Never Left or Forsaken
April 1, 2005 - Billy Graham came to Cleveland in June 1972. I was 8 years old. A year before, I had been fascinated by a magazine article I had read about him, and I remember staring at his picture. I just knew that this man knew God—Someone whom I desperately wanted to know. In 1972 my mother took me to see this man of God. We attended the Billy Graham Crusade three times.
by JoAnne Wells
One night, when the invitation was given, I remember standing up and wanting to go forward. A woman escorted me down the stadium stairs to the field. Standing with her, I remember being surrounded by bright lights and hordes of people wanting to know God.
The last day of the Crusade was a Sunday, and it was very hot—but it didn't bother me. I felt so light and at peace. Everything Mr. Graham said was putting a smile on my face. I felt like I finally understood what he was talking about.
My most vivid memory of that day was of lying on my mother's lap at the stadium. I was looking up at the sun and smiling, understanding that the One who created the sun loved me and was my heavenly Father who never would hurt me. My special friend, Jesus, understood me and never would leave me. I closed my eyes, and it was as if I was resting in my heavenly Father's arms. But all that would change when I got home.
Later that evening, after a perfect last day at the Crusade, I was taking a bath when a loud crack of thunder came crashing out of heaven. The sun was still shining, but a severe storm was approaching the area.
Storms reminded me of my natural father, who physically, emotionally and sexually abused me before I could even walk.
At the moment I heard the thunder, I looked up and, with a pointed finger, I said to this God with Whom I had begun to fall in love: "All bets are off!" I was through with this God; as far as I was concerned, He was a liar. I felt as if He had wooed me into loving Him and then—Bam!—He betrayed me. I vowed to not serve Him or love Him.
Because of what I had to endure, I was an emotionally disturbed, lonely, misunderstood child, starving for someone to love me and for someone I could trust. My thoughts were my only escape.
My parents separated when I was 5 years old. My father lived with his mother until he died without the Lord in 1989.
Hatred rang loud in my heart against life; against my mother, who emotionally abused me; and against God. I was taken to a psychiatrist because I was having nightmares. I would wake up screaming, frightened for my life. My mother lied to the doctor, saying that I had not been and was not being abused in any way.
Because I felt betrayed by God, I began a descent into the dark side. I began to look to the devil. It seemed that he offered power over my enemies—and a better life here on earth. I was so desperate for someone I could trust.
At age 11 I had a nervous breakdown. Hospitals and group homes became my residences until I was 19. From the time I was a child, I wanted to live in New York City, and I moved there with a boyfriend in 1987 at age 23. Until I was 27, my life was marked by drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, abortions and the occult.
One night, while intoxicated, I went to play pool at a health club. I met a man who talked to me about the Lord.
About three months later, I fell face-first at a nightclub and landed in the hospital, half-conscious with a brain seizure and with bruises all over my face. After that I had a dramatic wake-up call. I was sitting in my bedroom when I realized that I did not want to die without being right with God. I pleaded for my life to the Lord Jesus Christ and to my Abba Father whom I had deserted years earlier. I begged for mercy and forgiveness.
Overnight I was set free from drugs, drinking and smoking. Day by day, in the deepest parts of my soul, I am being healed—through the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit—from the scars of my past. Three months after my recommitment, I was baptized. I used to pray to the devil; now I'm an intercessor who prays to God our Father. I have forgiven my parents, and I am praying for the salvation of my mother and brothers.
I have been attending Harlem Grace Tabernacle for 11 years, and I have been involved with Daughters of Refuge, a healing ministry that seeks to be a place of refuge for women. I have a passion for the world to know Jesus Christ, and I pray that God will use me to communicate His truth and to rectify misconceptions that people have about Him. As John 17:3 states, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (NIV).
I am my Father's daughter. The Lord has blessed me with beautiful friends and a church family that I love, but He alone is everything to me. He is the Sustainer and Keeper of my soul. He has been the one constant in my life and always will be. He will never leave me or forsake me—or anyone else who believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the greatest Gift that anyone could ever receive.