Jessica’s Story: the Redemption of the Prodigal Daughter

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“I was huge into changing the world, even… as I was becoming a young adult,” Jessica Joy outlined her faithful upbringing, coupled with her fiery personality, that have both come full circle in her journey. “I was constantly starting Bible study clubs at the schools I was at. I was very much an activist. And this was my DNA. This is how I was raised.”

At 19, fresh out of high school with a nine month seminary crash-course, Jessica became a full-time youth pastor in Brighton, Colorado. She described her identity at the time as rooted more in her purity than in God, which was tragically stolen, and rocked everything she had believed, about God and herself.

“It was on an Easter Sunday, when I was 24 years old at this church plant, and I was randomly and violently raped in a parking lot, before I was to speak at a purity conference,” she recalled, and remembered thinking, “I was going through that list of, ‘what did I do to deserve this? I pray, I fast, I seek God. And this is how God treats me?’”

With this severe trauma and no means to process it, she––long story short, as she described it––spiraled deep into the pornography industry.

“I just wanted to be normal. All my friends were dead or missing, and it was like survival of the fittest, like they were giving trophies to who could endure the most torture,” her solution for this, at the time, was to return to Colorado, despite being ill-equipped. “I didn’t know how to get a job, get a scholarship, go to school, get a trade. I didn’t know how to just go back into life.”

With this lack of resources, she remained trapped in the industry, explaining, “you become part of the system. You go from fighting the man, to being the man, and covering up things, and looking the other way, and you just realize you’re just as sick and evil as everyone else.”

This, unfortunately, became her story as well, as the normalcy she sought was out of reach, and she instead found herself running a brothel in Colorado.

“I was trying to live two lives… I was attending churches every Sunday when I had a brothel, and those women were attending church every Sunday.” She reached a place, caught in her own network, where she realized, “I had over 5000 contacts, but no one was really my friend. As in, I profited off of them, they profited off of me.”

Her path to surrender was slow, but with individuals who knew about Refuge, such as her friend Deanna, she reached a point of willingness to abandon the life she had built, eager to get out, but still fearful of the unknown.

“I didn’t know who I was on the other side of the posters, and the trunkful of DVDs. Who was Jessica on the other side of this? And would she survive? If porn didn’t kill her, would this next life do her in?”

With a two month wait for Refuge, but enough desperation and no other place to go, Jessica took the leap to Kentucky, “with no guarantee that [Refuge] was going to let me in the program… I’d much rather wait two and a half months in Lexington, Kentucky, than stay one more day in Colorado,” she explained. So, for the beginning of her time, “there were nine girls in 1200 square feet, so I slept on the floor between the couch and the office desk.”

From this point, Jessica had quite a dramatic prodigal-daughter transformation. She explained the family that Refuge was to her, and what that taught her about healthy relationships.

“We learned how to use our words to communicate. And I wasn’t raised in a family where there was fighting and there was communication. So I learned how to fight,” she explained, with the same fire that ignites all of Jessica’s words, “I believe one of the greatest things that Refuge did teach me was how to fight and how to listen.”

Equipped with healthier means for communication and conflict, Jessica was still left with wounds in her own family, and the challenge of what it looked like to reconcile that. The answer is one that doesn’t come one-size fits all for the graduates of Refuge for Women, but one that Jessica has wrestled with wisely.

“What I got from Refuge for Women is how I view God, and how to see God through a clean filter, so that I can see the person next to me. I also understood what it meant to ‘seek justice, walk humbly, and love mercy,’” Jessica recalled Micah 6:8, the verse that has become her life’s mission. “We went through all of the people in our immediate circle, and we took responsibility: Here’s how they impacted me emotionally, sexually, physically, mentally, financially. Then we took our responsibility as well: How did we impact them emotionally, physically, financially, sexually? We went through and we sorted through the garbage of, ‘Where is my responsibility in all of this?’”

In her journey to assume responsibility, Jessica’s relationship with her parents became a huge part of the process.

“I didn’t recognize how much I hurt them, obviously, because I had not taken responsibility for my actions… So they kind of kept their distance. And there were times through my healing process that I distanced… and it had nothing to do with their words, it was God working on me.”

While Jessica recognized some separation as a necessary step in her healing, it also placed her parents in a position of spectatorship. “Of course they prayed for me on a daily basis, but I had hurt them, and they had to see me grow up. They had to see me take responsibility.”

