IN THE BEGINNING
I first met my husband in kindergarten in Baltimore Maryland. We were always proud of the time that we had known each other. I became a Preacher’s Wife in March 1979 and a Pastor’s Wife in December 1980. My husband only pastored two churches in his ministerial career. Throughout my husband’s entire ministerial/pastoral career, I worked side by side with him tirelessly, however, I became The Forgotten FIRST lady!
As committed Christians, we erroneously thought that Christians were full of love and compassion. We found out the hard way this was not always correct. My husband transitioned November 22, 2015 from severe depression and betrayal. The subsequent reconnection with my high school sweetheart resulted in many forms of abuse never experienced before.
Now I’m sure lots of questions immediately enter your mind. They will all be answered, either through this post or my upcoming book. Stay tuned and follow us!
Our honeymoon lasted for 38 years! Honestly! Although we almost separated after 30 days, we decided that we exchanged vows, not only in front of our family and friends, but more importantly, in front of God. That was enough for us to say, no matter what life brings, we are sticking it out. We even found the secret to never arguing. We had one major argument in our marriage.
Did we have stressful times in our lives? Absolutely and of course! Just as anybody does but we learned how to deal with them and get through them. Although I had been in church all of my life, my husband taught me most of what I know. I hardly ever attended Bible Study in my home church. My husband and I were married at the ripe old age of 21 years old. So, my spiritual journey really began with him.
Evolving into a “First Lady” was stressful for me. I was never one for public activities. I was perfectly fine operating behind the scenes. I knew my husband was a preacher when we married but it never dawned on me that he was called to “pastor“! I think he knew not to tell me that ahead of time. So, when he decided to follow that call, I was shocked! But as the good wife who made promises to my husband, I followed.
He was Pastor of the St. John Baptist Church of Baltimore Maryland for 8 years. That was really a training ground for us both. At the end of those 8 years, he felt the call was bigger. We loved that church and her members. To this day, we still maintain good relationships with them. So, that was a difficult decision to make. I was also in an established career and did not want to interrupt it. But again, I was the Good Wife! I’m starting to feel like Julianna Margulies.
After doing some research and searching for opportunities, God opened the door in Paterson NJ in 1988 at the Christ Temple Baptist Church. We remained there as the Pastor and the First Lady until his demise. We both felt that Christ Temple was ordained for us. On the exact same day that they marched into their current building, my husband was preaching his initial sermon. This was where God was placing him many years before we even realized it.
Our years at Christ Temple were filled with much work. Many new ministries were developed and implemented and my husband became involved in the community, as did I. He served as the Senior Chaplain of the Paterson Fire Department for 25 years. He was remembered at their Annual Memorial Service on Sunday June 5, 2016. I was active with the Paterson Alliance which provides networking and connecting opportunities with non-profits in the city. This led to my writing a personal grant which developed a Computer Lab for the church. The amount of ministries developed there are too numerous to name. But we were happy with our work there!
THE BETRAYAL AND THE PAIN
On Sunday, May 31, 2015, our work and world came crashing down. This section will avoid many details as it will be explained further in the upcoming book. My husband was presented with a letter by a ministry leader that took us both by surprise. We couldn’t even believe what it said. That was something that we both had to take to God in prayer.
Once we had prayed about it, our answer was “stand still”. That’s exactly what we did. We went on about our lives. My husband was preparing for a back surgery. There were no issues there; I had two back surgeries and recovered well. The surgery was to be in June 2015. Unfortunately, his cardiologist could not clear him for surgery because he said he had a Silent Heart Attack. We were baffled but came to understand why. He had been betrayed and was depressed! He was given medication and a new surgery date, which was July 22, 2015.
On July 22, 2015, he underwent surgery at the Holy Name Medical Center, which was successful! He was on the mend and on his way back to his position of Pastor. During his time of surgical rehabilitation, he would say every day, “I don’t believe they did this to me after over 26 years”.
We had to constantly pray to ask God for guidance. I noticed as time went on that I was the only one praying. He said he just didn’t feel like it. My response? I’m praying enough for both of us! And I was. He began to decline daily. I asked for a Psychological Evaluation, which was done and he was placed on medication. I was able to take him to church during his time in rehab but he didn’t really participate.
Time continued to move. When he said he did not want to talk with his grandchildren, I knew something was seriously wrong. He declined to talk, he declined his meals and he declined to engage in life. This continued to November 22, 2015 – exactly 4 months to the date of the surgery. “22” is now a significant number in my life.
MOVING TO PURPOSE
This was THE absolutely most traumatic event in my life! I cried incessantly, numerous times a day for 4 months straight! At the 5th month, the Holy Spirit said “dry your eyes and get up; you have work to do”! That’s exactly what I did. He gave me the energy and motivation to get up and work. He laid out my “new” journey and purpose. I still have waves of grief that last for a few days or longer.
There are so many people who have experienced trauma in their lives, whether physical/sexual abuse, divorce, infidelity, social awkwardness, violent acts, natural disasters, serious injuries, witnessing a violent act or even the sudden unexpected loss of someone close – as in my case, etc. Many times, people get “stuck” in their pain. A terminal sense of doom clouds their days and fogs their nights.
Emotional pain is a natural state in life’s journey. When we fail is when we choose to remain in that pain. That is grief and is a kind of death. I refused to allow myself to die! My children and grandchildren were depending on me. They had already lost their father and grandfather. I had to learn to depend on God heavily and learn the steps of grief and recovery. Part of that is undergoing grief counseling with my therapist.
Additionally, because my husband was my primary provider, I lost his income. Because of the situation in the letter, I further learned there was no life insurance. When I tell you that God has been my shadow, He has and is!! He is the only REASON I have survived financially, because unfortunately, nothing came from the church – although my husband and I spent years building up the Benevolent Fund. God has sent people to assist in this journey. I couldn’t even apply for survivors’ benefits until August 2016. For nine (9) months, I depended on family and friends to survive. I lost so much more than my husband during this period.
My husband fulfilled his command from God. He was faithful to the end – not only to God but also his family – and the Holy Spirit has already confirmed to me that He’s pleased! He also showed me that He protected my husband by calling him home when He did. That gave me some peace. This is where my husband’s journey ends.
Little did I know, I was about to experience yet another stressful and traumatic chapter in my life.
But this is where my journey begins! I am following God’s lead! God has opened doors for me to share how people can move from their pain to discover their God intended purpose. I would have never even imagined some of the things He has allowed in my path, like regional and national stages. God is awesome!
God is directing and ordering EVERY step I make and take. There is nothing too small for me to ask for God’s guidance. As I continue on this journey and deal with additional stress, I am honored to be used by God!
Although I miss my husband and lifelong friend tremendously, God has shown me that His plan for me is even greater. So, here I go!
If you are looking for a speaker who will impact your audiences with step by step instructions on getting through their pain to their purpose, please think of The FIRST lady.
I can be reached at email@example.com or at 973-214-1136.
God bless you on your NEW journeys!
Denyse H. Turner, D.H.L., M.P.H., M.A., ACC
First Lady helping others win and enriching lives!
I am picking up ministry where my husband left off!
Public Speaker/Writer/Ghostwriter/Trainer/Business Development/Coach/Faith-Based Travel Educator
First Lady and Chief Connector at Dr. Gregory C. Turner, Late Pastor of Christ Temple Baptist Church