By Ashley Flores
"When I was an active homosexual, my conscious dealt with me daily and it was hard. I would become very fearful so, I would smoke weed in an attempt to block out the truth." - Jackie Hill
Making her name simultaneously synonymous with the now common terms “ex-stud” and “ex-homosexual” after a performance of her poem “My Life as a Stud” went viral on the Internet in 2010, spoken word artist Jackie Hill is on a mission to spread the truth about living a life engulfed in homosexuality, and God’s redeeming grace.
Hill, 23, can be described as nothing short of dynamic when it comes to her passion to see a radical change in the lives of Christians everywhere, especially those who may have allowed the overwhelming amount of freedom Americans have been given to desensitize the majority to the urgency of the Great Commission given to us by Christ in Matthew 28:19-20. Recently, WHOLE Magazine was able to chat with Hill few moments to speak more about her struggle with homosexuality as a teen. WHOLE Magazine:
What has kept you dedicated to spreading your message of deliverance amidst all of your opposition? Jackie Hill: I think one reason would be seeing the fruitfulness of it. I see more people thirsting for Jesus, wanting Jesus, wanting change because of "my" message than I do opposition. Secondly, Christ already warned us in the scriptures that His followers would receive persecution so I already expected it. But persecution doesn't make me want to shut my mouth; it reminds me of how much more I need to shout from the rooftops about the things Christ has done. W:
What has been most rewarding about sharing your story with others? H: Seeing people believe in Jesus for the impossible. It is a joy. There are so many lies being proclaimed in the media, through music and even in some "pulpits" so, to see people believe truth and be willing to give up everything they are used to because they finally see that Christ is worth it, is amazing. W:
When did you first begin to realize that homosexuality was not the life you were called to lead? What was that moment (those moments) like? H
: I knew when I first started having those desires at the age of five that it was wrong. God has given us all a moral compass rooted in His word, and mine was letting me know truth early. But when I was an active homosexual, my conscious dealt with me daily and it was hard. I would become very fearful so, I would smoke weed in an attempt to block out the truth. W:
How do you feel growing up without a father affected you emotionally/spiritually? H: I think not having a father just made me feel rejected in some ways by men. It made me look at all men as if they were untrustworthy and that women were. I was more willing to be vulnerable and give my heart to a woman for emotional satisfaction than I would to a male. It definitely affected how I thought, which affected my actions later in life. W:
What do you believe was most satisfying and appealing about living a homosexual lifestyle, the thing that kept you so drawn to it? H: The attention and affirmation I received. I never got much attention from men. I was never the ”cute chick” but when I became a stud, it seemed like every girl wanted me. I would be in straight clubs and have girls throwing themselves at me. For a girl that's insecure and craves to feel loved, that was like a drug for me. W:
How did your family/friends respond when you began to openly embrace homosexuality? H: My family didn’t say too much about it. I think they were confused at where it came from. Some blamed themselves, as if they could've done something to prevent it. Most reminded me that they loved me regardless of my decision. My friends didn’t care. They all embraced my girlfriends and me as if it was normal. W:
How did your family/friends respond when you began to openly speak against homosexuality? H: As for my family, I still really don't know what they thought. The majority of my family members are not believers in Christ so, I didn't expect them to applaud me speaking against any sin because that would convict them as well. They still respect my views though. It my friends caught them off guard because my change seemed to come out of nowhere. Many of them respected me, but majority of them rejected me. W:
What is one of the memorable stories someone has told/sent you about their own deliverance after hearing you speak? H: The most memorable is a letter I received from a girl who was a homosexual. She was very active in her church. She was on the praise team, poetry team, and her father was the pastor. She said they showed the "My Life as a Stud " poem during a service one day and she could feel a weight being lifted off of her. She said she went to her father and told him that she was done with that lifestyle and wanted to follow Jesus. She ended the letter by saying that no laying of the hands, or oil anointments is what changed her; it was simply hearing someone say they'd truly changed and that Jesus was the source. That story has encouraged me the most. W:
What can we expect next from you publicly? (i.e., spoken word videos, conference appearance, album, book, etc.) H: I have a DVD available on my website JackieEHill.com. I also have a few projects that I'm working on such as videos for my YouTube channel, another DVD by summer, and hopefully an album by December. “Jackie” is doing a whole bunch, but the goal is that Jesus will be seen, and known.
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Hill currently works as the Female Mentorship Coordinator at Grip Outreach for youth in Chicago, IL. For booking information, E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
By Frances Crusoe
For the past couple of years, I have had the pleasure of serving along side Kristina Smith in ministry at Fusion Young Adult Ministry of Victory World Church. She is truly a woman after God's own heart. From her passion for worshiping Jesus through dance and her dedication as small group leader, Kristina's desire to be the hands of feet of Jesus is undeniable. I interviewed Kristina about her recent decision to step out on faith, trusting God completely in order to travel to 11 countries in 11 months serving and spreading the name of Jesus Christ with The World Race
organization. 1. When did you first know that God had called you to mission work?
I knew after my first mission trip to Nicaragua to serve with LifeLink International in July 2011. Before that, I knew I wanted to support missionaries and eventually go on a mission trip as a means of "doing my part" and crossing it off of a checklist. However, after I actually went on a mission trip, saw the poverty stricken areas, and served the children who were being educated at the LifeLink School, I came back to the states with a different heart. I knew then that mission work was something that God was calling me to. 2. How did you end up applying to become a team member with The World Race?
