Jacqua Brown-Williams, listening when God calls
Hannibal native, Jacqua Brown-Williams, now serves as a Spiritual Life Coach affiliated with the Impact Church DFW in Dallas, Texas. Contributed photo
MARY LOU MONTGOMERY
Jacqua Brown-Williams will be the first to admit, that after graduating from Hannibal High School in the spring of 1969, “I didn’t know who I was. I was black. I was in the throes of the Civil Rights movement. I lost all hope after Martin Luther King Jr., was killed. I became ugly and radical. It took me years to get where I am now.”
Today, she is a Spiritual Life Coach affiliated with the Impact Church DFW in Dallas, Texas. “As I look at my life in ministry, if I go to the beginning, I was always born to be who I am right now, but I went through a lot to get here,” she said.
“As a little girl I could always hear God calling me to do something. I wanted to be a missionary, I wanted to go to Africa and teach people about Jesus. My grandmother told me that was a dangerous thing to do. She said they eat people. That was in 1959.”
Scared by her grandmother’s prophesy, “I dropped that dream,” Jacqua said.
But she never gave up on the idea of doing mission work.
“When I decided I wanted to go into the ministry at the age of 55, I established a Saturday morning coffee hour at my house in Columbia, Mo., called Gurl Talk. We sat down as women and talked about things in our hearts. It was a safe space. I didn’t want women to suffer in silence. The one thing I kept saying, was ‘Sisters, you are not an afterthought to God. He took a lot of effort in creating Eve. She is not an afterthought.’ I want them to realize that.
“We would sit and talk and pray with one another, tell each other we understand, we would laugh and cry, go through the emotions that need to come out.”
She left Columbia in 2015, and moved to Dallas, Texas, to work as minister and spiritual life coach.
“When you’re in crisis, often times, people run up against something. ‘Why did this happen to me, where was God?’ It may even cause them to turn from God.”
As a spiritual life coach, she helps people put together what life is trying to tell them.
“Life is trying to tell you who you are, and who God is, so you can work together and come through this without too many scars.
“Those are my specialities,” she said. “Jesus was the greatest life coach that ever was.”
Jacqua, now 72, believes that during her lifetime there have been just two days of true equality in America, where people walked up and talked to each other.
The first was the day Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. “Nobody was black or white, we were proud to say we are Americans. Lord, I wanted to be an astronaut,” she remembers.
The other day was 9-11. “We were all Americans that day.
“Now my heart is breaking. I see division again, as I live here in Dallas. People who are Muslim are buying large parts of land and isolating themselves; people from India have their own careers and isolated lives; groups of Asians, they have their own bank, apartment complexes, their own Starbucks and isolated lives. You don’t see the great melting pot of society; you see a majority culture of a certain group isolating itself. As I’m looking out, I’m asking God: ‘What is happening?’ There is no longer faith in each other.”
Jacqua was surrounded by faith during her childhood. Her parents, John (Jack) and Vyrle Brown, were both members and elders at Willow Street Christian Church, and both believed strongly in faith and God.
“My grandparents were the same way. All around me was faith in God.”
When Jacqua expressed a desire to learn to play the piano when she was a child, “My mother went to the pianist at our church. I went to Mr. Maceo Wilson, who said, “Her hands are pretty tiny.”
“I still don’t have big hands, but Mr. Maceo is the person who brought God out of me, in my hands.
“What does your heart feel when you’re playing this song?” he would asked her. “You play this the way you want, and the way your heart wants.”
“It goes from my brain to my heart to my hands.”
When she enrolled at Culver-Stockton College in the fall of 1969, she learned to sing. “They taught me how to breathe and how to speak my words. I left collage singing very Mozart, then I I went back to being who I was culturally." She joined a professional group, The Gospel Tones, and continued with this group for seven years. “There was an older gentlemen in the Baptist Church at Mexico, Mo.; he taught us songs that slaves sang, without any instruments.”
