find healing and wholeness in a new place, far away from home.

The week before I was to leave, some friends threw me a going-away party at their farm. At the end of the evening, I climbed into a car with them; we had all been drinking. I was in the middle of the back seat without a seatbelt when suddenly, the car veered off the road and slammed into a tree.

Only by God’s grace was I not ejected through the front windshield. One of my friends was critically injured. I suffered a concussion, an eye laceration, and a fractured bone in my eye socket. I’ll never forget waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Amid that bloody scene, I began to pray and ask my Father—my heavenly Father—to save us.

My friends and I survived the incident, but my head trauma prevented me from moving up north. It also forced me to cancel an upcoming vacation to Mexico. I had been looking forward to traveling with my friends and partying it up on a different continent. Now I had to put my international plane ticket on hold.

A year later, an urge to qualify for the world water-ski championships began stirring within me. I hadn’t skied competitively since my father passed away. Remembering that I still had an international ticket available, I booked a flight to South Florida to train with Chet Raley, a world-renowned water-ski coach. Incredibly, I wasn’t at his training site five minutes before Chet and one of his boat drivers, Noah, began talking about Jesus.

I couldn’t believe my ears. Could I not go anywhere in this world without having to hear about God? I grew more irritated by their conversation by the second. Sure, I had prayed to God when I needed help at the scene of that car accident, and I was grateful for His intervention. But I was by no stretch of the imagination ready to give up my life plans to follow Jesus. I was still in denial and on the run.

Then, something crazy happened. Noah asked if I wanted to hang out later that week with some friends. I accepted the invitation but wrestled with it the rest of the day. I wasn’t ready to socialize on a grand scale. I had come to America to train and to reach my goal of becoming a world champion water skier. Partying wouldn’t get me there.

I had heard him talking to someone else about doing something at a church on Wednesday though. I ended up writing an email that canceled our plans…and then asked if I could join him for the church meeting. I hit Send, and then realized what I’d just done. What in the world? Church was the last place I wanted to go. Why did I say that?

I know now that God was at work, and the rest is history.

Noah and I ended up going to church on April 10, 2013. I’ll never forget that date because it’s the day I laid my life down before Christ. The moment I stepped into Calvary Chapel, God’s loving arms wrapped around me. He engulfed me with His presence. I heard Him whisper, “I have picked you up and placed you here. Surrender. It’s time for you to let go.”

I embraced God’s love that day, and from that moment forward, I have pursued an intimate relationship with my heavenly Father. Just thinking about that moment, even now, eight years later, I still get emotional. My eyes fill with tears of joy.

I am constantly amazed by the Lord’s goodness. Not only did He save my life for all eternity, but He gave me a godly husband. Noah and I have been married now for almost six years. We have two small children and take turns caring for the kids as we both train for water-ski competitions.

It’s funny—as a youth, I desperately wanted to be a professional water skier, but my dream didn’t come to fruition. Today, at 37, I’m skiing better than ever and am currently ranked seventh in the world for women’s slalom. And I’m enjoying myself too. That’s because this time around, I’m skimming across the water for God’s glory, not my own.

Since my surrender to the Lord, He has placed a fire within me to use the platform of water skiing for His glory. I don’t know what the future holds for me in this sport, but I know my heart’s desire is for God to use my life to lead others to Him—the One who relentlessly pursues His creation with His boundless love.

That’s my story. God is a pursuer of His people. For 20 years, God pursued me to the ends of the earth. He put people in my path to deposit seeds of truth in my life. And even though I denied Him over and over again, God never gave up on me. His love is just that extravagant. Despite my sins and failures, He continued to pursue me with radical determination.

Maybe you’ve been running from God, too, continually refusing to surrender your life to Him. Stop. Listen. You might just hear Him say, as He said to me, “I have picked you up and placed you here. Surrender. It’s time for you to let go.” Don’t take another step without the Lord. Everything you’ve ever desired can be found in Him.

Maybe, instead of running from God, you’ve been praying for someone to come to faith. When I think about my story, I can’t help but marvel at the power of prayer. Please don’t give up. Take comfort in the truth that God hears your prayers and that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16 NIV). If God can save me, He can truly save anyone. So keep praying. Keep fasting. And keep loving. God is in pursuit, and He will bring your loved one home to Him.