I applied for The World Race after I told a manager at work that I would be quitting to pursue something that I was more passionate about. At the time, I didn't know what that “more passionate” thing would be, yet, I knew I was following a prompting from God to step out on faith and leave the job (and everything that came with it) behind in order to pursue God's purpose for me. For almost a year, I had a strong urge to leave my consulting career and to move into something that satisfied my heart rather than my wallet. I began praying about where God wanted me to work and to my surprise; I got nothing. I am not one to make emotional or irrational decisions and I felt it would be irrational for me to quit one job without having another one lined up. Month after month, the urge to leave got stronger and stronger, although on the surface level my career is moving higher and higher. Because I wasn't sure what the next step was going to be, I had fear and doubt and contemplated for months before finally deciding to make a move. On December 7, 2012, I felt the Lord telling me that this was the day for me to let my manager know that I would be leaving the company. Personally, I felt that was not a very smart decision, but I knew that if I were going to grab hold of God's purpose for my life, it would require a bold and radical act of faith. I waited until the last minute, but I eventually pulled my manager into a one-on-one meeting and broke the news to him. I couldn't give him any answers regarding where I was going, but I definitely felt relief after taking that step.
That same evening after work, I was talking to a friend of mine about the recent occurrences at work, and she mentioned The World Race to me. She told me that she felt it was something I would be interested in and that I should check them out. I went online to research more about the organization and the mission trip, and the first thing I saw on the home page was "there is more to life than empty traditions, routines, and working 9 – 5." At that moment, I felt like the Lord was finally letting me know what comes next for me, and 10 seconds later I was starting on an application! 3. How have you been preparing for the trip?
I've been preparing for the trip on multiple levels. The 11 countries that I'll be going to are Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Nepal, India, Swaziland, Mozambique, and South Africa. I've been praying for those countries that I'll be serving in during my 11 month mission trip and asking that God prepare me for them, as well as asking that He prepare them for me and my team.
I visit the blogs and websites of world racers who are already on the field to mentally prepare myself as much as possible by drawing from their current experiences. I've also been visiting outdoor sports stores and websites to learn as much as I can about all of the gear that I'll need to purchase. I know absolutely nothing about hiking, camping, or backpacking and there is a lot more to it than meets the eye! My entire team will have a World Race training camp in July where we'll spend over a week together to prepare us on what it takes to live outdoors, to break away from the many comfort zones that we've established, and to meet the people who we'll spend 11 months doing life together with for the first time.
Lastly, I blog and have started a newsletter to get support and to keep my current supporters informed regarding my World Race financial status towards meeting my $15,500 goal by March 2014. Outside of donors, I'll be having a few fundraisers including a car wash, Chic-Fil-A Dine In Day, and hopefully a raffle. 4. What lessons have you learned so far?
Because I've been spending more time in prayer and fasting, I am learning to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit and also to trust in God's presence even when I don't feel that He's near. Being still does not come naturally for me, so the importance of waiting on God has been a difficult lesson. When it comes to raising money and choosing a career path, I want to plan events and take matters into my own hands. It feels like every time I try to move in a certain direction based on what I feel makes sense, it ends up not turning out the way I expected or the Lord tells me to just wait ... and that drives me crazy! It's funny to me that I am in a place where I am learning things about God that I thought I already knew like the fact that God's ways are certainly higher than my ways. 5. What advice would you give someone who feels the call to go into missions?
I would tell them to GO! I believe that everyone should go on at least one mission trip. It opens your eyes to what is really going on outside of your bubble and it also draws you closer to the heart of God. If you are feeling called towards missions, chances are that call is coming from God. I doubt very seriously that the enemy would be prompting people to spread the gospel and love of the Lord around the world. However, God's timing is perfect and His plans are very specific, so I would advise them to pray about the details and to be faithful to obey once God does reveal it to them.
Since I've left my job and begun this journey, I've gotten such great feedback and support. To my surprise, I've had a number of people ask me how I got to the point where I was bold enough to move. Many people know that they are called to do something more and something extraordinary, yet the fear of the unknown becomes very real and very crippling. I love sharing my story with these people because I know it helps to build their faith. I advise everyone to seek first the kingdom of God. Chase after His heart, and allow your heart's desires to align with God's heart. Go full force after what God is preparing you for and don't look back. The stirring that God is doing inside of you is not just for you and you can't put a price on inspiring and changing the life of another individual.
You can follow Kristina as she prepares for 11-month journey traveling the globe to spread the Gospel at her blog http://kristinasmith.theworldrace.org/
. Subscribe to her newsletter at http://mad.ly/signups/74625/join
If you would like to make a donation towards Kristina's trip, please visit here
By Carmen Miller
"Our struggles only belong to us for a moment, but then God does something marvelous. He heals us so that our struggles become the testimony that begins someone else’s healing." – Lanita D. Wilks
Last summer, I had the privilege of meeting this beautiful, passionate woman. A firecracker for God, Lanita Wilks, founder of Restoring The Heart, Inc
. is NOT ashamed to share Jesus with anyone. From her inspiring social media statuses to her heart for abortion awareness, I know God has nothing, but blessings for this incredible woman of God. And that is why I felt she was the perfect woman to be spotlighted during this season of love. She has the most beautiful spirit I have seen and her testimony is something to be shared. I am so grateful and blessed to have interviewed her. Check out her interview and fall in love with this amazing soul.
Support Lanita and her ministry! Follow her on Twitter & Facebook.
WHOLE: Lanita, thank you so much for participating in our Spotlight Series. Tell us about Restoring the Heart, Inc. and the role you play within the organization.
