Testimony of Jennifer O’Bryan
My life began on October 17th, 1947. I was supposed to have been born on Oct. 5, but I was late, and they finally had to take me. When I was born, I was not breathing and they had to make me breathe by slapping me with paddles upside down.
My mother did not want to see me and she wouldn’t see me until twelve days later. They thought I had water on the brain and I could not sit up or do anything for a long time. I think I was around three years old.
I stuttered all the time and I could not even say my own name. I had to go to a special class and speech lessons every day. I hated it. I remember once when I was nine, my mother was at the stove fixing hamburger gravy. I was standing at the end of the stove, and I tried to tell her something. She told me to shut my mouth until I could talk right.
My mom hated me. She blamed me for her having cancer after I was born and she really did not want anything to do with me. She did buy me nice clothes and she tried to buy my love, but there was no love there from my mom or from my dad either.
But I always loved church. I wanted to go every time the doors were open. I loved church camp and being around the kids and the teachers. My mother kept me from going to church when I was naughty. Even for minor things she kept me from going to church for as long as a month.
I was abused by the kids at school as well as my mother. She use to whip me with a fly-swatter. Sometimes she beat me until blood came out of my back and my legs. Every time I told her to stop, she did it twice as hard. I remember one time going to gym class at school and I had to undress and shower with the rest of the girls. I was laughed at because of my scars, but there were no laws back then to protect children.
When I was in high school, I ran away from home and stayed with my half-brother because my mother had disowned me. My half-brother was a preacher, and he got us all up at 3:00 am every morning to pray. I eventually left his home and went from home to home while I was in school, and was a really lousy student.
I got engaged when I was in high school to a boy I had known all my life. We had big dreams to be married and live happily ever after. But after I had my check up, I found out that I could not have children.
The big day of graduation came and none of my family came to it, so I spent it alone. The night of graduation I started smoking and drinking, and a few days later I wound up at the bus station in South Bend, Indiana. I was thrown in a car by two black men and taken somewhere and raped at knife point. I was covered with blood. My mom did come and pick me up later, but she never took me to the doctor or to get any counseling. For months I had night mares and woke up screaming. Soon after that, I broke my engagement. I did not want anything to do with a man, even the one I loved.
I stole 300 dollars from my mom, and I got on a Greyhound bus. My first stop was Chicago. I got a job as a bar tender, but I also ran the streets for a while. In fact, I lived on the streets. That was in the 1960’s. I never did drugs, until someone gave me something, and I wound up on south Michigan street at a mission. After I got out, I got an apartment, and I tried to find a church. God was still there, but I couldn’t see Him. But I think He was watching over me.
Then I moved to Las Vegas and the same thing happened. I just kept running and running. I kept getting jobs on the side or gambling in Vegas trying to make money. When that didn’t work, I wound up in Bakersfield, California. I didn’t have any money so I answered an ad in the paper and wound up working for a magazine.
Then one day the manager came into the motel where some of his employees were staying and got very mad and started yelling. He shoved me against a dresser and I hit my back on it and I fell down and just laid there. I couldn’t move. I wound up in a county hospital with two crushed vertebras.
I went back home and found a job as a bartender at a local bowling alley. I met a man there and we were married, but for the first few years it was very bad. I was knocked around and beaten. One night I got in the car and drove as fast as I could. All I had on was my night gown. I tried to kill myself.
The abuse went on for at least 6 years. During that time I started going to church again. But after a while, my husband made me choose between the church and him. I made a big mistake and chose my husband over God. After that, I didn’t go to church for 5 years.
Sometimes I would make up an excuse to go to the store, but instead I would go to the parking lot of our church and listen to the message from my car. Our preacher was that loud and I had the windows down.
When I was 24 years old I was very sick with female problems and sometimes it lasted for months. I thought I was going to die. I wound up having major surgery. While I was in the hospital, someone asked me if I would consider becoming a foster parent. My husband and I still had a lot of problems, but we covered them up well.
One night we got a call and they wanted to know if would we take a little baby that was just born. We said yes, and they gave him to us. He was covered with scabies, mites, and had been dragged around by the throat by an older sister. He didn’t have on any clothes except a doll top that was so tight that it had to be cut off. We spent all that night at the hospital. I would sit up nights and rock him and feed him every two hours.
One night when he was three months old, I had a dream. I woke up my husband and told him about it. I told him that we would adopt John and that he would be in church. My husband told me that we might adopt him, but that he would never go to church.
Every 45 days the courts would have a hearing to see if John’s real parents were fit enough to take him back. The judge kept saying they were not, but that they could have visiting rights. This went on for two years. The last court hearing came and social services told us to get his clothes ready because John was finally going home. But I just kept hanging on to my dream.
The next evening the judge told the parents that they could have 5 of their 7 children back, but not two of them. One of those was John, and we got to adopt him in 1982. He was just a few days after his second birthday. That was the best day of my life. He was our son and God answered my prayer.
One night when he was about 4, he got between his dad and me and told him “Don’t be mean to my mommy.” But the abuse did not stop. Then one day he stopped drinking because of illness, and the domestic violence stopped. Unfortunately, the verbal abuse kept up.
Verbal abuse is worse than domestic violence. It does not carry the scars, but they are there; you just can’t see them. You live with verbal abuse all alone and no one is there to talk to.
When John was around 8 years old, he accepted Jesus and had a strong life in church. He wanted to be a minister. I was very proud of him.
A few years later, I went to see my mother and my dad. My mom would cry on my shoulder telling me about all the bad things that my dad did to her. She told me how my dad even tried to poison her. When I was ready to go back home, I cried and really did not want to leave, but I did.
After I got home, mom called me on the phone and wanted to know why I had taken some of her money and some of her clothes and a few other things that she had laying around. I was in total shock and I said that I didn’t take them. She said if you don’t bring them back, I won’t be your mother anymore. Then one day, all that stuff that she accused me of taking was found in her dining room. It was my dad that had taken it and he just sat there and let me take the blame.
In 1998, my mom had open heart surgery and died. My dad would not let me go to the funeral. Then a year later, my dad died. That was a shock to me and I went into hysterics. He was still my dad, no matter how bad he was.
My husband would not let me go to that funeral either. I didn’t get anything from the estate, not even my things that were in her house. But with all I have been through in life I sit back now and realize that God never left me. I left him and tried to do my own thing. I really made a mess of my life.
Today I am here with two fractures in my spine, and I really don’t have anything. But I have something that money can’t buy. I have Jesus in my life.
I left everything behind, but Jesus never left me. He gave me another place to live, and I thank God for it. There have been times when the cupboards were empty, but God always supplied our needs. With all I have been through in my life, there has to be a reason. Maybe it is to help someone else. For a long time I felt God calling me into an outreach ministry.
To be called by God doesn’t mean you have to go into the mission field miles from home. Your mission field can be your own back yard, or it can be your work place or anywhere you go. You can be that friend that someone desperately needs. You can be that one small piece of light.
But never forget who the source is. Jesus is the source and He will supply you with your every need. Just don’t try to fix it yourself. The more you try the more you will mess things up.
He will never leave you. No matter what you are going through, God will always be there. No matter what time of day it is, God is always there and He is never too busy to listen. All you have to do is call His name and He will answer.