The Return of This Daughter

Visionary daughter Evangeline McNiel writes an open letter to our readers:

Dear Daughters near or far, at home or abroad,

I want to write to you and share how the simple true message of So Much More changed my life and satisfied my unexplainable longings. A phrase from the book broke my heart and pinpointed my error. The contributor wrote, “I began to understand that my calling was not somewhere out their waiting for me to ‘find it,’ but my calling was to help my dad fulfill his calling.”

As an energetic, go-getter gal, I was always planning projects, taking leadership positions, “making waves” as my seaside university’s motto urged us. But it all left me thinking, “Is this God’s best?”

I come from a homeschool family of six. When my senior year came, our family knew no better course than college. All three of my older siblings attended private Christian colleges, so I when I received an offer for a full-ride scholarship to any university in my state, I counted it a blessing. My father was uneasy, but there was so much hype in the air about my acceptance after months of interviews and essays, I did not seriously consider his premonitions.

My first weeks at the university were fascinating for a people-loving girl who had been homeschooled and homechurched most of her life. Living in the dorms, I had running buddies, surfing friends, a ballroom dance clan, international students—it was exciting. Although many of my friends confessed to be Christians, very few were true followers. I was discouraged by the lack of spiritual and academic seriousness, but I made the best of it. Soon I was class representative, president of the Spanish club, a young women’s Bible study leader, an active member of a local church, part of a Hispanic ministry, a straight A student. It all left me so empty, but the novelty of my new independent life kept me going and my reports home positive. I lived in the “Christian dorm” and had good relationships at church, so I was blind to a lot of what was really going on, until the second year.

My second year I was a house parent (“Resident Assistant”) for 63 students in a co-ed dorm. I am to blame for this ridiculous idea. The summer before, I was doing mission work in Mexico City, so my parents had very little input. My new life was the antithesis of a protected stay-at-home daughter. Mcniel I had to go on night patrol until 3 o’clock in the morning breaking up drinking parties, and going into the depths of a very dark and depraved world. Around this nightmare of a time, I was chosen to represent the school of education for an “Academic Life” promotional booklet. My plans and smile seem so cool and confident, but behind it all I was the most broken, lost and instable as I have ever been. And it wasn’t just me. I felt it in all the girls — the insecurity…the fruit of an unprotected life. “Her focus is clear,” my bio read. I had no focus. I had no idea how to be a good Christian girl. I was lost.

Meanwhile, I read voraciously in search of a real education and deeper purpose. One day I saw a woman from my church mentoring a friend of mine in a local coffee shop. They were reading So Much More. The attractive cover and the words “Visionary Daughters” caught my eye. I will never forget the night I sat on my bed reading that book until 4 in the morning, weeping over it. My heart had ached for a protected mission, a biblically sound mission, an ancient mission. And here it was! What joy! What relief! I was not designed to be an independent woman, but rather part of a man’s life, a helper. And what better man could I help but my dear father?

That next weekend I drove home to present the idea to my family. At first, my parents were surprised at my desire to move home after recently announcing plans to study abroad in Spain and Chile the next year. But at the end of our few days of sharing and crying and much repentance and prayer, my father would have it no other way. I was to come home as soon as I finished my final exams.

I returned back to school and feared what my scholarship director and friends would think and say. My resolution began to crumble when friends reacted in disapproval and even advised me to see a counselor. One day, I was seriously doubting it all as I drove to class when I spotted two bumper stickers that made me angry. “Nice girls never make history” and “Feminism = No more oppression.” Our cars were on the same road, but I thought, Do I want to be driving the same direction as they?

I have passed a joyous year in my father’s house, and our family of 3 adult children is learning how God can use our unity for his glory. My mother is teaching me how to love our family and make home a wonderful place. I help manage meals and hospitality and am beginning to keep the books for the family. My father sends me out to help homeschool families, mentor young girls and share the Gospel with Hispanic women. Vision Forum’s Father-Daughter Retreat and a recent visit to the —– family’s home and Grace Family Baptist Church in Houston sharpened my vision and joined me to like-minded people. If you are a newly returned daughter or if you want to be but you are afraid—don’t be. Have faith in God; He is able to do exceeding abundantly more than you could ever think or imagine.

Evangeline McNiel (r)