A Second Chance


Issia describes her life as being full of second chances.

“When God wants to make himself known to us, he has a way of making his presence clear,” she said. “Although it took me a while, I am in awe looking back to see all that he protected me from along the way.”

After being born at 26 weeks, being hit by a car as a young adult, and surviving marriage to a drug user, Gracewood has become the perfect vehicle God is using to give Issia another shot at life. “Living through a childhood of abuse and poverty, I ran away at 13, already deep into the world of partying and violence,” said Issia. “I never developed an identity apart from my string of bad decisions.”

Born in Washington, D.C., Issia met her husband at 21 years old and married. When she was pregnant with twins, her husband began using drugs after a long time of sobriety. “I knew my husband was an addict and I was a stay-at-home mother. We needed to turn our lives around if we were going to be good parents, but ultimately I ignored the red flags in choosing a partner and found myself suffering the consequences,” said Issia.

Through a series of separations, lost jobs, moves and empty promises, Issia found herself having had enough. After a life-threatening incident, she filed for a restraining order, determined to leave, and never looked back. “I promised God right then and there that if he would remove my ex-husband from my life and my children’s lives, I would come back to him,” said Issia.

God answered that prayer when her husband returned to his native country. She had custody of her children and Issia found that distance was just what she needed to move forward.

It was always Issia’s goal to eventually go back to school, but when God gave her freedom from everything holding her back, she saw the opportunity and took it. Already wanting to move to Houston where her sister lived and become a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner, Issia found Houston Baptist University and packed her bags. “I practically lived in the financial aid office at HBU trying to take advantage of every extra dollar I could find in order to juggle working, getting my education and taking care of my children,” she said.

Living in her own apartment, going to school, working part time and taking care of her children left her wondering if she would make it. But it was in the financial aid office at that Issia met a former Gracewood resident who told her about the ministry. She even brought her an application and Issia was accepted into Gracewood in July of 2011.

“Gracewood has allowed me to do the near impossible by meeting my financial, emotional and spiritual needs,” said Issia. “From the Executive Director to the Family Life Coordinators, the staff doesn’t see what they do as a job; they see it as a ministry.”

“It is our goal as a ministry to extend grace to our residents, giving them a second chance for new life just as Christ offers us grace and new life,” said Debbie Rippstein, Executive Director of Gracewood. “Issia is doing everything she can to take advantage of this opportunity for herself and her children.”

Issia has nearly completed her prerequisites for nursing school and is two years away from receiving her bachelor’s degree. Eventually she hopes to attend nursing school as she continues working toward financial independence.

“I can only hope that someday I am the one volunteering instead of living at this wonderful place,” she says.