We are all a sum total of our past, present and future. However, one challenge that most of us face not just in society but in our relationships is that we are often times judged based on just a fraction of that sum total. We are either judged on the person we once were or the person that we are now. It is my humble opinion that in order for you to get a true appreciation or understanding for a person’s likes, dislikes, proclivities or passions you need to know what sparks them and why. With that being said, I think that it is only fitting that I reveal a bit about my background and bring you into my present in an attempt to bring clarity to my true intent for this project.
I was born in Miami Florida, USA to Jamaican parents, the third of four children. At the age of about three months old my maternal grandmother brought me to Nassau, Bahamas to live with her. I was told growing up that this decision came as a result of a vow made between my parents and my grandmother before I was born. You see, my grandmother was the matriarch of our small family and was considered a “seer” or in modern terms one that possessed a prophetic calling. She apparently predicted that my mother would have four children (two boys and two girls). My father, vowed with my grandmother that if they were to have a girl, that he would allow her (my grandmother) to raise the child as her own in return for him taking her only daughter (my mother) to the U.S. to live against my grandmother’s will. Well to make a long story short, after my mother gave birth to me, my grandmother reminded my parents about the vow that my father had made to her years before. I would imagine that as a young migrated couple with three small children living in the US, when this opportunity presented itself, they saw it more as a financial relief. Not taking into consideration the possible emotional implications that their decision would later have on me, my parents agreed to have my grandmother legally adopt and raise me as her own child in The Bahamas.
Knowing that my parents so willingly gave me up for adoption and keeping my two older brothers and then having and keeping my younger sister was difficult for me to understand and properly process as a child growing up. Not to mention the fact that I very seldom heard from my parents except during special occasions such as birthdays, Mother’s Day and Christmas. My grandmother was very traditional in her approach to raising children, very stern and militant, so displays of affection was never exhibited in my home i.e. hugs or words of affirmation were not received or reciprocated. I never heard the words “I love you”, “You’re beautiful”, “Good job”, “smart girl” or “I’m proud of you”. In her own limited knowledge of what true love was, providing food, shelter, clothing, education and discipline by any means necessary was her way of demonstrating love.
Therefore my thought pattern from child hood and straight through to my teenage years was that I was unloved and unwanted. Thus, I suffered from feelings of rejection, abandonment and inadequacy for years, not having what I considered the correct answers to the many questions that I faced internally and by my piers alike.
My grandmother was also extremely religious and strict, so from my earliest recollection to about seventeen years old, life for me consisted of school five days a week and church at least three nights per week, and three Sunday services leaving very little room for any extracurricular activities.
By the time I turned eleven, my grandmother had established her own church, proclaiming that God had given her a vision to open a healing ministry. My church time had increased to a minimum of 5 days per week and during the summer when I was out of school, 2 services per day. In the first few years, the Sunday services were fairly attended but the popular Monday night services dubbed as “Healing Services” were packed out to capacity in the small church building that seated at least 100 persons, located in one of Nassau’s most urban communities.
Our congregation was small, maybe 30 people in a regular service with limited talent. So as you would imagine, my position as the pastor’s daughter meant being actively involved in the ministry, whether I wanted to be or not, there was no option! Wherever there was a shortage, I had to pick up the slack. I cleaned the church, I moderated the services, led song service (we didn’t have “praise and worship”), led the dance team and cooked for the small group that accompanied us home every Sunday after morning service for dinner. I think by the time I was eighteen I had worn all hats within the ministry apart from delivering a sermon and playing an instrument (minus the drums when the drummer didn’t show up).
As a young teenage girl, growing up the daughter of the pastor also exposed me to a lot of information which also meant that I had to mentally grow up quickly; especially since my grandmother’s job as a spiritual advisor did not end at the church’s door. From as early as I can remember our home became the meeting hub and house of refuge for many! From dusk till dawn, there was always someone in our house. Most of the people that she often counseled were not even a part of her small congregation, they attended other churches. Our house phone rang off the hook at all hours of the day and night, people calling in for prayer or advice concerning marital, family, job or health issues.
My grandmother would take in people that, for one reason or the other had nowhere else to go; men and women both locally and coming into the country would seek shelter at the house. At one point she even took in an entire family i.e. wife, husband and three children that had moved from one of the neighboring islands to Nassau and was seeking refuge. And although her seemingly “Mother Theresa” actions were noble, the decision to house the broke, broken, recovering or suffering left me in a very vulnerable and unprotected position as an impressionable little girl with a single elderly woman as my guardian. No doubt, my grandmother was a woman of faith, and possessed a heart of giving, she loved to serve and help the less fortunate. However, her beliefs coupled with her cultural upbringing and views on spiritual things led to a lot of decisions that I often questioned and rejected as a child and young adult. Hence, by the time I had turned twelve years old, I had already been a victim of molestation under the hands of two of the men that had sought shelter in my grandmother’s house.
As I mentioned before, she was very rigid and old fashioned in her approach to child rearing so her belief was that children were only to speak when spoken to and she certainly did not spare the rod so I was always afraid to share any information that I thought would get me in trouble. By the time I had turned fourteen, my need to fill the void for love and affirmation led me into a ten-year long secret relationship with a man nineteen years my senior (that I had met in one of the sister churches), a relationship for which my grandmother was fully aware of and also approved. This ungodly and toxic relationship would soon become the direct cause of every encounter that would threaten the fabric of my faith and my life from that point on. By eighteen I had already experienced two near death encounters and a host of other dramatic experiences- all within the four walls of the two places that should have been a safe haven- the church and home.
