Purshia is reminded of God’s provision as often as she suffers.
Her story starts in Lubbock. From the age of six, Purshia had a knowledge of God and a child-like belief that He loved her enough to die for her. “I probably couldn’t explain sin to you, repentance, confession, even salvation, but I knew and believed that Jesus had died for me.” At a young age, Purshia knew God; and she also met pain.
When Purshia was about seven years old, she was sexually abused by a family member.
She would be abused regularly over the course of the next two years. The effects of this abuse, however, would linger. “It left me in a really weird head space and heart space, because I really did believe that God has me to some degree, and He loves me and I’m called to see Him as my Father, and I trust that Jesus is good...and so it really warped my view of that, of family, of men, of sex, and just a lot of things long term.” Magnifying this warping was the absence of her earthly dad, who has been incarcerated since she was two years old. Their time together is made up of, in her words, “one memory not in the visiting area of a prison.”
It was with this history that she visited Redeemer; and frankly, she hated it. “I was like the only black woman and people were talking about old dead white guys I’d never heard of and drinking coffee without anything in it and I didn’t understand that… There were just a lot of things going on, the way people talked about the Bible was so crazy to me and everyone seemed like they had it all together to me. Everyone just looked like they knew what they were doing and I didn’t.”
While her search for a local church continued, she found herself in leadership positions at parachurch organizations on campus and serving heavily in others. She found community unlike any she had known before. Then, in her words, “The floor in my world just kind of gave out.”
In the fall of her sophomore year, she was diagnosed with diabetes. A few months later she would be hospitalized with diabetic ketoacidosis. A normal blood glucose level is between 90 and 120–on admission to the hospital, Purshia’s was 608. Her condition was so serious that she remembers her doctor telling her that “if you were to go on living without any medication or medical help for the next week or so, you’d probably be dead.”
She would spend two days in the ICU and from there would begin a lifelong journey with diabetes. Despite the daily shots and regular inconveniences, Purshia actually sees her suffering as an intentional gift from God. “It’s probably the biggest way that God has made Himself known to me because of how quickly I reach an end to myself… And I mean diabetes is like a day-in-day-out thing where I have to decide, ‘Okay Lord, I’m going to honor you in diabetes, or if I’m not I’m going to need grace for not honoring you in diabetes because it was just too hard for me today.’ It’s the most tangible way the Lord has spoken to me.”
Despite the uneasiness from her first visit, Purshia eventually gave Redeemer another try–and this time she knew she was in the company of fellow needy sinners. “I was sitting there and this time I did know people, I knew people who I knew didn’t have it all together and I knew were struggling with sin and were really fighting to love Jesus and were winning sometimes. From there on I started going consistently, I became a core member of one of my friend’s Gospel Communities and became a member at Redeemer–it was just a really fast process of like ‘Okay this is where I’m supposed to be, I’m going to be all here.’”
She’s been a member at Redeemer for a couple of years, and now she serves as a college Gospel Community leader and helps out with the coffee on Sundays; but her main role is making disciples. In fact it’s from her passion for discipleship that she leads an all-girl college GC. “In this stage of life, when I look back on really moving forces in my own walk with the Lord, it’s always been in the context of a girl that I knew seeing something in me and deciding to spend time with me.”
Bearing evidence to the promises of character and hope from suffering, Purshia can reflect on God’s provision in good and bad times. “Life is hard, there’s so many things coming at us that we don’t know how to handle. But God is literally entering in with us and saying, ‘Of course I’m not going to leave you alone in this because I’m your Father, I’m here for you in a way no one else can be. And I know it’s hard and I know it feels like there’s nothing that’s going to come of this suffering, or this waiting, or this dry season, but I’m here and we’re going to get through this.’”