The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me…  [to] provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the L ORD for the display of his splendor.Isaiah 61:1a and 3, New International Version
Teresa Tuten grew up in the confusion of a broken household of different faiths. With an absentee mother and a workaholic father, she relied on the love and security of her grandmother. Unfortunately, her religious upbringing painted a picture of an angry God in her little heart and fed a cycle of despair that eventually turned her life into a pile of ashes.
“After my parents divorced, I lived with my father and grandmother in Savannah, Georgia,” Teresa shared during a recent interview. “When I was in sixth grade, my dad called a family meeting and told my grandmother and me that he was getting remarried. Neither of us knew he was even dating, but within a week, I had a new family.”
Life changed dramatically for Teresa after that. “My grandmother felt like an outsider with this new family and, within a few months, was asked to leave.” Soon after, two of Teresa’s stepbrothers moved into the bedroom next door and began molesting Teresa. “I was very naive. My stepbrother began complimenting me and then adding touch to his compliments. And every time, he went a little further. I didn’t know what to do. My father was so busy working and trying to please his new family; I didn’t think he would listen to me. My grandmother was gone, and I hadn’t seen my mother in years. I blamed myself for what was happening.”
Finally, Teresa mustered up the courage to leave. “I went to live with my mother, but by that time, I was a teenager. Since we didn’t have a relationship, we fought a lot. Her favorite response was, ‘I’m going to put you in a juvenile home.’ After I ran away for the second time, she did.”
Little more than a baby herself, Teresa discovered she was pregnant and was disowned by both of her parents. With nowhere to go and no one to help her, she married her boyfriend. “I didn’t realize it, but he was both physically and emotionally abusive. But by now, I was good at hiding my feelings, and no one ever knew.” Ten years later, Teresa signed divorce papers. “When the divorce was finalized, I felt a tiny flicker of hope for the first time in my life. My daughter and I got an apartment. I found a good job and took some time to breathe. When my ex-husband began stalking us, I knew God had to hate me for my inadequacies and failures.”
Then one day, Teresa came across a television program called the Gospel Truth. Although she didn’t care for Andrew Wommack’s style and often changed the channel, Teresa began to catch enough of the Gospel to whet her appetite for more. “I remember hearing Andrew and thinking, This guy is real, and what he says makes sense. Before long, I became interested in Charis Bible College, but I was too scared to leave everything and go to Colorado. So, I compromised and went to Texas.”
Teresa was discontent in Texas, but she continued listening to Andrew. One day, what he said stopped her dead in her tracks. “‘God’s not mad at you,’ he said. I couldn’t believe it! All my life, I lived under that assumption. Really? I thought. God’s not mad at me?“ With a burning desire to know more, Teresa applied to Charis the next day.
As part of her training at Charis, Teresa went on a missions trip to Belize, where 80 percent of women are raped or molested. While there, she shared her story for the first time and watched in awe as women swarmed the altar for prayer. “I needed a lot of healing, and Charis helped me. The teaching I received there gave me the foundation I needed to rebuild my life in Christ. I’ve grown so much in the last couple of years. I hardly recognize myself! Charis changed my life—and God created beauty from my ashes.”