For domestic violence and rape victim Jessica Yaffa, the adage that God uses pain for good is very much a reality. HEALING, the ministry support group that she leads, has touched the lives of more than 4,000 women, men and children in less than five years.
Yaffa, who was abused by an ex-husband who is now serving a 29-year prison sentence for multiple charges stemming from the violence, started HEALING (Honoring, Empowering, and Loving Individuals Needing Guidance) at Rock Church in San Diego shortly after becoming a Christian.
This month, Yaffa is being recognized as a "Rock Hero" by her church led by Pastor Miles McPherson, a strong advocate for community service and volunteerism.
"It was when I came to know Christ that I very quickly began to recognize through God's whispers that he intended this set of very tragic circumstances to be used for good," she told The Christian Post. "He would allow me the opportunity to be used as a vessel so that I was able to reach other women and children and families that were going through this and feeling very alone as I once did so that they would no longer have to feel alone."
Just three months after accepting Jesus into her life, Yaffa submitted an application to the church to start the ministry "surrounding domestic violence and sexual assault because they did not have one and in my research found that no one in San Diego had one."
"After making some phone calls I realized that it was a subject that many churches didn't want to touch for a number of reasons," she explained. "But the bottom line was that there wasn't any faith-based support in San Diego that I could find. I felt like it was really going to be my calling to provide a safe place where there was no judgment and where Christ was at the center of our healing process for all the hundreds of thousands of people that are potentially suffering in silence."
At the ministry's first meeting at the church, 10 chairs were setup before the women arrived. Yaffa and the church knew that when 68 people showed up and they had to change venues to accommodate them, "they had struck a nerve."
Rock Church leaders say the purpose of the ministry is to bring awareness and change perception while restoring self-esteem and confidence to domestic violence and sexual assault victims by providing support, guidance, counseling and resources, while sharing the love of Christ.
"We have support groups that meet for those that either struggle in relationships where there are components of domestic violence or they are coming out of a relationship where there has been a dynamic of domestic violence and they are looking for a place of healing," Yaffa said.
The HEALING ministry is open to everyone, including people outside the church who regularly attend the meetings. The program integrates biblical principles with well-researched secular information about the re-establishment of self-esteem, about the cycle of violence, and about grief and loss surrounding relationships suffering from abuse.
"We include biblical scripture as well as best-practice, evidence-based education allowing the women to really begin to learn how to reframe their thoughts and their thinking, and learn how to reevaluate their relationships that they are currently in and choose to enter in the future. Also, rediscovering who they are in Christ," Yaffa said.
She said she receives the most satisfaction from leading the ministry when she witnesses women who are "completely broken and hopeless and lost, and feeling completely unworthy and un-valuable, and watching them heal and grow into these beautiful women of God. Then, watching them in a position to volunteer themselves to other women who may be walking in six months to a year later in that same broken place."
Yaffa also finds encouragement from watching people realize they have found a comfortable place when arriving for the first time to HEALING.
She said she hears from hundreds of people who say, "I felt so alone and I felt like I was the only one and I felt crazy. I was made to feel crazy. Now I have a place to come and I don't have to explain what I'm feeling or thinking. There is no judgment and everyone in this room just gets it. And if I can say to the woman across the room that she is worthy and a great woman of God even if I don't yet believe those things about myself it certainly gives me hope and it's a place to start."
Angela, a woman the church describes as having found sanctuary in the HEALING ministry, said, "Jessica has allowed her pain to be used as a vessel for God's love. The love of Christ radiates through her, and you really can't express what it means to be so immediately loved and accepted after feeling so worthless."
The feelings are mutual for Yaffa.
"It's really a wonderful thing to see them reflect who they are in Christ and how much He loves them and the value that they have in these other women that He is using in a really powerful way," she said.
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