Danica Fuimaono says it’s vital to heed God’s call and to follow life’s path attentively.

“We are here for a purpose. Don’t be afraid to embrace yours,” Fuimaono, the associate principal at the Blue Springs Freshman Center, said at Thursday’s annual Blue Springs Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, attended by about 540 people at the Adams Pointe Conference Center.

One of the things Fuimaono said she’s most drawn to today is highlighting human trafficking, that is, young people sold into the sex trade.

“It happens here every day, in America. … And people don’t know that,” she said. She started a group, Restore the Light, to raise awareness and provide resources. She noted that a recent trafficking sweep in the metro area included victims as young as 11.

“Eleven – they are babies,” she said.

Fuimaono shared her own life story, which she framed with the themes of rejection, resilience, accomplishment, reconciliation and forgiveness – and a complete openness to the will of God.

“God has been on a mission to shape me since I was born,” she said.

She was born to a teenage mother, and her father was in and out of her life until he flatly decided he wouldn’t be. One night, sitting in a hallway, she overheard a conversation she wasn’t meant to hear.

“That night he said he didn’t want to be a dad,” she said. “That’s nothing a 5-year-old wants to hear.”

She prayed for the first time in her life, asking God to one day send her a good man to commit to loving her as her husband. (That man turned out to be Wendell Fuimaono, an assistant principal at Blue Springs High School, and she gave him a shout-out.)

Life was not easy – “I was that kid moving 12 times before I was 10 years old” – and she pushed back.

“I fought with my fists and my mouth,” she said, adding “I was ‘that kid.’ I was allowing my situation to become my label.”

But, she said, God changed her. She apologized to those she had intimidated. She also came away with resilience and a measure of compassion.

“As I grew closer to Him, my path began to shift,” she said.

She embraced education. Dr. Fuimaono had earned four degrees at age 33.

“By all of society’s qualifiers, I had a redemption story,” she said. “That’s not a redemption story.”

She had things to do, challenges to face. Meeting her father 23 years after he left her, what would she do? She came to that moment, he admitted his failure – and she forgave him. She was mindful of setting an example for her two young sons.

And, she said, there’s this: Nothing in the past can be changed, but what you say and do today affects today and tomorrow. Let go of the past, and let God shape you.

“You find peace,” she said, “and your purpose.”