With this question of ownership, she ultimately summed this process up with the question, “whenever the prodigal gets home, what’s their responsibility?”

Jessica found her answer not in the famed parable of the prodigal son, but instead in the parable of the talents, in Matthew 25:14-30.

“I reconciled with my parents, because it didn’t matter their side of the street,” she explained, “My side of the street said, ‘you were given the talent, you were given that godly family, and your responsibility is to honor your father and mother.’” Even so, from this point, Jessica still “didn’t know how to reconcile with my parents. I didn’t know what to say,” and she eventually emailed them with an apology and a resolution.

She also expressed gratitude, as she is able to see godly fruit in her parents’ lives that give a foundation for this reconciliation that many other women she graduated Refuge with may not have had.

“For some girls, honoring their parents after their parents have trafficked them, honor might look like the ‘seeking justice’ part. The seeking justice part is pressing charges, the seeking justice part is confronting the sin that did impact your life,” she explained the solution through the lens of her life verse, and how to prayerfully ask God, “when is it safe to seek justice? Because we all know that not all parents are created equal, and not all children are created equal. If I understand that my parents are godly, and it’s safe to reconcile, and their fruits are beautiful, then I must honor them that way. But for the person who has been destroyed by their family, and they were used as a tool of the enemy, their process is going to look different than mine.”

After some back-and-forth with her own familial relationships, Jessica resolved, “I need to live at peace with my parents,” and the Lord challenged her, even recently, to start her day with that as a priority. “When I started my day honoring my parents, it changed everything.” She continued, “You don’t need to change your parents; you don’t need to teach parents how to be a better communicator… I don’t need to force healing on them; I need to honor them and let God do the rest. It’s not my place. My place is to honor my parents. And that’s my responsibility, and then everything else will be added unto me.”

With her fire for what responsibility the Lord has entrusted her with, Jessica pursues law and legislation work to challenge and redeem the very systems that previously enslaved her, owing it all to her gift of wild and great faith.

“I think the gift of faith has been strong in my life, that I do throw myself recklessly abandoned, all-in,” she said of the passion she jumps into everything with, including honoring her parents, and how God has turned her life into the ultimate prodigal daughter story. “I came with my time, and I came with my tenacity, and he worked with the rest. He filled in my weaknesses.”

“I was huge into changing the world, even… as I was becoming a young adult,” Jessica Joy outlined her faithful upbringing, coupled with her fiery personality, that have both come full circle in her journey. “I was constantly starting Bible study clubs at the schools I was at. I was very much an activist. And this was my DNA. This is how I was raised.”

At 19, fresh out of high school with a nine month seminary crash-course, Jessica became a full-time youth pastor in Brighton, Colorado. She described her identity at the time as rooted more in her purity than in God, which was tragically stolen, and rocked everything she had believed, about God and herself.

“It was on an Easter Sunday, when I was 24 years old at this church plant, and I was randomly and violently raped in a parking lot, before I was to speak at a purity conference,” she recalled, and remembered thinking, “I was going through that list of, ‘what did I do to deserve this? I pray, I fast, I seek God. And this is how God treats me?’”

With this severe trauma and no means to process it, she––long story short, as she described it––spiraled deep into the pornography industry.

“I just wanted to be normal. All my friends were dead or missing, and it was like survival of the fittest, like they were giving trophies to who could endure the most torture,” her solution for this, at the time, was to return to Colorado, despite being ill-equipped. “I didn’t know how to get a job, get a scholarship, go to school, get a trade. I didn’t know how to just go back into life.”

With this lack of resources, she remained trapped in the industry, explaining, “you become part of the system. You go from fighting the man, to being the man, and covering up things, and looking the other way, and you just realize you’re just as sick and evil as everyone else.”

This, unfortunately, became her story as well, as the normalcy she sought was out of reach, and she instead found herself running a brothel in Colorado.

“I was trying to live two lives… I was attending churches every Sunday when I had a brothel, and those women were attending church every Sunday.” She reached a place, caught in her own network, where she realized, “I had over 5000 contacts, but no one was really my friend. As in, I profited off of them, they profited off of me.”

Her path to surrender was slow, but with individuals who knew about Refuge, such as her friend Deanna, she reached a point of willingness to abandon the life she had built, eager to get out, but still fearful of the unknown.

“I didn’t know who I was on the other side of the posters, and the trunkful of DVDs. Who was Jessica on the other side of this? And would she survive? If porn didn’t kill her, would this next life do her in?”