Lanita: Restoring the Heart, Inc. is a non-profit ministry that is dedicated to helping women and girls make positive lifestyle choices a norm. We do this by hosting workshops, forums, Bible studies, and outreach opportunities that provide ongoing support and resources for ladies facing the issues that we address. I am the founder and Executive Director of RTH. This ministry was birthed in 2009 out of a burden in my heart for women and girls that I saw were dealing with many of the issues I had dealt with and overcame through Christ. I was burdened because I knew many of them now stood in the shoes I once stood in, without the mentors and support, as well as positive alternatives to the negative lifestyle choices they were making. We are believing God to make an imprint in more communities, schools, and college campuses this year. If you are dedicated and have a heart to use your gifts serving young ladies, please contact me at email@example.com
for more information.WHOLE: You are so brave for sharing your experience with abortion, depression, sexuality, and so openly and honestly. What is the scariest part about revealing your innermost thoughts and struggles with people you don’t know?
Lanita: Thank you, Carmen. It hasn’t always been this easy and initially it was scary, but now every time I share my story I am all the more liberated. I don’t fear what people will say or think of me because I KNOW that someone, somewhere needs to know that Jesus loves them in spite of the mistakes they’ve made; and if my story becomes the catalyst for their healing, by all means I will share as the Lord leads me. I’ve been redeemed and freed through Christ from the guilt and shame of my past so there are no fears. When I share my story, my prayer is that people will not see me but that they will see Christ IN me and see what HE has done by restoring my heart back to Him. And most importantly they will see that there is freedom in Christ, which gives me the boldness to speak without fear of being condemned.WHOLE: Lanita, can you share with our readers some of your testimony?
Lanita: The year of 1999, my sophomore year in high school would change my life forever. I was 15 and pregnant. Unbeknownst to me, I was about to make a choice that would affect me for the rest of my life. After months of denial, my boyfriend at the time and I both decided that I would have an abortion. Not wanting our family’s to know, I researched ways to have the procedure performed without parental consent.
I set an appointment with a district judge who asked me several questions and completed the judicial by-pass paperwork that I had been told I needed to get from the court before I could have an abortion without parental consent. As the judge filled out the paperwork, she asked me questions, like: “Did I know what I was doing?” “If I thought I was mature enough?” “Was I mentally stable?” “If I had been told or was otherwise aware about any of the adverse psychological consequences that may occur following an abortion?” I told the judge that I had never heard of any complications that might occur, but said I thought I was mentally stable, mature enough, and knew what I was doing. The truth was I had no idea what I was doing.
Following my abortion, I was so confused and hurt that I shut down inside. For years I cried every single day and begged God who I barely knew at the time not to be angry with me for making such a horrible mistake. Several years proceeding my abortion, I broke up with my boyfriend. At 18 years old, my grief and hopelessness remained because I felt as though the one that had caused me the most pain was now gone and so was my child. I became numb to the world. [Finish reading Lanita's powerful testimony here.]WHOLE: What advice would you give to women struggling with the decision of having an abortion?
Lanita: I would advise they seek their local life-affirming pregnancy resource center (Visit www.ramahinternational.org to search for help in their area) and if there isn’t one in their area, call this 24/7 Christian pro-life hotline (800) 395-4357
. Most of these centers are equipped with trained, loving, and compassionate Christian women who peer counsel ladies and provide them with helpful resources within and outside of the center to ensure that they will become healthy and successful parents. They do not perform or refer for abortion, but will provide helpful information regarding different procedures so that these women are well informed before making that decision. They will also refer to adoption agencies if that is the mother’s desire.
Majority of these women are afraid and are in a panic. I would strongly suggest finding a close friend or family member they trust to talk through their feelings with. We see it every day in our local Charlotte center; many women just need someone to talk to so they can calm down. Last but certainly not least, I would strongly suggest that they seek God’s heart in the matter. Pray and pray some more. What is God’s heart towards life? We read in Jeremiah 1:5 “Before
I formed you in the womb I knew you
, before you were born I set you apart…” and Psalm 139:1-18 speaks beautifully to God’s heart for us before conception and after birth. He absolutely loves us! We may make mistakes, but God makes NONE! Dear sister, if you are reading this, there is hope and there are people that would love to help you! WHOLE: What encouragement can you give to women who feel the need to share their stories, whether through speech or the written word, but have fears about disclosing information about their personal lives?
Lanita: I would encourage anyone that has a desire to share their story to pray about it. Seek God to see if you believe he is leading you to share with one person or with multiple people and when. Ask yourself what your purpose is for sharing is and what do you hope to accomplish by doing so? Also be mindful and respect the parties involved in your story. While others may have played a major role in your story, ultimately it is about how God restored you; always draw people back to Him. And lastly, if you have not healed from your experience, I strongly suggest seeking a support group or Bible study that helps you get to the root of that issue so that you can fully heal. Sharing a story while you are still broken can be like pouring salt on an open wound and could potentially harm more people than it could help. WHOLE:You work at your local Pregnancy Center. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Lanita: Since I began volunteering at PRC in 2010, my life heart for the pro-life movement and my purpose have been defined all the more. I came on staff part-time in March of 2012 as the office administrator. I work in the development department so I have the privilege of seeing up close and personal the hearts of hundreds of people who give generously to help these women and babies that they may never get to meet. That truly blows my mind. None of them are seeking a public applause, they sincerely desire to see babies saved and mother’s healed. I am also grateful for the strong presence of the Lord that rests in that place. The staff and volunteers begin every morning with devotion. We cover each other, the center, and the ladies that we will see that day in prayer. It is an amazing feeling. WHOLE: The clients must impact you so powerfully. Granted, there are tough days, but overall, you always talk about how they inspire you. How have the young women you’ve encountered there shaped your faith and your view of God?
