Jessi Mathews-Rush – Before & After
Short Stories By Jesus Series
Our fall worship series was entitled Short Stories By Jesus, in which we were looking at Jesus’ parables, especially some of the most problematic ones. We enlisted the congregation to write Before & After stories. Each Sunday one member shared a story in which there was a before and an after, and after which, many things in his or her life changed dramatically. Here is one of those stories.
Jessi Mathews-Rush – Before & After
Before the age of seven I knew of God but I didn’t know God. From the age of three months to two years I lived with Nana and Dad, my biological grandmother and grandfather. From the age of two to four I lived off and on with my biological mother and from five until my seventh birthday I lived with Nana. There was very little talk of God in Nana’s house. My biological mother used Jesus Christ and God as curse words. My best friend’s family spoke of God but prayed to him in a different language and that always freaked me out a little. At one point I had someone tell me that my health problems were caused by God making me pay for my mother’s sins. Imagine being a little kid and being told that. If that was who God was I wasn’t sure I wanted anything to do with him.
After my seventh birthday party my mother and Nana had a disagreement about my care and I was taken from Nana once again. This time my mother didn’t keep me. She dropped me off with a woman she knew named Dawn. Dawn had two girls. Jennifer was my age and Jessica was two years younger. I was dropped off with her on a Saturday and the next morning she got us up early and we went to church. I was so scared and unsure. I was with people I hardly knew and now going to a place to worship a God I had been told made me sick because my mother wasn’t a good person. The God I learned about that Sunday was a God of hope, of caring, of love and of safety.
I began to look forward to Sundays. I struggled in a new school and with people I didn’t know but church became my safe place. I don’t remember the pastor’s name but he took extra care and time with me. He taught me the love of Jesus and the safety of God and always listened. I began to trust that God was always there for me, no matter what would happen and prayer became a huge part of my time. I prayed when I was scared, when I was sick, when I was bullied in school and when I missed Nana.
I was only with Dawn for the second half of first grade and through the summer but those months would end up being so important because of what was to come. After living with Dawn my mother took me back. There was abuse and neglect and a different school every year. There were evictions and shelters and long scary nights. Through all of that I knew I had God, I prayed to him when I was scared and when I was physically alone I knew I was never spiritually alone. God was my safety in very scary and uncertain times.
At the age of thirteen I realized if I didn’t demand help I was never going to get it. Nana was afraid to do anything for fear of what my mother would do to her or to me. By the time schools would catch on to what was going on at home we would move. It was now or never. I went into the school office and asked that child protective services be called. It took three calls and five months but two months before my fourteenth birthday I was taken from school and placed into a protective custody foster home until it was safe for me to be placed with Nana. I then spent three years in the court system fighting my own custody case because at the time Grandparents didn’t have any rights. When the adoption was finalized Nana and I moved here to NC and the first thing we did was find a church to go to. For the first time in ten years I was a part of a church family again. I was baptized before Nana passed away. Two days after she died I came here to College park and found my church home. I will forever be thankful to Dawn for showing me that God is a loving God who would always protect me and now I am so thankful I get to continue to worship with such an amazing church family!