Jessica grew up in Queens, New York, in a volatile home with a mother who struggled with drug addiction. It was a fear-filled life, where words were thrown as knives meant to cut. Jessica’s home life negatively affected her view of God.
“I thought God’s Word was supposed to do the same thing that my mother’s word did to me, so I didn’t want to interact with God,” she says. “For a long time I struggled with seeing God as only authoritative. I imagined His hand was going to come down from the sky and smack me. And I was scared.”
But despite that fear, she chose to hope that God might help her. When she was 10, she prayed for God to save her mom from drugs and placed a tear-stained tissue on her windowsill, because she’d heard God collects our tears—a truth from Psalm 56.
After that she joined a youth ministry and was saved. “I will never forget that day in my whole life,” she says. But the ministry fell apart after the pastor was called to a new city. She entered another dark period of her life, a time she tries to forget because it was so traumatic. “That was probably one of the loneliest seasons of my life,” she says.
But God did not give up on her, and while she was attending a poetry event in college, a friendly stranger invited her to a Bible study. It was almost a two-hour commute from her home, but she wanted to give it a try.
“They were talking about love, sex and dating, and those were the things I needed to talk about,” she says. “And I said, ‘God, this is where you want me to be.’”
Jessica kept attending the Bible study, which soon launched into The Bridge Church, led by Pastor James Roberson. Jessica was drawn into the strong and loving community—and it scared her. A deep fear of intimacy drove her away from the church.
“I was really scared to be a part of that community, because something about them loving me started to tap at my heart… and I got really, really scared,” she says.
So she left, and in that time away from the church, she experienced anxiety, depression and thoughts of suicide. She began to believe the lies that she didn’t have value and no one cared about her. Out of desperation, she reached out to Josh Edney, a pastor at The Bridge Church.
“I told him, ‘If I don’t get help, I’m gonna die,” she says.
Pastor Josh and his wife invited her over for dinner and to talk. It was the first time Jessica had eaten dinner with a family in 10 years, and Pastor Josh challenged her to “dive deep” with the church.
“I asked her what it would look like for her to commit 100 percent to The Bridge Church for six months,” Josh says. “I really felt like God wanted to do something in her life through our church.”
Pastor Josh helped her put together an action plan for her life and join small groups within The Bridge Church. It was terrifying for Jessica, but she committed.
“Commitment to The Bridge Church meant letting people get to know who I am. My whole life, I always felt I was rejected,” she says. “I felt like I wasn’t really enough. And so commitment meant letting them get to know who I am—the really nice parts and the really not so nice parts. It meant reaching out when I needed help. It meant making a commitment to believe the gospel every single day. And it also meant experiencing God’s love. I think that might have been the scariest part, because I was committing to the church, the institution, but also I was committing and recommitting to God every single day—that when I fell down, when I sinned, I would approach the throne of grace boldly afterwards.”
Jessica counted one month, two months go by with The Bridge Church. Then she stopped counting. Before she knew it, it was a year later. God had changed her life and her faith had grown immensely.
“I’ve watched God provide for me in ways I never thought possible,” she says. “I never knew God loved me so much that He would not just give me a place to stay and two jobs to work, but a community to help me move into the space, to come to the space when I needed them.”
Today, Jessica is convinced that change only comes through honesty and transparency. “The moment I became honest with God—the moment I became honest with people in my community—was the moment I began to experience healing and change,” she says. “So I have absolutely no problem now with people getting to know me.”
Her relationship with her mother has also improved since committing to The Bridge Church. She describes their relationship as going from “zero to ten,” and her mother has also started attending church with her.
God has completely transformed her life through The Bridge Church, and Pastor Josh sees it. “On Easter of this past year, we wanted to highlight someone’s testimony during the service, so I asked Jessica,” he says. “She gets up there and reads off a poem she wrote, just listing all the evidence of God’s transforming power in her life. People knew who Jessica used to be, but when we saw Jessica get on stage, we were looking at a new person that God had transformed.”