Wendi was born a Baptist preacher's daughter. She grew up in a very conservative, strict religious home with a list of rules she was expected to follow with no question or argument. These rules were things like no "mixed" swimming (boys and girls swimming together), and no going to movies at the theater. Girls could only wear dresses (not pants or jeans); and she could not wear shirts with writing on them because it made boys look in places where they should not look. These are just a few of the rules, but surely you get the picture. She was told these rules were meant to protect her and to make God pleased with her. However, there was no rule that could protect her from her father.
At the age of 11, her father began to sexually abuse her in their home while her mom was out of town visiting the grandparents. He warned Wendi that if she told her mom what he was doing, or anyone else for that matter, that it would break up the family, and they would not be together anymore. So, she kept this secret hidden deep within her heart where it began to take root and turn into bitterness, anger and rebellion. At the age of 16, her family broke up anyway. Her parents got a divorce. They had become good friends with a couple in the church (apparently particularly good friends) and decided to swap marriage partners with them. So, her dad married the woman, and her mom married the man and life became even more confusing for her. You see, throughout the entire time of being sexually abused and seeing her parents switch partners with another couple, she was still expected to go by these strict rules that had been put in place to "protect" her. She had no idea why she was not allowed to wear pants or go to the movies, but her parents seemed to be allowed to do anything they wanted with no consequences. The only ones paying a price were the kids caught in the middle.
One night, after a heated argument with her soon-to-be stepmother, her dad came home to find them in quite a battle. To Wendi’s surprise, the mistress gave her dad an ultimatum and told him he had to choose. Either her or Wendi. In Wendi’s eyes, there was no contest between his love for his firstborn and some woman he had just met at the church a few years earlier. The next day at school, the cheerleaders were having a bake sale. Wendi was stirring the nacho cheese when she looked up and saw her dad walking down the hallway. Excited that he had come to apologize and tell her that he had sent the mistress away, Wendi ran up to give him a big hug. He just stood there cold and without responding. Then he opened his jacket, handed her a plane ticket and told her she was going back to live with her mother, and her plane was leaving in just hours. That moment changed her life forever. The rejection would follow her for decades.
At the age of 16, two years after going to live with her mother, her stepfather began to sexually abuse her as well. It was not long before her self-esteem was down to nothing. She was looking for anyone to love her at any cost. She became promiscuous, allowing guys to treat her any way they pleased. She was so desperate for real love and acceptance. Not long afterwards, at the age of 18, she got involved in the strip club industry. Most girls she danced with were addicted to alcohol or drugs. Her addiction was quite different. You see, she had heard many sermons on things like drinking and drugs, so she was afraid to try anything like that. Her addiction was to the way she felt while on stage. For once, these men could only look at her; they could not touch her without serious consequences from the bouncers she worked with. So, when she danced, she felt safe, protected, and in control. This was a feeling she had not felt since the age of 11. She never knew a father who would warn the boy who picked her up for a first date of what would happen if he touched her in any inappropriate way. The one she needed to protect her was the one hurting her the most. At least on stage, she knew no one could get to her. It was better than being at home. This addiction is what kept her there for almost two years. Then one day, God decided to get her attention in a mighty way.
While getting ready to dance one night, she suddenly had a horrible pain in her stomach. The pain got worse for over 20 minutes. Ironically, she found herself praying and asking God to take the pain away...........but He did not. The pain got so bad she really thought she could die, so she asked God to just take her life quickly..........but He did not. After several more minutes of excruciating pain, she finally did the only other thing she knew to do. She made a deal with God. She told Him that if He would take away the pain, she would never dance again........within 60 seconds the pain was completely gone!
Although her dad did a lot of things to hurt her in life, he also taught her a lot about the Bible. She knew that if she made a vow to God, she had no choice but to keep it. She never danced again! Glory to God! Her work in ministry has led her into many strip clubs to share the love of Jesus with the girls there. They always ask the same question and want to know how she got out of the industry. This opens a door for her to share the wonderful news of God's grace and mercy with them. She tells them how God includes stories in the Bible of women like Rahab, a prostitute, NOT a former prostitute, but a current prostitute that saves her whole family by risking her life to hide the spies simply because of her faith in God. She reminds them that this faith was particularly notable because she is the only woman mentioned by name in the faith chapter of the Bible, Hebrews 11, and she was also grafted into the lineage of Jesus Christ. Wendi wants to live a life of great faith in God that allows her to rise above all fears and insecurities so that she may continue to testify of the powerful change and work God has done in her life.
Everywhere she goes that God allows her to share her testimony, there is at least one girl who comes forward to confess that she has been through the same thing or something similar. It may be difficult for the girl to hear that forgiveness is the first step to true healing, but it is the absolute truth and the only way to eliminate the bitterness and resentment that we tend to hold on to when we have been hurt so deeply. Wendi is eternally thankful that God has chosen her to be used in such a way where she can share His everlasting love, forgiveness and grace to those He brings along her path. If your story resembles her story in any way...if you have experienced rejection, abandonment or abuse of any kind, we pray that you will reach out and ask for help today. You are NOT alone! God is standing with His arms wide open waiting for you to take that first step of faith in believing that He really wants to heal you. We do not have all the answers, but we certainly know the One who does. He knows exactly what you need and He's waiting to meet your need if you will only reach out to Him for help.
We pray that you find the peace, acceptance and unconditional love that Wendi has found, which only comes through an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ. He has a purpose for everything He allows or brings into our lives, and He can heal your hurt as He has done for Wendi and use it to bless others. May your life be blessed and full of peace, and may you walk in the purposes for which you were created.