Lanita: There are tough days indeed. We carry the weight and burdens of these women and we shed many tears for them. However, there are more days than not that we see God’s sovereign grace in a tangible way. We rejoice when we see a young girl or a married woman come into the center with their minds set on abortion and after seeing their baby via ultrasound or hearing the testimony of someone who has walked in their shoes, they cry tears of joy and question how they could have ever thought about taking their precious child’s life. These ladies are brave. They inspire me to be more compassionate, more loving, more graceful, and more forgiving.
While we are helping them, many are helping us strengthen our faith by seeing that God can take a story so broken and mold it into a story so beautifully written. Seeing a woman come in with no hope, to leaving feeling like the weight of the world has been lifted off her shoulders simply because someone took the time to listen to her and pray with and for her. Women come to know Christ there; many rededicate their lives to Him there, many receive their very first Bible there... It is truly overwhelming and I am utterly grateful to say that at this time in history God chose me to be a part of this. I can’t leave without saying that we are always looking for more volunteers who have a heart for the unborn and desire to help this population. We will be opening two new satellite centers in 2013 and are praying that God would place it on the hearts of 100+ women to be a part of what He is doing there! If you are interested in volunteering or would like to tour the center to learn more about different volunteer opportunities, contact Mary Fleischman at firstname.lastname@example.org
Heart 2 Heart Forum at Livingstone College - Salisbury, NC
Blessed to be a Blessing - Young Mother's Christmas Sponsorship 2012
Honor Your Body & Boys Leadership Programs - Sedgefield Middle School
"No Temporary Affair: Bound4LIFE"
By Ashley Flores
Receiving new people into your life can be a challenge at times. Past experiences with hurt, dissapointment, deceit and betrayl can make our heart hard, and cause us to refuse to open doors where we feel we might have to be vulnerable on the other side. I am blessed to have been released from that kind of fear quite some time ago. Am I perfect at it? Of course not. But I am excited that I do not approach new friendships with a sense of fear. God has given me the privilege of being surrounded by some truly amazing people. People who understand their lives are meant for a much greater purpose than simply fulfilling personal definition of success. They not only know Who created them, but they have silenced themselves to listen attentively at what our Creator has instructed them to do during the current season of their life. Marquita Southall
, 20-year-old pro-life activist, is one of those people and I am so happy I have not closed my heart to getting to know her.
In 2011, Southall answered God's call to take ownership of the abortion epidemic in the United States and became the leader of the Mobile Chapter of Bound4LIFE
. She has given up the typical entertainments and recreational activities of the average college-age woman, and has instead decided to spend her time educating and mobilizing new activists. Through Silent Sieges, which are public events where activists wear "LIFE Tape" over their mouths while silently praying in front of courthouses and abortion facilities around the nation, and the distribution of LIFE Bands, the need for an increase in Faith in order to create an increase in pro-life legislation and personal decision making is growing.
Not only am I honored to know her, I am also honored to call her my friend. I recently had time to probe Southall on exactly how she feels about abortion, her relationship with Christ and how it has affected her pro-life involvement, and get some more insight into Bound4LIFE
. Why is spreading this message so important to you? "The message of LIFE is very important to me. I remember lying in my room one night and the issue of abortion fell upon me like a ton of bricks. God basically swamped my soul with His heart for the unborn.Abortion is a topic most people are "too familiar" with. Countless amounts of people write papers and even give speeches about it in their class projects. To me, abortion is more than a topic, it is murder.
So I began to do my research on abortion and after finding out so many staggering statistics I felt as if I had to do something about it. There have been about 53 million abortions in America since 1973. That’s the population of Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Texas combined. I don’t know about you, but they blew my mind!
The issue of abortion is so close to my heart because I could have had another sister, but my mom chose to terminate her life. My mom has five girls and every single time we gather together it feels like someone is missing. Immediately my mind floods back to the abortion my mom had before my youngest sister was born.The cutoff date for abortion is 6 months and my mom actually gave birth to me at 5 months; I was born 1lb 3 oz. I always think to myself if I survived, every single baby that was killed at that stage could have survived as well. I was in the hospital for 3 months fighting for my life, and LIFE won. I believe every baby deserves to get a chance to live."Have you heard any deeply moving stories about abortion since becoming active with Bound4Life?"I’ve actually heard quite a few stories that were very stirring. My best friend met a pregnant young lady at her job and she began to tell her about Bound4LIFE. The young lady began to tell my best friend about her LIFE experience. This young lady was about 7 months pregnant and just months before she had an appointment set up to abort her baby. She started to tell her experience…
When she was only a few months pregnant she went into the abortion clinic to have her baby removed. She frigidly waited her turn while many other young women were having abortions in the nearby room. The door opened and the doctor called her into the room to perform the procedure. She proceeded to the room and sat on the bed until the doctor returned. As she sat there ,she could hear an abortion being performed in the room next to her; you can actually hear the little feeble body being sucked out of his/her mother’s womb. At this point the young lady was very shaken up. So the doctor came back into the room asked her to remove her clothes and lay on the table. After doing so the doctor began fidgeting with her belly to find the baby. After minutes of searching, the baby was nowhere to be found. They both were stunned because the young lady knew for a fact that she was pregnant. So once again the doctor began to look for her baby; nothing. The doctor set up a separate appointment with an actual hospital to see if they could find the baby. The young lady agreed to the appointment and after hours with them, the baby was still undetectable. Time had passed and the young lady visited four different specialists and no one could find the baby. Following all of this confusion they concluded that the young lady was not pregnant, but that was not the case. Weeks passed and the young lady felt weird, come to find out the girl was pregnant all along, but the baby was hidden from any detections of life. Not one piece of all those doctors advanced equipment could find a trace of that baby’s life. When I heard the story I wept because I knew God hid her baby. At that point the young lady knew that her baby was destined to live. She recently gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and named him Jordan. "What is the most Spirit-stirring experience you have encountered since becoming active with Bound4Life?"Recently, one of my family members found out that they were pregnant. When she found out her first reaction was, “Hey I’m having an abortion” and she said it with no hint of budging. I literally cried and petitioned God. Here I am taking a stand for LIFE and someone so close to me is thinking about taking her baby’s life. So I began to intercede on behalf of that unborn child. I refused to even sleep! So after a couple of days in prayer I had a dream. In that dream my aunt and sister, who is also pregnant, were both sitting on two separate sofas across from each other. I walked into the area and sat on the side of my aunt and instantly my dream transformed into a vision, and in that vision my aunt’s stomach literally opened up. When her stomach opened a little girl about the age of 3 jumped out and grabbed my neck. She grabbed my face, looked me in my eyes and said “Thank you for saving me”. I awoke at once completely overtaken by the presence of God. All I could do is weep and pray harder. I kept saying and proclaiming “This baby will live”, “This baby will live”. Just a few days later I received a joyous phone call from my pregnant sister that was in the dream and she happily informed me that my aunt decided to keep her baby. What’s even more shocking is just a few days ago I received another phone call that not only was my aunt keeping the baby, but that she is actually giving birth to a girl. Just like my dream! I fell to my knees in sobs, completely overtaken with the joy of the Lord. This experience moved my spirit even more to petition heaven on behalf of the unborn. At that moment I BELIEVED that my prayers were not in vain! "
What do you hope to accomplish through Bound4Life?
