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Jessica Lives Amazing Life

July 2, 2009

By W. James Edminson

As the darkness creeps out from the bushes in the neighborhood park and fills the public places, Jessica wrestles her fears. She has nowhere to go, and during the day she moves from place to place, homeless.

Jessica is exhausted because while others are sleeping safely behind the locked doors of their homes, her heart races – her eyes wide open as she waits through the night’s darkest hours for the dawn light to top the distant ridge.

Eighteen-year-old Jessica is far from where her story began. Born in Miami, Florida, Jessica remembers days filled with laughter and fun.

“There were good times in Miami,” she says. “I was Daddy’s little girl.”

The family had access to boats, and they spent hours on the ocean. The bright sunshine warmed her body and her heart.

But things changed. She noticed her father drinking more. Her mother locked herself away in the bathroom and chain-smoked for hours.

“Mom would come out to fix us something to eat, and then she would go back,” Jessica recalls. “Hour after hour, she hid from us and smoked her cigarettes.”

Tragedy continued to envelope Jessica’s life. Her mother was taken ill, and the management of the family’s home befell Jessica.

“I was taking care of my two sisters,” she recalls. “After Mom got real sick, I would make sure there was food to eat, and at night, I stayed awake with her to monitor the machines that she was hooked up to.”

Jessica was fourteen when her mother passed. Her father began drinking more heavily, driving a wedge between him and his teenage daughter.

“He was always drinking,” she says. “I didn’t hate him, but I hated his drinking. I didn’t like the person he became when he drank.”

Jessica’s father moved himself and his three daughters to north Georgia to be closer to his family. That first year, Jessica and her father spent hours arguing.

“I would do something, he would yell at me, and then we would get into fights,” she says. Time only made things worse as the two moved farther and farther away from each other emotionally. The drama climaxed with Jessica leaving home. For the next two years, Jessica lived “on and off the streets.”

“I depended a lot on my friends then,” she says. “I worked and rented a place to live for a while.”

Severe asthma forced her to lose her job, and she found herself living in a homeless shelter. For three months, she felt safe and things began to look up. But when she reached the time limit for living at the shelter, she was forced again to live on the streets. Her nights in the park ended when she was picked up by the Department of Social Services.

“I had always been afraid of them,” she confesses. “But it was a good thing. Two days later, I was at Broyhill Home. It was a total blessing!”

Now in Baptist Children’s Homes’ care, the once homeless teen had plenty of food to eat prepared by loving cottage parents.

“I felt like I was home,” Jessica smiles. “I love everyone here.”

She remained 5 1/2 weeks at Broyhill Home and then moved to a group home operated by BCH – Truett Baptist Association Children’s Home. (Located in Clay County near Hayesville, the group home serves children in DSS custody from Clay, Graham, and Cherokee counties.)

In just over a year, Jessica’s life has been filled with exciting changes and achievements. “Before I left Broyhill Home last summer, I was saved,” she says. “I was sitting there in church thinking, ‘You are going to get saved’ and I was saying, ‘No I’m not.’”

Jessica says she was angry with God for all the things that had happened to her throughout her young life. She said “No,” but her heart said “Yes.” The God she thought had forgotten her had been there all the time.

“I realized He had brought me to this safe place,” she asserts. “The black world I was living is gone. My life is changed for the better. It’s amazing! Who would have thought this could happen to me and I would be here today?”