My life was a mess and I knew what I needed to do to fix it. I was in mental bondage, a prisoner wanting so desperately to be free, wanting to be rescued. I loved God and desired to serve God whole heartedly but I was bound by a spiritual soul tie that was so deep that I felt could only be severed by death. I wanted the best of both worlds and tried in my own limited ability to fix the problem, I prayed and waited for God to answer my prayers based on my own desires and not His divine will…so I waited and waited but the change I wanted never came. And with every passing day my life took a downward spiral; but in the midst of the chaos God somehow gave me a level of grace that was sufficient enough to survive that day and then the next. Religion had taken a toll on my young life and much of my experiences that I can recount that would have otherwise caused me to turn away from God actually drew me closer to Him during my alone time in worship. I could not find peace in church because my life was under a microscope, it was either my predators or those that knew, watched and criticized. So my desire for worship and God’s presence was formed through watching Christian Television, which for me was a form of escape.
One may ask, Simone why do you feel the need to relate all of this? Well, for the sake of this project, I think that it is important that I lay the unfertile and wavering foundation for which my faith was once built and where it now stands. You see, my twenty plus years of experiences and encounters from being raised in church and a “Christian” home did not in any way protect me from the spirits of brokenness, rejection, loneliness and even suicidal thoughts. My deliverance from these spirits and negative thoughts did not come as a result of being confined to the four walls of a church building. My deliverance came when I made a conscious and deliberate decision to change my perspective (way of thinking) and walk away from the contaminated environments and relationships that threatened my relationship with God and my own perception of who I was.
Severing ties from that ten-year toxic relationship and a church environment that left much to be desired was the end of religion and the beginning of spiritual freedom and maturation. It took some years of soul searching and emotional healing but it wasn’t until I made the decision to release religion and seek after a genuine authentic relationship with God that I began to discover my true identity. I had to learn how to love myself, all of who I was- the good, the bad and the ugly puzzles that made up my life. I had to learn the true nature of God and His unconditional love for me. I had to learn how to love and effectively communicate with people. I had to learn how to first forgive myself, those that had hurt me and then I had to learn how to accept God’s forgiveness. I had to learn how to release the past and embrace the future- not just any future but one that was full of hope and potential. God had to retrain my mind by erasing the traces of religion and replacing it with a promise of a secure relationship with Him.
Now my life’s mission is to cultivate an environment that is conducive to establishing and maintaining healthy relationships both with man and with God. No doubt this is not an easy task. Every now and again, I catch myself slipping back into an old mindset of thinking, either through doubt, fear, anxiety and sometimes depression but I thank God for the gift of His Holy Spirit that quickly snatches me back out of the darkness.
I also had to learn that He (Holy Spirit) wasn’t some mystical unseen being that caused people to convulse, scream and pass out. I have found him to be a comforter and a voice of reason during some of the most challenging days of my life.
Shortly after I left my grandmother’s church I joined the ministry which I currently attend. It was there I was able to connect with older women of faith that played an instrumental role in my healing process through mentorship and counseling. It was in that ministry where God allowed me to observe, learn and experience true servanthood through excellence, spiritual adoption and agape love. Through years of sound biblical teaching and the practical application of Godly principles displayed by leadership and the ministry’s work, God allowed me to see “organized religion” from an entirely different perspective. All hope was not lost!
It was in that same ministry in 2008 where I met a man that was different from the men of my past. This guy was committed to getting to know me for who I was and not for what I could offer him physically. He was a friend and at that season of transition in my life He was everything that I needed in a friend. Weeks turned into months and before I knew it years had flown by and our relationship had grown from a listening ear, a prayer partner, a movie buddy to a committed exclusive relationship.
Today I am happily married (currently five years) to that same wonderful, insightful, intuitive, affectionate, compassionate and confident man with a heart of gold and a desire to please and genuinely serve God with his life. He is not just my best friend but also my spiritual advisor and mentor. Together we have a beautiful, healthy, happy and very active baby boy.
My journey from the broken little girl seeking validation in the arms of another woman’s man to now a wife and mother was not an overnight process. After joining the church that I now attend, I took a much needed sabbatical from actively participating in any form of ministry. It took some years before I was able to gain the level of mental and emotional healing and stability that I needed to move forward into reaching others. Over the years, I have served in various areas of the ministry which includes but not limited to the Women’s Ministry, Girls Mentorship program and The Fine Arts Department.
Now, my first ministry is and will always be dedicated to serving my home as the best wife and mother that I can be to my husband and one-year-old son. My mantra being “God, family, ministry…in that order”
In early 2014, my grandmother passed away after a ten-year battle with Alzheimer’s and glaucoma; which culminated that chapter of my life and the beginning of a new season for my family life, as I was also her primary caregiver.
Professionally, I hold a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree in Banking and Finance from a local college in The Bahamas where I currently live and have worked in the financial sector for the majority of my working career.
My desire is to one day soon continue in the work that I started with helping young women, particularly young teenage girls to discover who they are in Christ by teaching them through my experiences and life lessons. However, primarily, I have an even stronger desire to empower others to live a life of freedom in Christ, one of submission and worship through their everyday lives; free of man-made ideologies and the limitations placed on us by religion and cultural beliefs.