Claressa graduated in June 2022 from the ReFire Program in Tallahassee & is looking for employment to support herself, a handicapped son, & teen daughter.
Story and Testimony written with Clarissa’s permission
I first met Claressa while I was working as the manager of a shelter for homeless women. She came seeking a place to live and to get back on her feet. She had two little children but they were with her sister. In our interview she didn’t tell me why.
Like myself, and so many others I’ve come to know, counsel and love over the years, the world was not her friend, it never would be, and thinking it can be is foolish. There is a god of this world and he is our enemy. He hates God, and he hates God’s children. Like in the story of the Good Samaritan, Claressa had been robbed, beaten and left on the side of the road for dead. The enemy counted Claressa out.
The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?
I remember her like she was a frightened little child who had just fallen off her trike and was still in shock. Of course she felt to blame because she was riding where she probably knew she shouldn’t be riding, but after all what other option does a woman of her background do in her situation? Here she was, homeless, childless, husbandless and hopeless (well not quite totally hopeless).
During the course of our conversation, she never cast blame on anyone else for her current homeless and dark situation. She claimed, “It was all her fault she should have done better. I’m trying to trust the Lord! I just don’t understand why He isn’t helping me. All I want is my children back and I will do anything to make that happen.”
It wasn’t until later when we were helping build her case for court that she mentioned she was the only one employed with a baby, a son who was paralyzed from the waist down, caring for an abusive brain injured husband, walking to work, dropping off her baby girl to daycare every day, cooking, cleaning and attending church regularly. It is obvious then and it is even more obvious now, Claressa was suffering from fatigue, burn-out and most likely PTSD and Complex Stress disorder. She was also spiritually abused.
To make matters worse her husband’s family who were also her spiritual leaders; had given her ill advice regarding the care of both her handicapped husband and son which ultimately made matters worse on her. Until you here the rest of the story, it is hard to imagine how any good could come out of this!
That first day she was trying to convince me she was worthy of a place in our home. When Claressa gets nervous she has a similar habit much like my self. I try to convince people I’m worthy of their love when in fact, that is or never will be the case. People are flawed, read the story of the Good Samaritan. Yet, I understood her brokenness and shattered heart. She didn’t need anything other than a place where God could touch her, and tell her how special she was, and that “she was worthy… worthy enough to die for.” This is how Jesus feels about us all!
I recognized her need for someone to “listen” and “hear” the desires of her heart, “To love God, serve others and be a part of a community that would love and respect her for who she really was.” One of the main issues as with many of the men and women I counsel, was Claressa’s need to recognize her identity in Christ.” After our meeting I was determined that God had called me to respect Claressa and help her no matter what it cost me.
Below is a portion of Claressa’s testimony; one I’m proud to be part of…
November 5, 2007 changed my life forever trusting God was absolute. I called my mom that morning and told her I loved her. That was the last time I ever talked to her!
I was at work and I felt disturbed all day. I received a call from a State Trooper. I met them downstairs I saw my sister and I was quite shocked. The trooper gently but right away said our mom was dead from a car accident. We cried hysterically but the Holy Ghost gave me utterance and I prayed in the Spirit!
The Holy Spirit comforted and calmed me down. God said you have to trust me!
I stopped crying and then told my sister and she pushed me away. People hugged us. This particular guy hugged me and he too felt the Holy Ghost. They said my son and dad were in the hospital.They were in critical condition, but steady. I saw my dad on blood stained the sheets by his broken legs. He was lying there, but God gave me strength.
My son became paralyzed from the injury. The doctors told me he had swelling but he would walk again. I was relieved. I went to church and prayed. Through the course of the week the Lord told me I could call Him my friend.
Satan tried his best to depress me and blame God. In the midst of his attack,
“I said no God is with me. Then God said to me, Now I can call you my friend!”
My son was in so much pain. They transported him and I to Jacksonville to Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital. They said, “He will never walk again.“
But even today I am standing on the promise God told me. The Holy Spirit woke me from sleeping. I prayed and the Holy Spirit said, “Hear me, don’t listen to man, Matthew will walk again.”
The next day his uncle came over and if God has not healed him by now he would never heal him. I said no! It’s been over 10 years but I’m believing God to make my son Matthew Kevin Johnson whole. Two months after the accident my father died.
The moral of the story regardless how painful and dark God will walk with u every step of the way. I never thought in a million years that my parents will die at 60 and 61 years of age. I literally trusted God. My parents were my backbone and my everything. I prayed with my mother everyday. She was accepting of the calling. I loved her and our relationship.
Today I can say the Lord is my light and salvation whom shall I fear the Lord is the strength of my life of whom shall I be afraid.
Five years after this tragedy, in 2010, I lost my children to the state system for three years! My son was home alone with his father, and in another accident. I was held responsible because of my husband’s condition. He and his family abandoned us and left us for dead. No one ever thought I would get them back in full custody. That is another long story.
I lost my job, my husband and my friends.
Nevertheless the Proverbs 21:1 came alive in my life, “The heart of king is in the hand of the Lord; he can turns it like rivers.”
I went to jail for 72 days, to complete the order the first judge gave me. I had no contact with my ex family. I stayed at the Chelsea house for six months before I went to jail.
That was an experience I will never forget. God gave me a place to stay. I was in an argument with my sister. I fasted the next day. God dealt with Marlene and opened the doors to the Chelsea house. I can remember the day like yesterday. I tried to fix myself up in conversation.
She stopped me and said you are in. I could not believe it. God used me in jail to pray for others and even though my life has been challenging God has seen me through.
Today, I have full custody of my children, an apartment, and a 2 year degree from Tallahassee Community College and waiting to be accepted into Florida A and M University.
God can turn your life around from betrayal and broken heart.
Trust God with all your heart and lean not to your understanding. Proverbs 3:4-5.
from ashes to beauty
Claressa is a very fruitful woman! Not only has she finished her two year degree, she has a culinary degree and wants to own her own restaurant one day. I love her cooking! She is also taking seminary training for her ministry degree. Claressa is one fruitful mom!
Searching for God’s Treasures,
Marlene ministry combines teaching, prayer, and worship
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from ashes to beauty…
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