SPRINGFIELD – Transformed by the power of the Gospel, a former Jehovah’s Witness with a history of abortion, drugs, and adultery, now lives to see that same power transform the lives of others. Jessie McDaris of Springfield recently shared her story with the desire that more people would experience the life-changing love of Christ.
McDaris spent her early childhood years in a devout Jehovah’s Witness family. Following the teaching of the church, the family did not celebrate birthdays or holidays. McDaris wasn’t allowed to make friends with anyone outside the church, and she was told that if she went to other churches, demons would follow her home. McDaris attended the Kingdom Hall regularly until her parents divorced when she was 9 years old.
Following her parents split, Jessie lived the remainder of her childhood years with her mother. Although the family no longer attended the Hall, McDaris remembers the social isolation she continued to feel and her response to it.
“I was awkward and I felt like an outcast, so I would attach to guys,” she recalled. “I found my worth in boyfriends. That led me to be sexually active at a fairly young age because it made me feel loved and like I fit in with everyone else and what everyone else was doing.”
After high school, McDaris attended cosmetology school and began dating a man who abused her, first verbally and then physically. Despite the abuse, Jessie decided to move in with the man. She soon came pregnant.
“I already knew that I needed out of the relationship. I looked at the pregnancy as something that would keep me attached to him forever, and I just couldn’t stand the thought. So I went and got an abortion. I definitely kept that a secret, and I got away,” McDaris said.
After graduation cosmetology school, McDaris moved to Springfield. There she began a relationship with her boss EJ, a husband and father of two kids. The two led a double life, secretly meeting each other and using drugs together. Eventually EJ left his wife, and the two dove deeper into their illicit drug use. This continued until one night EJ overdosed and started convulsing on the couch. Jessie called 911 and grabbed the drugs to dump them before anyone arrived. Unable to feel her legs, Jessie fell repeatedly on the hardwood floor and eventually passed out. She awoke to a realization that would change her life.
“I laid on the floor helpless thinking, ‘How did this happen?’ That’s when God opened up my eyes and showed me who I really was.”
“I was a liar, a murderer, an adulterer. I was not a good person. I had done horrible things and I had hurt a lot of people. For the first time ever I was afraid to meet God,” McDaris said.
That night Jessie vowed to God never to use drugs again. She had made and broken vows to God in her past, but she reasoned that maybe if she went to church, God would know she was serious. She convinced EJ to go with her. They chose a local Southern Baptist church, but McDaris had reservations about it based on her Jehovah’s Witness background.
McDaris said, “I remember praying and saying, ‘God if this isn’t where you want me, and this is the devil’s house, then please tell me and I will leave. But I don’t know how to find you.’ I thought I would chance those demons, because I had seen them already.”
During the sermon the pastor read from Romans 8:28.
McDaris thought, “How can God take bad and make it good? Then I I remember praying and saying, ‘God—if you can take these horrible things that I have done and use them for your good—God will you please do that.’”
During the altar call, EJ took Jessie by the hand and they both went forward. Jessie was escorted to a back room where she shared her story. EJ and the pastor soon joined her, and te pastor shared the gospel with them both. Jessie responded by accepting Christ as her Savior. EJ, who up to that point believed he had been saved in his childhood, also gave his life to Christ that day.
Reflecting on her decision Jessie said, “I believed with all my heart, with everything in me, that what I heard was true. So I told Jesus I believed in him and what he did for me. I asked him to forgive me. I asked him to save me and to be my Lord and Savior.”
Following her salvation, Jessie was baptized into the church, her family attending the baptism.
“If there is anyone who still doesn’t believe in God, then I need you to explain how he got a whole family of Jehovah’s Witnesses in a Baptist church that day,” McDaris said.
At her church Jessie was challenged to read her Bible and pray regularly. She described how she now began to hate things she once thought were fun. Cussing, smoking, and lying became behaviors of her past life. She and EJ soon married, and McDaris shared that what began as a horrible, sinful relationship has now turned into a godly marriage.
McDaris has been clean for four years. She and EJ now teach a discipleship class at Crossway Baptist Church, Springfield, and also serve in Freeway Ministries, an organization founded by another Crossway member that is committed to minister to those dealing with abuse and drug addictions. Jessie actively shares her faith and has seen several of her family members come to faith, including her mother and sister.
“This life that He has given me now, I just want to spend it seeking Him with all my heart and to glorify Him with everything that I do and to show as many people Christ as I can and take as many people to heaven with me as I can,” McDaris said.