"I hope to (through prayer and action) move people to care for the widows and the orphans that the bible speak of. Psalm 82:3-4 says “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” In modern day terms, care for the aborted ones, neglected children, hurt and battered women. Take action against injustice, not through violence and hostility, but through the love of Jesus Christ. We’re here to offer life and hope for pregnant women considering abortion, not condemnation. So it is my desire that the lives ofthese broken hearted women souls are saved, and mind set free! "
To find out more information about the Mobile Chapter of Bound4LIFE's next event, please visit their Facebook page by clicking the link above.
By Carmen Miller
Check out Part 1 of our interview with Tiffani and Tanya here. 5. What challenges do you see young women facing these days in terms of body image and overall self image? It is prevalent within media – through music, television, dance, etc.– to de-value young women and give the impression that their value is based on physical features. We at Fly-Chicks, Inc. reject the notion that beauty is only skin deep. In fact, we’ve chosen to make a bold statement: Beauty is not determined by the length or texture of your hair, the fairness of your skin, or the width of your hips. True beauty comes from within. It is the “stuff” that cannot be sized (36-24-36) or covered with make-up. True beauty is doing and feeling your best from the inside out. True beauty is looking in the mirror and knowing your worth. True beauty is finding the strength to stand up for yourself. True beauty is being real with your friends and taking a stand for what you believe in. True beauty is being comfortable in your own skin — no matter the shape, size, color, or condition of it! 6. What encouragement can you give to women who feel the need to share their stories, whether through speech or the written word, but have fears about disclosing information about their personal lives? This is an excellent question because it is something that we encounter quite often. Our goal is to get women to understand that there should be no shame or condemnation associated with their personal testimony. In fact, we firmly believe that it is through the sharing of our testimonies that we can further be set free – and most importantly – help to set others free. The most prevalent reason that women feel inhibited about sharing their stories is fear. Fear of the consequences associated with sharing. Thus, our goal is to create a safe environment wherein women feel comfortable sharing their stories. This includes giving them the ability to do so under a pen name or sharing their story anonymously. Stories are told in a myriad of ways – auto-biographically written, through letters, poems, voice recordings, or words of wisdom that focus on the message rather than the “messenger”. Something that is key to point out, however, is that every woman whom has participated in this experience has encountered a “freeing” within her own self that allows her to not only move past personal pain, but often acts as a catalyst that allows them to foster avenues of growth and empowerment within themselves that they may not have known was needed. They have now agreed to continue to write and even act as mentors to young ladies that need guidance and direction on a more personal level. It’s been a wonderful experience for everyone – and they would not have found this reward without having first overcome their inhibitions by pulling back the first layer of their own personal truth. Revelation 12:11 confirms that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. We’ve found this to be true in every aspect of the Fly-Chicks, Inc. storytelling journey.7. Who has been a significant influence in your life and ministry? Tanya: Aside from my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, my mother has been the biggest influence in my life and ministry. I grew up in a single parent home with a mom who had a long history that I didn’t know much about until I was a young adult. Through my relationship with my siblings, we were able to gain strength from the sharing of what we knew about our individual pasts and how our mom’s example influenced our lives in ways that we didn’t even realize. What a wonderful revelation! She’d be surprised to know that every aspect of her life story – her struggles in particular – shaped us into the intelligent, strong, and resilient adults that we are today. My mother has always been a woman of faith, and even in her darkest hours, she instructed us to always maintain our own intimate and personal relationship with God. I believe that principle alone saved my very life. If she’s given me no other gift – she has certainly given me the gift of faith, leading by example along the way. Tiffani: I completely agree with Tanya. Aside from God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, my mother and father have been very influential in my life and this ministry. I see so much of myself in both my mother and father. They have seen me through the good and the bad. When you’re younger, it’s funny how you don’t think that your parents understand or even care about all of the feelings that you have bottled up inside, but they do care. Sometimes, it’s just hard for them to start the conversation. For that reason, I wish that I had been more open with them as a teenager. They have so much wisdom about life and they have helped me to see situations and people from different perspectives, over the years. They’ve helped me to see the value in keeping the lines of communication open, and that communication is not one-sided, but involves both sharing and listening.8. What have you learned from your relationship with Christ and how has it impacted your relationship with others and if you could share one message with today’s modern young women, what would you tell them? What we’ve learned from our relationship with Christ is that, though we fail Him daily, His love never fails. What a gift. That is true, unconditional love. That is an amazing love. No better love exists on this planet. This challenges us to love others in the same way – unconditionally and without judgment. If we could share one message with today’s modern young women, it would be this: You need to understand your own identity, value, and worth. If you do not know your own value, then you will allow someone else to define it for you – and that would be a travesty.9. WHOLE Magazine is dedicated to helping women and young girls discover healing, restoration and wholeness in Christ. And our ministry was inspired by Matthew 9:22. During your seasons of brokenness what scripture/s did you find helped you through your healing process? Jeremiah 1:5 is our anchor scripture and it reads: “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” (NLT) Essentially, this says that we were chosen by Him before we were even conceived. He already knew our path, and deemed it so perfect that he appointed us to be His own mouthpiece. We all have something important to say…something worthy to be heard. Wow. How special is that! Another one of our favorite scriptures is Ecclesiastes 3:11, which reads: “He has made everything beautiful in its time…no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (NIV) We interpret this as the epitome of the scripture “all things work together for