One week ago Oasis Ministries held its Year End Potluck Dinner at Grace Presbyterian Church in Montclair, NJ. The night consisted of a debut of our new Oasis Praise team (see photo at bottom), prayer, fellowship, dinner and a Beauty from Ashes testimony. Over 60 women attended the event to hear from our special guest, Joanna Prem, from Hillsong Church. Joanna had the audience in tears while sharing her journey in finding herself and Christ as she overcame life-threatening obstacles.
If you were unable to make it to our Year End Dinner, below is Joanna’s testimony…
and provide for those who grieve in Zion--
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
At the Oasis Retreat and throughout the past several months, we have been studying and reflecting on this verse. It’s full of promise. The promise of God’s redemption. He takes hard things and transforms them. He takes a heap of ashes – life’s disappointments, loss, hardship, sadness, even tragedy – and He exchanges all of that for beauty. How does He do that?
Here’s a little of my story. It goes back many years.
The identity of this author would like to remain anonymous. Here is her testimony:
I grew up in New Jersey in the ‘60s. I graduated high school in 1973. I was totally absorbed in all the trends and mores: If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with. Burn your bra. Free love. Women’s rights! Anything goes as long as no one is getting hurt.
My Dad was handsome and charming, my mother was beautiful and kind. They had many friends and entertained and were entertained every weekend. Everyone liked my parents. They were very nice people, salt of the earth. I grew up going to church and Sunday school. I even gave up being a Girl Scout Brownie because I preferred to sing in the choir at church. My Dad came home from work every night and joined my Mom for cocktails. I had two brothers who were into sports and we ate dinner as a family every night. My neighbors were Jewish and Catholic, democrats and republicans. The neighborhood was very nice, true suburbia. All pretty normal and nothing really out of the ordinary.
I grew up as a “Christian.” My family went to church every Sunday, prayed every night together before dinner, and listened to the Christian music radio station in the car on Sundays. They taught us the ten commandments and how much Jesus loves us.
When I became a teenager, my parents sat me down and told me how important it is to remain abstinent until I was married.
The same message was also made clear throughout different aspects of my life. The world tells us that when we have sex, we can no longer go back to the way we were. The world tells us that we are beautiful white carnations, but when we have sex, we turn into shriveled flowers that cannot be renewed. But through repentance and grace, God is able to restore us back into the beautiful white flowers that we are.
My maternal grandparents lived in the lower half of our house and every summer my older cousins spent the summer there. I was 13 when one of my cousins raped me. I remember him holding me down and putting a blade to my neck, promising if I told he would harm my parents.
This continued every summer for three years. For most kids the end of the school year and summer was filled the promise of fun and adventure, but for me, it was the promise of a never-ending nightmare. My cousin took every opportunity to remind me that I was his – he’d touch me, rub me, grab me or had forcible sex with me. I felt disgusting, filthy and shameful. The smell of marijuana on his skin and his breath made me ill. His touch made my skin crawl. I had begun to hate my own flesh and felt like I could never get clean enough. No matter how many times a scrubbed, I couldn’t get his stench off of me. The only place I could escape was music, there I could lose myself. There was no pain in my musical world, there I was accepted and comforted.
Her Life Speaks is all about Her testimony, Her life, and who God is in Her story. Here we write our stories in hopes of helping other women find their relationship with Jesus Christ.