I got woke up in the middle of the night by my brother and I knew that something wasn’t right. All I said was, “Dad?”, and my brother said, “Yes.” I just started crying, I just knew he didn’t make it, he had passed. I was in a lot of disbelief, a lot of denial, a lot of anger. Anger was the biggest thing that went through me for a really long time. I had had such a wall built around my heart, I didn’t want to let anybody in again. Especially not God.
My name is Jessica, I’m 25 years old. I was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and I moved to Maui in 2006.
My childhood was… it was good. I had a great mom who did everything she possibly could being a single mom raising two girls. She was… I never went without anything. My father, on the other hand, he was a great dad, as well, but he struggled with alcohol addiction and mental health issues. And so my life was very unstable. He was there for three months, not there for three months, so it was really hard as a young child to watch your dad go out and be drunk on the street. Today is actually his ten year death anniversary so I’m really emotional.
My relationship with my dad, we were really tight. I loved him. My mom always said that he spoiled me. If I didn’t want to do the dishes I would just say, “But daddy, please!” and he would do it for me. But there was also a lot of heartache in that relationship, a lot of feelings of abandonment.
I never understood why he chose alcohol over me. And I still struggle with that to this day. I felt like I wasn’t perfect enough because he was still going out on the streets and drinking. If I was perfect enough, or better, that would be his driving force to overcome his addiction. It took me a really long time to, you know, learn that even though he was, he did have this addiction, that nothing I did would’ve fixed that. But he needed to be the one willing to make the change. I still struggle to this day with wanting to feel perfect or to feel like I’m the best…because of that.
My brother, he’s a police officer. He came over one night, and I got [woken] up in the middle of the night by my brother and I knew that something wasn’t right. All I said was, “Dad?”, and my brother said, “Yes.” I just started crying, I just knew he didn’t make it, he had passed. I was in a lot of disbelief, a lot of denial, a lot of anger. Anger was the biggest thing that went through me for a really long time.
My family and I, it was rough. My sister and I, we did a lot of things that we really shouldn’t have done, we rebelled. It strained the relationship with my mother, I had a lot of resentment towards her just because I could never understand why she married my father. Just a lot of anger. I took it out on her, I took it out on my sister. I took it out on everyone around me.
My mom was Christian, so we did go to church. But when my father passed away that’s when I turned my back on everything. But I just had so much hate, I felt so empty. I was searching for where I belonged, where I felt whole again. The last church that I went to is The Salvation Army and I felt like I didn’t belong there. There was definitely something missing, I felt empty.
As I got older I started questioning things. I started to question if God was real, who He was, why He brought me here. I had had such a wall built around my heart. I didn’t want to let anybody in again. Especially not God.
I found myself seeking because I felt like there was a piece of me missing, that I wasn’t complete, that there was a dark spot in my life. And so I was seeking for that, I was seeking for the place that would fill.
After my father passed away I really went through a period of soul searching, trying to find out who I was, how I belonged in this world. I never felt like I had a place where I belonged, or a place where I was loved or wanted… until I found the Church [Of Christ].
In 2015 I was introduced to the Church Of Christ. I met Anna and she invited me to a Bible study. And I was curious and wanted to know more. And I did look online and went to the website (incmedia), I did watch a couple evangelical missions that were posted, and I really liked how everything that the minister was speaking about was straight from the Bible. I was like, “wow! That’s kind of cool!” And so I decided to give it a shot and go.
I think the first lesson that I had went to was about the Church Of Christ being the true Church from God, and then I was like, “Well how was that? Why is that?” And he read the Bible and he would say the way to be saved is to enter through Christ, and to enter through Christ you enter through His flock or His fold, and that’s the Church. And I was just like, “Wow! That really makes sense!” Everything was just so in order, and I was like anything I was questioning was just immediately answered, and I had no—I mean, how could you have a doubt about what was being said?
It was different for me that day because the lesson was so biblically-based, and it was just different for me because I had never been to a church where as soon as I walk in everybody is coming up to me, asking me what my name is, telling me that they’re so thankful that I’m here, that, you know, they hope to see me again. And I just felt so loved.
At that time I had really been struggling with my identity and who I was, my identity in Christ. And where I belonged, I had a lot…a sense of not belonging anywhere, not fitting in. I felt this could be where I’m supposed to be.
After my father died and when I was 18, I started working at a place that everybody was partiers, and I, unfortunately, went out with them. And I would drink, myself, and one time I did get behind the [wheel] after I had drank a little bit. And it made me realize that I’m going on the same path as my dad, and I don’t want to do that. You know, my dad was killed by a drunk driver while he was drunk, and here I am, I’m just continuing this destructive cycle that my dad started.
And that really hit home to me, when the minister read in the Bible that we’re not supposed to drink or do drugs.
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“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,…drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
[Galatians 5:19-21 New King James Version]
I felt ashamed and guilty. I think for the Church, what made me know that this is where I’m meant to be was all of the lessons, cumulatively. They all were in line with each other, they were all based on the Bible. I did start to feel the healing. It’s been a long process but I can thankfully say as of today that I’ve forgiven everybody that I had held resentment towards. It was a long road. A long long painful road to forgiveness.
I think the hardest to forgive was my father, and the man, you know, that hit him. We saw him maybe 5 years after my dad died, eating in a restaurant. I just ran out crying, I just couldn’t even see him. I hated him. He had been drinking at the baseball field, there were three other cars in the accident and they were all able to avoid my dad, he was the only one. I mean my dad had his fault in the accident, as well. But yea, it was hard to forgive him.
What led me to forgiveness was when I started to learn how to pray in the Church [Of Christ]. And I would just pray to God, “Please take this burden. I’m ready to give it to You. I’m ready to let go. I’m ready to feel whole again, feel complete. The only way to do that is to give my burden, my feeling of resentment and pain to You.” And I just felt like after I prayed that He answered, and He put the grace and forgiveness in my heart.
Praying gave me a sense of knowing that someone was there for me, that I was always surrounded by the Holy Spirit, that God was always with me, and that I never had to worry because He was right there, by my side. He was my Father. In the Church Of Christ I felt my prayers are being answered.
Learning how to pray changed my life. It really changed my life.
The Church Of Christ offered a place that I could come to no matter what was going on in my life. I could come there and it offered me a place to talk to God, to get closer to God, to listen to His messages. And it offered a place where I could find who I was, who I was in God. And it offered me a place where I could find my healing.
For me entering the Church meant that I found my healing, I found myself, I found my wholeness. I want everybody to know that, you know, if they’re searching for themselves, or they’re searching for their identity that it can be found through Christ, and through the Church. Through the Church Of Christ.
What I know now is: I know myself. I know who I am, I know why I was created. I know that there’s something better out there and I wish I would have known that when I was younger. And I wish that I would have known so that I could have had this feeling for a lot longer.
My favorite answered prayer is the prayer of forgiveness—when I asked God to help me forgive. He helped me to forgive my mom, my dad…forgive myself, forgive the man who killed my dad. Without faith I wouldn’t have forgiven, I wouldn’t have met peace.
God is my rescuer. God is my healer. God is love. God is my strength.
To know that I’m not alone, it’s the greatest feeling. It’s something I’ve searched for my whole life. I felt like I finally found that missing piece that I was searching for for so long.
It’s important for me to make it to heaven because I want to meet God, who created me. I want to worship Him, I want to just love Him, just thank Him for everything that He’s done for me.
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