By: Wuyah Philis Gbondo
“You shall also be a crown of glory in this hand of the Lord, And a royal diadem in the hand of your God.” (Isaiah 62:3)
On Nov. 16, 2012, I celebrated my 30th birthday. At that time, I was truly in the worst place in my life. I was homeless for most of that year, lost a child that I didn’t even know I was carrying, financially unstable, engaging in very unhealthy sexual relationships and seeking fulfillment from everything worldly. I was emotionally depleted and thought of suicide at least three times a week. I recall spending all my life savings on a birthday party, which ended up being one of the worst days of my life. That same night, I engaged sexually with a man who then gave me a sexually transmitted disease. I saw no light in my future and wanted it to be over.
Though I felt dead and struggled to live, God had bigger plans for me beyond my expectations. I remember my friends leaving a day earlier than expected, and my birthday weekend left me feeling sad and lonely. They had traveled to spend my entire birthday weekend with me; however, the weekend did not go as planned. Before they left, my best friend hugged me closely and whispered in my ear, “You will live, and live your life abundantly. Spend tonight enjoying some me time, but please go and visit First Baptist tomorrow.” She let go slowly and smiled. She left me feeling even more confused.
I was born and raised in the Catholic Church, so the idea of attending a Baptist Church was truly scary for me. Until this very day, I am the only one in my nuclear family who is not Catholic. I continue praying each day for my family’s salvation. I had no idea what to expect visiting the First Baptist Church of Glenarden. My best friend had heard about this amazing mega church through other friends and thought since I lived in the area that I should visit. I was used to attending a small church and knew I would be out of church in exactly an hour. But I also knew I was attending church just to appear to be a “good daughter” to my parents, not because I was being spiritually fulfilled in any way. I was not growing spiritually in any form, which is why I leaned more on my fleshly desires rather than rely on the Spirit.
In 2013, on the Sunday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I visited FBCG for the first time. I was overwhelmed by the process of getting to the church, but was amazed by the warmth and beauty of the church. Everyone was friendly and greeted me with a warm smile. I recall sitting in the balcony because I was so intimidated and overwhelmed by the crowd. The service was dynamic, and though I cannot recall what the message was about that afternoon, it did lead me to receiving my salvation. My legs were shaking really hard as I took what seemed like the longest walk of my life from the balcony to the altar. I was reluctant about going forward initially but Pastor Jenkins kept saying over and over that he would wait for that person who was still fighting, and who Satan was trying to hold back from coming forward. I know he was talking about me and so I whispered to myself quietly, “It’s time for me to live.” That was then, and this is now. My life has not been the same since.
After that day, I was a regular visitor each Sunday thereafter. I started my membership classes, and in April 2013, I got baptized and received my right hand of fellowship. I recall telling my parents about my new journey and me leaving the Catholic Church. My mother was upset and expressed her disappointment with my decision. I knew my father was also disappointed, but he found a way to support me. He was present at my baptism, along with some other family members and friends. It was truly one of the happiest days of my life.
A close work colleague was a participant in the Queen Esther Ministry during this time and shared with me her experience and the impact it was making in her life. At that time, I thought the commitment was too long and due to my work schedule, I would not be able to participate. I reluctantly attended the fall Moment of Preparation session in 2013. I was so impressed by what was shared that night. Even more so, it was hearing the testimonies of the first graduating class in regard to their bond and support for each other even though they had graduated years before, that confirmed for me this was a journey I should also embark on. I truly did not know what to expect but continued trusting God through it all. About two weeks before class started, I received a welcome call from my facilitator, Minister Jacqueline McCoy. Her pleasant, warm and kind tone confirmed for me even more that I was making the right decision. In September 2013, I began my Queen Esther journey.
I successfully completed my first discipleship program in February 2015 with perfect attendance. I did not want to miss a single day of what God had blessed me with by making it possible for such dynamic women of God to pour into my life every Thursday. My sisters were all so loving and supportive. We gracefully enjoyed each other and saw our growths in different forms. We are all still very close and celebrate each other every chance we get. I felt alive again and did not want to stop living. I still had struggles and encountered many different challenges during my Queen Esther journey, but God allowed me to build up a spiritual toolbox for me to deal with things spiritually.
I was blessed even more when the Queen Esther Mentoring Program was introduced as I completed my 18-month journey. I told myself God was not done with me yet, and I still needed to grow in knowing and connecting with Him. I enrolled and successfully completed the mentoring program. I graduated in July 2015, and received the call to serve as an assistant facilitator in August 2015. I honestly thought I was being pranked by Reverend Tatem when she called me. I thought to myself “why me?” I did not feel worthy to serve in such a capacity. I was also intimidated because I was so new to my walk with Christ. She was confident that she had made the right decision and wanted us to pray together before ending our call. Her prayer gave me the peace I needed to serve in excellence.
Being active in ministry is truly what keeps me on fire for God. Following my second term as an assistant facilitator, I took a brief sabbatical to focus on being poured into, as well as growing in Christ. Another blessing came right then when I was invited by Reverend Tatem to join a year-long pilot program called “Women Developing Women Leaders.” Again, I asked God “why me?” I needed to accept that I was indeed a leader, even though I struggled with believing so. I successfully completed the program and was given the opportunity to lead a team. I met some more sisters to hold me accountable and help me grow in Christ.
My passion for developing young women through God’s word, expanding their horizons and building their self-worth has exceeded my own expectations. In the summer of 2018, I was given the opportunity to be a lead counselor for young ladies all over the country for the At the Well Conference at Princeton University. I was asked by three beautiful young queens to be their spiritual mentor following my service as their assistant facilitator in Queen Esther. Helping them grow in their work with Christ truly blesses me even more each day. Last year, I began the journey of building a business with three amazing women of God. BloomHER (Healing, Empowerment and Restoration) a therapeutic, social recreational group for young ladies will prayerfully launch in September 2020. I was also selected as a board member for Kingdom Girls Inc., a faith-based organization that empowers young girls to love themselves and their communities through God’s word.
It is my belief that since beginning a relationship with Christ, every step I take is truly being ordained by God. I am alive today because of my resilience in serving God. Though my trials left some scars, my victory will sound a louder alarm. James 1:2-4 states, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” 2 Corinthians 16:13 tells us to “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” I am strong because of my faith in God. He will never leave me nor forsake me. All that I am today is because He chooses to give me life and do so abundantly. To God be the glory.