My name is Jennefer. I'm 22-years old. I'm from Tennessee... and this is my story.
(All photos copyright, Bernadine Barber)
My life before I came to Christ was like most people's childhood. I was a happy, carefree little girl. That was until I was 7 years old and everything changed... When I was seven, a family member's friend stayed the night at our house... That night, he came into my room, molested and tried to rape me. For years I believed the lie that it had been my fault because I didn’t fight him. I was scared and didn’t know what to do and I was so young. I was ashamed of myself for not fighting back or screaming for help. I felt so humiliated and disgusting.
I felt like my purity was lost. I became angry at myself and also my family for not protecting me from all of this.
Then when I was nine, I went to youth camp and gave my life to the Lord. I was even baptized with the Holy Spirit. God would take layer by layer off my heart but I still held on to my pain and insecurity... Sometimes I’d be happy then the next day I was emotional. I was nice to people sometimes because I wanted them to like me and love me, but I was also mean to them too... And this went on for 7 years! The only thing I ever vowed to myself was to never give away what was left of my virginity. As I struggled, I would date guys to find someone that would fill my void. I never went farther than hand holding or a kiss but I began to feel even more worthless after doing that because it reminded me of when I was seven. Up until that point, I still had yet to tell anyone what happened to me at the age of 7.
It was like this thing consumed my mind and heart. I would never be worth it, I would never be loved, at least that’s what I believed. Yeah, I went to church and played the part of “Christianity” and I heard over and over again that Jesus loves me, but I never actually believed it. I thought that God couldn’t love me because I didn’t defend myself that night. I even thought that God Himself was disgusted with me.
The start of the rest of my life happened at the beginning of the year at RSM. On a Sunday night, one of the speakers at Ramp was preaching and he gave two altar calls. The first was for those who have been hurt, raped, or abused by people and still struggle…. I answered and began weeping, uncontrollably crying… Someone from the ministry team started praying for me... She began praying about everything I struggled with, literally every mark was hit. She began to tell me that I’m pure and that the Lord loves me and I am loved and I am beautiful…. She began to tell me my story, and I had never talked to her before ever!
She told me things that the Lord was speaking over me. I could feel Him tugging on my heart… So after I got up from the altar, I went and sat back down in my seat. She came with me and I realized I have to tell someone all of this. So I told her my story… I felt some more of the pain lift again, even more than it had before. Over the next few months of the internship, I matured, began thinking differently, and started my new relationship with The Lord! But still... it felt like something was missing, like something was still wrong!
A few weeks before graduation, on a night in April, we had a guest speaker come to a Sunday night service. We had that happen before so I wasn’t expecting it to be anything special. The guest minister, Pat Schatzline, had a message about sharing your story or testimony called, It's on Purpose.
There was a young adult on the stage who was holding chains. On each part of the chain was a sign that said something about her story. After Pat finished the first part of the message, he handed the microphone to this girl. She began to share how she was repeatedly raped at a young age, and some other things as she got older. She moved from one side of the stage picking up more and more parts of this chain. At the other end of the stage stood a microphone stand. She was making her way there. When she finally got to the mic and finished sharing her testimony, she one by one dropped the sections of the chains until they were all on the floor.
Pastor Pat grabbed the mic again and said “There is power in your confessions.” So he said he wanted to try something. He wanted everyone to stand and to forget who was on either side of us, and begin to speak the things we’ve struggled with; things people have done to us that have hurt us and so forth. So you can imagine that the whole room was shouting and speaking things. People all around me were in tears and weeping because of the love of God rushing in the room.
Then there was me...
Eighteen years old at this point and not saying anything. I was too afraid. That’s when Pastor Pat immediately grabbed the mic and said, word for word, “There is a young girl in here who at 7 years old was raped or molested and God says you need to let that go.”
At that moment, I began to weep to the point where my whole body was shaking and I began to confess everything. The love of God swept in so powerfully in that moment, that when I stood up I had a such a peace like I had never known. I remember crying the entire way home. I could not believe that this God would love me that much.
I realized too that all along God was trying to get my attention. He was trying to show me his love the whole time but I just didn’t let him. I was holding onto this thing that had become apart of me and it was causing me to miss out on this love. I was finally able to share my story with my parents that night. That was when my life changed completely.
Life since then has been nothing but freedom. My relationship with my parents got so much better. I don't have the anger and bitterness in my heart anymore. I can genuinely say that I am full of love and joy. My relationship with Christ is something I love so deeply. He has been my best friend, my encourager, and is such a good loving Father. He set me free from all those insecurities and is continually showing me how much He cares and loves me. How beautiful I am to Him, and especially how PURE I am. I know now that I am accepted in the Beloved. I am loved, wanted, cherished and that I will always be enough.