With her trademark refreshing candor and humor, Thelma Wells has become a favorite speaker at the popular Women of Faith conferences. As a child, Thelma struggled with a cruel grandmother and with prejudices of the segregation era. Yet despite the darkness she faced, Thelma found joy in her childhood and grew up to become the first black woman with the title of Assistant Vice President at a national bank. In her latest book, God Is Not Through With Me Yet, Thelma shares how church and praise music shaped her as a true woman of faith.

A lot of people, even after they find Christ, even after they are able to move beyond past pain, are still scarred in some way. Would you elaborate on how you were able to get through your past without being damaged in any way?

I am the product of a crippled, unwed teenager, born in 1941 when it was not popular to be pregnant and not married. When I was born, my maternal grandmother put my mother out of the house, and she had to work in servant quarters in Dallas, Texas. Well, when I was two years old, both my mother and I were ill,but her parents would not take me. My grandfather loved me, but my grandmother did not. But we went to church every day. At church, I learned the "Old Rugged Cross" and "Amazing Grace" and "What A Friend We Have In Jesus."

When we went to visit my maternal grandparents, my grandmother would lock me in a closet—a dark, stinky, dingy, insect-infested closet when my granddad went wo work. I was in there all day without any food or water. I do remember being frightened in the closet. But, because I had gone to church and learned to sing, I would sing myself to sleep with church songs. I had no bitterness, no anger, no strife, no malice, and no fear.

Now, I understand that that was abuse, but because I had already accepted Jesus Christ as my savior and I had been an innocent child, I was not scarred. In fact, I didn't even remember that trauma until I was writing my first book, "Bumblebees Fly Anyway: Defying The Odds At Work And Home." I realize that in that closet, God was protecting me and guarding my heart, my mind,and my spirit so that I would not be bitter.

It was a setup that God had for me because he knew that years later I was going to take care of that very grandmother who put me in the closet. In fact, I took care of her for 13 years.

Were you able to forgive her or reconcile with her?

Oh, yeah, I forgave her even though she never said, "I'm sorry." She never said, "I love you." But at the end of the twelfth year I was taking care of her, she said, "If anybody had told me you were the one who would take care of me, I would have never believed it." I choose to take that as her way of saying, "Thank you, I appreciate you" because she didn't know how to express love. She didn't know how to express herself.

How old were you when you had to take care of her?

I was in my 30s. She died in the early 1980s. I remember my mother sitting at her bedside in the year when she died holding her mother's hand with her one good hand and saying, "Mama, I love you, I love you, I love you." I believe my grandmother died never saying, "I love you," to her daughter.

When you sing to God, when you praise him, when you worship him, God gives you peace that you can't understand. He pours on you wisdom that you would not have had you not prayed and thanked Him and glorified him.

He gives you calm in the midst of the storm. And if anybody doesn't believe me, they should just try it for themselves because I know what he will do.

I have been through many trials and tribulations. I lived in the segregated South and was ostracized and alienated, but I knew how to sing in my spirit. When I had marital problems, I could sing through those problems. And now, I don't have any at all. It's the sweetest thing I know, other than Jesus, being married to this man I've been married to for 46 years.

I've had children issues. But, I've learned to sing through those.

Besides Jesus, who or what gives you hope now? How do you find hope?

I find hope in the Word of God. I find hope in people who are around me who are hopeful. I find hope in the music that I listen to. I find hope in the church I attend. I find hope in my family. When I was so sick for over a year, people who came to put food in my refrigerator, there was hope. Or people who came to visit me and just sit with me. And the telephone calls, the e-mails, the flowers--all of those brought hope. You see, you can get hope in the smallest good act, in the smallest kind word, in the smallest gesture that is for your good, you know. Hope is all around us.

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