With a two month wait for Refuge, but enough desperation and no other place to go, Jessica took the leap to Kentucky, “with no guarantee that [Refuge] was going to let me in the program… I’d much rather wait two and a half months in Lexington, Kentucky, than stay one more day in Colorado,” she explained. So, for the beginning of her time, “there were nine girls in 1200 square feet, so I slept on the floor between the couch and the office desk.”

From this point, Jessica had quite a dramatic prodigal-daughter transformation. She explained the family that Refuge was to her, and what that taught her about healthy relationships.

“We learned how to use our words to communicate. And I wasn’t raised in a family where there was fighting and there was communication. So I learned how to fight,” she explained, with the same fire that ignites all of Jessica’s words, “I believe one of the greatest things that Refuge did teach me was how to fight and how to listen.”

Equipped with healthier means for communication and conflict, Jessica was still left with wounds in her own family, and the challenge of what it looked like to reconcile that. The answer is one that doesn’t come one-size fits all for the graduates of Refuge for Women, but one that Jessica has wrestled with wisely.

“What I got from Refuge for Women is how I view God, and how to see God through a clean filter, so that I can see the person next to me. I also understood what it meant to ‘seek justice, walk humbly, and love mercy,’” Jessica recalled Micah 6:8, the verse that has become her life’s mission. “We went through all of the people in our immediate circle, and we took responsibility: Here’s how they impacted me emotionally, sexually, physically, mentally, financially. Then we took our responsibility as well: How did we impact them emotionally, physically, financially, sexually? We went through and we sorted through the garbage of, ‘Where is my responsibility in all of this?’”

In her journey to assume responsibility, Jessica’s relationship with her parents became a huge part of the process.

“I didn’t recognize how much I hurt them, obviously, because I had not taken responsibility for my actions… So they kind of kept their distance. And there were times through my healing process that I distanced… and it had nothing to do with their words, it was God working on me.”

While Jessica recognized some separation as a necessary step in her healing, it also placed her parents in a position of spectatorship. “Of course they prayed for me on a daily basis, but I had hurt them, and they had to see me grow up. They had to see me take responsibility.”

With this question of ownership, she ultimately summed this process up with the question, “whenever the prodigal gets home, what’s their responsibility?”

Jessica found her answer not in the famed parable of the prodigal son, but instead in the parable of the talents, in Matthew 25:14-30.

“I reconciled with my parents, because it didn’t matter their side of the street,” she explained, “My side of the street said, ‘you were given the talent, you were given that godly family, and your responsibility is to honor your father and mother.’” Even so, from this point, Jessica still “didn’t know how to reconcile with my parents. I didn’t know what to say,” and she eventually emailed them with an apology and a resolution.

She also expressed gratitude, as she is able to see godly fruit in her parents’ lives that give a foundation for this reconciliation that many other women she graduated Refuge with may not have had.

“For some girls, honoring their parents after their parents have trafficked them, honor might look like the ‘seeking justice’ part. The seeking justice part is pressing charges, the seeking justice part is confronting the sin that did impact your life,” she explained the solution through the lens of her life verse, and how to prayerfully ask God, “when is it safe to seek justice? Because we all know that not all parents are created equal, and not all children are created equal. If I understand that my parents are godly, and it’s safe to reconcile, and their fruits are beautiful, then I must honor them that way. But for the person who has been destroyed by their family, and they were used as a tool of the enemy, their process is going to look different than mine.”

After some back-and-forth with her own familial relationships, Jessica resolved, “I need to live at peace with my parents,” and the Lord challenged her, even recently, to start her day with that as a priority. “When I started my day honoring my parents, it changed everything.” She continued, “You don’t need to change your parents; you don’t need to teach parents how to be a better communicator… I don’t need to force healing on them; I need to honor them and let God do the rest. It’s not my place. My place is to honor my parents. And that’s my responsibility, and then everything else will be added unto me.”

With her fire for what responsibility the Lord has entrusted her with, Jessica pursues law and legislation work to challenge and redeem the very systems that previously enslaved her, owing it all to her gift of wild and great faith.

“I think the gift of faith has been strong in my life, that I do throw myself recklessly abandoned, all-in,” she said of the passion she jumps into everything with, including honoring her parents, and how God has turned her life into the ultimate prodigal daughter story. “I came with my time, and I came with my tenacity, and he worked with the rest. He filled in my weaknesses.”

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