the good of those that love God”(Rom. 8:28). There is nothing too dark in your life that will keep you hidden. He makes ALL things beautiful in its time. We may not understand why things happen when they do, but eventually we will come to realize that His hand has never left us or forsaken us during the process. If we hold steadfastly to Him, he will indeed make our paths straight and reveal every aspect of our journey to be a very valuable one. 10. What are your goals for Fly Chicks for 2013, and any special events coming up? The key mission of Fly-Chicks, Inc. never changes. Our goal is to always promote transparency through conversations about real-life situations that we’ve all found ourselves in. One of the things that is most important to us is the personal connection that we are able to establish with young ladies through face-to-face contact via our “Real Life, Real Talk” chat sessions & workshops and exposing them to cultural activities & events. All of these activities are created to help bridge the communication gap and help them discover their “authentic” selves. As a bonus, women acting as volunteers & mentors in the program also tend to discover their own “authentic selves” along the way! There is a special gift that comes from being able to communicate thoughts and feelings effectively, and we like to use all avenues possible in order to help young ladies do that. There is such a dire need for this to occur that we welcome additional volunteers and mentors to become a part of this important goal. On November 3rd we will be at Studio 11 Films (http://studio11films.com/) in Atlanta, GA. This is an acting workshop with Christopher Pearman, father of Raven-Symone, who will take the young ladies on a journey to discover how to tap into their deepest “dream quotient” and live fearlessly in pursuit of their dreams. On November 8th we will have the opportunity to expand our reach through the launch of our very first National Conference Call. We are very excited about this and invite young ladies and women of all ages to dial in and become a part of this very important conversation. We have a surprise special guest with an AMAZING testimony! More information regarding the dial-in number and time can be found at http://www.fly-chicks.com/upcoming-events/ More exciting announcements are to come, so check the website regularly for details!
By Carmen Miller
A few weeks ago, I had the honor of chatting with two incredible women. What started as merely the usual following on Twitter and other social networks, turned into an unforgettable divine connection.
Tiffani & Tanya Phelps, Co-founders of Fly-Chicks
, are a "godly" force to be reckoned with. They have a heart for young girls everywhere.
We live in a society where TV, movies and music tells us that to be beautiful we have to look a certain way. So many young girls suffer because of this stigma. Fly-Chicks.Com
was designed to motivate and inspire today's teen.
1. Thank you for participating in our Spotlight Series! Tell us about Fly Chicks and the role you ladies play within the organization. We founded Fly-Chicks, Inc. with the goal of being a sounding board and resource for young ladies to help them think beyond the moment and make good decisions. While growing up, there were certain conversations that we wanted to have with our mothers, but those conversations did not happen. For this reason, we wanted Fly-Chicks, Inc to be the catalyst that started those “tough” conversations with young ladies and women. In order to get the ball rolling, we started by sharing personal stories and lessons learned from our journey through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. As we began telling others about Fly-Chicks, we started encouraging other women to share their personal stories in order to spotlight the fact that – no matter the situation or generation – our journeys are all similar. Each of us have experienced pain, disillusionment, low self-esteem, disappointment, hurt, rejection, confusion and a host of other emotions that can sometimes act to isolate us from others. Oftentimes, it is in that isolation that we are most vulnerable, and tend to succumb to more negative emotions and behaviors. Fly-Chicks, Inc. was established as a platform to give women and young ladies a voice. When a person feels “heard”, those feelings of isolation and hopelessness begin to immediately dissipate. Young ladies especially need to understand that they are not alone. In facilitating transparent conversations across the generational spectrum, we firmly believe that with each true story, word of encouragement, letter of hope, etc. – we are able to achieve the message that each experience we’ve had was needed to shape us into the women we are today. We should never be ashamed of our experiences, for they are meant to form our character – and more importantly – our purpose. Essentially, we know because of Jeremiah 1:5, that we were deemed valuable and needed on this earth before we were even formed in our mother’s womb. God knew each of our paths before we walked them, and He deemed our journeys both essential and necessary in order for us to fulfill our purpose. We have value because of our experiences, not “in spite” of them. We began this journey with the creation of the website www.fly-chicks.com, and now have a host of activities, tools & resources that we use to encourage women and young ladies to share their stories, so that each of us can effectively empower and support one another. 2. I have read many of your poetry and articles about the struggles you both have overcome. What experiences have shaped you into the wonderful women you are today? Whew! That’s an easy (and difficult) question to answer – primarily because of what we were just sharing with you a few moments ago. Every single experience we’ve had has shaped us into who we are today – the good and the bad. Some experiences we allowed into our lives because of our own distorted view of ourselves and our value, and it is those situations that we’ve wanted to spotlight and encourage other women to spotlight, as well. This is particularly important because there is value in shared experiences. As women, it is imperative that we ground one another in grace and encourage one another in love (Hebrews 10:24-25). Whether the struggle has been low self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, sexual sin, abusive relationships, etc., we’ve grown to understand and know that each of the experiences we’ve had or heard from other women will serve to help someone else. The key is transparency. Oftentimes, young people make poor decisions because they suffer from the distorted view that no one “understands” their journey -- no one has ever “felt” the way they feel. We want to change that! It’s our goal to arm young ladies with the truth. The truth is that regardless of the mistakes you make in life, you are never alone. There is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9), and all things work together to form the perfect creature that you are in the eyes of God. We want to use real life examples to prove this. No one’s journey is filled with perfection – but everyone’s journey is necessary to build in us the strength, dignity, and self-worth needed to pour into the life of someone else. 3. What struggles did you face as teenagers, specifically in regards to body image and self worth?