Jacqua found herself pregnant and unmarried at 21 years old. “One of the things that I internalized was people’s eyes. Eyes are the candle to the soul. I remember the eyes of racist. In church people, I could see the condemnation in their eyes. Even sometimes, to my own family, they were ashamed.
“Here’s the deal, I knew better. I just didn’t do better. All three of my oldest children, the fathers were gone before they were born. My youngest son, I married his father. That’s the one thing I say about life: If I had done things God’s way, it would have been better.”
That said, “I have four of the most phenomenal children in world; my daughter Cassie works in finance; Bill is an engineer, executive, graduated from University of Missouri-Rolla; my youngest son, John, has his own recording studio, and is also sound manager at the Potter’s House of Dallas. So I have phenomenal gifted children.
“I decided to have my children and not abort them. I knew God would help me raise them. What I didn’t know was that my children were sent to me by God, to raise them to be what God designed them and created them to be. I thank God for the beauty of my children.”
The most traumatic event of her life came when her son, David, died: Jan. 29, 2009. He was 32.
She had just come back from lunch when she learned the news.
David’s dead. She repeated, “David’s dead?”
“I told my boss, it was like I was watching myself walk through something but I couldn’t grasp the reality of it. ‘I need to go home and talk to God.’ When I got home I sat down in a chair, there was a big window at the front of my house. The sun was shining. ‘Lord, where are you?’ I asked. It wasn’t a whole minute before a flood of love came over me.
"I sat down and played the piano, worshiping God. I remember singing and crying. I do not know what song I sang. When I finished singing, I moved to get up from the bench and found I was stuck. I began again to thank God for the mercy He showed my son, David. Then God spoke to me lovingly and said, ‘I didn’t do it for David, I did it for you. It was David’s appointed time. He could have fallen on the floor, and survived but never been able to walk or communicate, or be on life support.’ Then I clapped my hands and thanked God. I know that pulling the life support tube is something I couldn’t do it. Now it all makes sense.”
David simply stood up off the couch and died. He had a massive coronary.
Much of her youth was spent in the cornfields of her grandparents’ farm at Frankford, Elmer and Marjorie Miller. “I had 21 cousins, we ran around that yard; at times my grandmother had all of us. We learned all about nature and how things grow on a farm. Rain was better than water. I can tell you about the Saturday night bath in the horse trough. Other times we got wet in the pond, and you have all that dirty water on you.
“I learned to hear God on the farm, in the birds, watching the trees go from color to color. Trees don’t turn here (in Dallas) like they do in Missouri. I miss those drives, just to take off and look at the trees.
“I’ve lived to see a lot of things. I never thought I’d see electric cars, but now my son’s wife has one. We used to watch shows like ‘Get Smart.’ He had a phone he carried with him. I didn’t think we would ever have phones like that. Now we have computers in our hands.
“I wear my hair naturally now, though we thought we’d never get a job in a white man’s world with nappy hair. My grandkids tell me to twist my hair. Everything is natural. We live in our own beauty, not trying to do things to measure up to other people’s ideas. I’m still fat, and fat seems to be OK now.
“Self awareness, it is important when you know who you are. You don’t send a representative. As a Christian, as a woman, as a friend. You send your authentic self in every relationship.
“I was an overweight teenager,” Jacqua said, “I didn’t like trying on clothes. I hated dressing rooms. Dressing rooms showed me what I looked like. Other people told me I didn’t look good, so I thought what I saw in the mirror in the dressing room wasn’t good. It took me years, but I finally learned to embrace the woman in the mirror in the dressing room.
“I thank you so much for this opportunity (to tell my story). These words will live on past me. As I close this, this is what I want to say:
"You are not an afterthought to God. God had a clear picture of both you and I when he created us. He sent us with special gifts. He sent us so that we would become aware of who we are and who He is and how relevant we are to this world. He sent us as gifts and I pray that you will search long and hard to find the gift of who you are.”
Note: Mary Lou Montgomery retired as editor of the Hannibal Courier-Post on the last day of December 2014. She can be reached at email@example.com