Tanya: As a teen, I was tall with crooked teeth and had very flat feet, which led to what my peers described as a “weird, wide walk”. I was very self-conscious of my appearance, and would often “shrink” in an attempt to accommodate the height of my peers and make myself appear to be “one of them”. This “shrinking” was symbolic both externally and internally. Though I was very intelligent, I would often act “goofy” or become very quiet in class so that I would deflect from my mental prowess, out of fear that this would further cause people to make fun of me. I desperately wanted to be “liked” and often compromised my own standards in order to gain acceptance. This crossed over into relationships with boys, and resulted in my making poor decisions with my body, which caused even lower self-esteem and began a cycle that was difficult to break. Eventually, I began to mask my insecurities with food, and by the time I was a young adult, I was more than 50 lbs. overweight. This was a very difficult time emotionally, mentally and physically. I didn’t have a father-figure in my life, so I continued to look for acceptance among males. Over time, my faith began to overshadow my insecurities and I gained strength from having a constant, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. It was through my faith that I began to gain the inner strength and self-worth needed to overcome the feelings of vulnerability and insecurity that had become the catalyst for my poor self-image. When I began to see myself through HIS eyes, I understood that my uniqueness was actually my strength. Tiffani: I battled severe low self-esteem. As a young girl, I couldn’t identify any good qualities about myself, except for being a nice person. But, over time, I started viewing my niceness as a weakness. In fact, if there was a negative thought or feeling to have, I probably had it. I used to believe that I was worthless, stupid, ugly, fat, inferior, and a mistake. I hated everything about me. I can remember being depressed all throughout middle school, high school, and a good portion of my adult life because I didn’t think that I was good enough. In fact, I was 19 yrs old when I first tried to commit suicide. After my third and final suicide attempt, I could hear God telling me to LIVE. Now, I look back on my journey, and all of the days I questioned God for creating me, and I know that there was purpose in all of my pain. I had to go through those challenging life experiences so that I could tell young ladies and other women that God loves them. His love isn’t like human love. God finds beauty in every imperfection, in every mistake, in every tear, because He knows that there is a greater purpose in all of it. 4. How are you empowering other women and young girls to realize their beauty and potential? The key is to emphasize that true beauty is not external. True beauty is reflected through what message is permeating through a person’s spirit. Do you operate in a spirit of Love? What about Integrity? Grace? Honor? Do you honor yourself with your own words? Do you represent integrity through your actions? Do you operate in grace by forgiving those whom have hurt you? Do you love unconditionally – yourself included? All of these things determine the beacon of light that shines through you. Others can see it. You must be able to see it, too. This is why we have the tagline “Spread your wings from within.” This phrase was created as a message of empowerment for young ladies and serves as a constant reminder that a healthy self-esteem starts from the inside-out.
Once you understand your value and worth, you will be able to soar to heights beyond your biggest expectations. How? Because you’ll realize that you are priceless, and it’s been in you all along!
Stay tuned and check back tomorrow for Part 2 of our WHOLE Spotlight on Tiffani and Tanya Phelps.
Many of us dream about the opportunity to travel abroad and serve our brothers and sisters who have not had the physical luxury to be born in a country where basic healthcare needs are readily available. We watch infomercials, and our hearts break as we see children living unsafe structures and drinking contaminated water. We cringe at the reports of young women being sold through human trafficking, and of how HIV/AIDS is consuming Africa (among other countries). On July 28, speech-language pathologist Tiffany K. Daniels, 29, boarded a plane and headed to Zambia for a trip with Connective Link Among Special needs Programs (CLASP) International that would forever change her life. Daniels, who currently works for the Dallas Independent School District, was chosen because of her heart for community outreach, which is professionally supported by her work certification and licensing to serve as team leader, or supervisor, on the two week long excursion.
W: How were you chosen for this trip? What were the qualifications?
D: I attended an informational about CLASP International to learn more of what the organization was about after hearing a brief presentation on the need for Speech Pathologist and other allied health professions to travel to Africa and help children with disabilities. An application process was available online and an applicant was able to choose whether they would like to help with the mission of the organization as a stateside member (one who helps raise funds, find resources and materials, helps with planning for the different camps, and spreads the word about what CLASP's mission is doing/has done in South Africa) or a travel team member (one who does everything that the stateside member does, but travels to Zambia and implements the works). For my profession, qualifications included being certified and licensed, having specialty in one of the areas to be a team leader/supervisor, and having a heart for community outreach.
W: What were your thoughts about the trip leading up to it? How did you prepare mentally/emotionally/spiritually?
D: Leading up to the trip, I had a lot of mixed emotions. I was excited, yet nervous. I felt unprepared, yet somewhat over prepared. I talked with one of my friends who had taken a trip similar to this one, but in Haiti. He told me about his trip and how much of a life changing experience it was for him. Even after listening to him, the feelings that I had did not change completely, but it made me a little more calm. I went back home to [Chatom,] Alabama for a weekend because I wanted to personally thank my church family for the $1000 dollars that they raised for me. There, my pastor called me to the altar and prayed for me. As soon as he touched my head, I just started crying because I knew in my heart that I was about to experience a once in a lifetime opportunity and I was going to be able to make a difference in not only a special person's life, but I was going to be helping someone in AFRICA!. After seeing my family and friends back home and hearing their encouragement, I felt at ease and was ready to go!
W: What was your first reaction when you landed in Africa? When you made it to where the team would be working?
D: We arrived in Zambia at sunrise and the first thing that came to my mind was..."I made it to the Motherland!". As we cramped into a minivan with our luggage, we rode through the city to our hotel. There were a lot of people walking to work, uniformed kids walking to school, and many people on the streets. We saw a lot of fruit/vegetable stands and also other vendors with different crafts that were being sold. It was amazing to see people walking and carrying crates and baskets on their heads. Also, the women carried their babies in cloth carriers on their backs.
When we arrived at our hotel, I was kind of impressed. It seemed very americanized. I mean, I didn't think that we would be at a hut or anything, but the accommodations were nice. There were several different camps that we set up which included the Special School, Craniofacial, Deaf School, Adult, NICU, and community outreach. A lot of my time was spent at the Special School. I was kind of prepared to work at the Special School, so I had my professional cap on as I observed the setting and different classrooms. I was ready to work with the administrator and teachers on planning and implementing strategies to improve classroom management so my mentality was completely focused.
In Zambia, children who have disabilities that may show that they are "different" are considered cursed. So, those children are hidden away because their families think that there are not any treatments or ways to help them. We gave them resources and information to get the help that was needed if they suspected anyone who may have those situations. But, as I spoke with one woman, her spirit really touched me. She definitely did not have the same views as the majority of the community. This woman who I felt (from a “worldly” point of view) was poor, didn't have teeth, and her front doorway to her house was covered with a sheet, but from a "spiritual" lifestyle and the words she gave me, I knew she was rich in spirit. She said that God loves all children no matter what disability they may have, and we as humans have to be accepting knowing that we are all of His creations because He does not make a mistake. She continued to say how we have to understand that whatever we struggle with or may lack, God will provide.
As a person who lives a decent, comfortable lifestyle, I thought very hard about my own faith. Here I was talking to a woman who did not have many possessions, but one thing she did have was an abundance of faith. I wanted to be able to gain that much faith in God and just learn to be able to trust Him completely. I really admired this lady and was taken aback by the fact that she actually helped me, when I thought that I was there to help her.
W: What kind of work were you responsible for doing once you made it to Africa?
D: CLASP started a Masters Degree Program at the University of Zambia while we were there. The reason being is because there is only one Speech Pathologist in the whole country. So, with this program, twenty students were admitted and in two years, there will be Speech Pathologist who will be competent and certified to treat people with communication disorder. My responsibilities included supervising both the American and the Zambian graduate students . I was also team leader for the Special School. My team worked together to provide assessments/screenings for children with suspected speech disorders. We developed Home Education Programs for families with children with disabilities, as well. The team conducted teacher workshops and training for classroom management at University Teaching Hospital Special School. Each team member rotated to assist with the other camps too in testing and providing treatment.
However, the area that made me really feel like I was in South Africa was during the community outreaches which were held at a couple of different compounds. I had never seen a place like this. We hear about the way people live in parts of Africa all the time through media. However, to see this lifestyle first hand does something to a person. Well at least to me. It is kind of hard to describe...but we walked house to house providing education to the people in the communities and gave out information about disabilities (autism, cerebral palsy, premature babies, down syndrome) and infectious diseases.
W: How do you feel this trip has affected your thoughts about God's purpose for your life?
D: I honestly feel that I have known my purpose for a while because I have grown to be passionate about working with children and wanting them to be succesful in education. So, when I came back from Africa, I was very excited about returning to work after our summer break. It is like I have been more motivated to carry out my purpose in not only a compassionate way, but with a more concrete understanding of my purpose. Before, I understood, this is my job to work with kids and do my best to help them because that is what I love doing. But now I acknowledge the power that I possess in knowing God's purpose in my life.
I feel that we all have passions in life, but we may sometimes waver on fulfilling that passion or purpose when there are difficulties or obstacles that can cause us to give up. But, when a power is ignited and you are able to carry out a task when you had no idea of how/where the solution came from, it just solidifies that you are where you are for a reason, and that God has been preparing you by giving you the education, knowledge, and confidence to fulfill His purpose. That is how I feel about this trip. I felt that I was being tested in a lot of areas outside of my comfort zone. I was unsure about many of my responsibilities and often wondered what I was going to do to supervise the graduate students, be able to relate to the teachers by providing beneficial information to help restructure the classrooms, or how would I provide appropriate strategies for parents knowing that they have limited resources. However, when you are being used by God and understand that "it's not about you", it just comes natural. It's like I really "get it" now. I know that I am in the field of education for a reason.
W: What advice would you give to someone who is considering applying for a position on a team such as this?
D: It's simple. Go! But go and embrace the fact that your life and mindset will be changed.
Daniels and Zambian community members served by the CLASP International team.
Daniels (left, back) and community members served by he CLASP International team.