Veronica grew up in church, the youngest of seven daughters of a Baptist Minister in Philadelphia. Her mother was Catholic, and all seven girls attended Catholic school. “We all led a good, moral life. We were all expected to go to college. That was not optional and not negotiable.”
Veronica graduated from high school when she was 16, and attended Penn State University on a pre-med scholarship. When Veronica was ready to graduate, she decided not to go to Medical School, but rather to become a nurse. Her mother was so disappointed in Veronica that she did not attend Veronica’s college graduation.
That was the turning point in Veronica’s young life.
At age 20, she moved in with the man who would become her husband two years later. Her father, the Baptist Minister, insisted that they get married, so they did. Veronica’s husband, and his immediate family, really wanted children, but Veronica did not. That was the key to the broken relationship with her new mother-in-law. Veronica got pregnant 5 times in the two years she stayed with her husband. She lost one baby, and had four abortions. She demanded that her doctor perform a tubal ligation, but he refused, saying she would regret it later, since she was so young. Veronica did not want children.
At age 24, she decided that she also did not want to be married anymore. So she left her husband, and moved to New York. Her first friends in New York were two gay men, and simply to spite her old fashioned parents, Veronica started dating women. Veronica embarked in a long term relationship with a woman, and brought her home to meet her parents.
“I was just putting it in their faces. It didn’t work. They were polite, and my dad even took her fishing with him!”
During this relationship with her girlfriend, Veronica began using drugs. First cocaine, and then crack. Veronica smoked crack for 10 years. Veronica was a nurse. When she couldn’t get crack from a local source, she would have a source FedEx her the drugs. Veronica was a nurse, and she never missed a day of work or lost a job, despite the fact that she would often go to work high on crack.
And after years of dating women, smoking crack, and finally getting officially divorced from her husband, Veronica wanted kids. But she couldn’t conceive, even with In Vitro Fertilization. The damage done to her body by the four abortions prevented her from becoming pregnant.
So Veronica and her girlfriend decided to adopt. Veronica was still using crack cocaine. They ended up adopting a boy and a girl, one of which was the product of one of Veronica’s nephew’s many sexual relationships. Despite the fact that he was married, he produced seven children with five different women. He had demanded that the mother of his last child – a 23-year-old – have an abortion, but she refused. In his rage, he killed his wife and himself, but his girlfriend gave birth to a child that Veronica would adopt.
Veronica’s relationship with her girlfriend had become volatile, and her girlfriend had cheated on her more than once, so Veronica packed up and moved herself and her two children to Atlanta, where she quickly got involved in another same-sex relationship, this time with a co-worker. Veronica was still a nurse, still doing crack, and now drinking heavily. This new girlfriend was codependent and possessive, and drove Veronica to make the decision to stop dating women.
She started dating men again, and, in her own words, began “living large.” She also decided she did not want to be a nurse anymore. So, while still working full time as a nurse, taking care of her two children, drinking heavily, and doing crack, Veronica went to Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts to become a chef.
Four DUIs, one arrest, and one totaled car later, Veronica finally lost her job as a nurse, and landed in jail as a habitual offender. She got two of the four DUIs while on house arrest. Veronica still has no recollection of the accident that led to her second DUI, during which time she hit an 18-wheeler and had a blood alcohol level of .28.
“I had started to see very clearly many of my personality flaws and weaknesses.”
When she was put in jail, she called her sister. Up until this day, though her family had known that she had been divorced and was dating women, they did not have a clue that Veronica had a serious problem with drugs and alcohol, nor that she had 4 DUIs. Veronica had been a model child, so her sister was shocked as Veronica laid her soul bare and told her everything that had been going on.
“I need to get into a program.”
But she was in jail, and as a habitual offender, she stood a very good chance of losing her license to practice nursing. During that time in jail, Veronica said, “I accepted it, and I actually got kind of comfortable. That’s when I heard from God.”
When Veronica was 33, her older sister had died of breast cancer. “She was the best of all of us.” When her sister died, Veronica had become angry at the God that her father raised her to know. She had put God out of her life, until this day in jail, as she started to get comfortable.
“How dare you become complacent!” – God
Knowing that was the voice of her maker, Veronica realized that she had indeed become complacent in her brief time in jail. As her hearing date drew nearer, her attorney had made it very clear: “You will probably be charged with a felony. You’re going to do some time.” But Veronica was not accepting of that statement. “God had made it very clear to me that I was not going to be charged with a felony, that I was not going to do any time, and that He had something bigger planned for me.”
He did. The judge who heard Veronica’s case sentenced her to complete the Atlanta Mission Personal Development Program, which was at least one year. She was not charged with a felony, and she didn’t even lose her nursing license. She just had to complete the program.
And complete the program she did. In fact, Veronica was selected to go through SLT (Servant Leader Training), a 4-month program, which she completed. “I hated SLT. It was like slavery. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and go back to being a nurse.”
But then she was selected to enter Ministry Training (MT). “NO! I don’t want to go into any ministry!” Veronica had shouted at God. But her new friend, Debi, had told Veronica that she was indeed going to stay and go through MT.
It was at this time that God revealed to Veronica exactly what He had in mind when he removed her from jail without so much as a charge. God had enabled Veronica to be trained as a chef, a professional cook, and then placed her and trained her in the ministry of serving the homeless and addicted.
Serve a Soul, Save a Soul ministries was born out of the rebuilt pieces of Veronica’s broken life.
“He said to just start, and He would provide. Serve one meal a month, then two, then four, and you will see the provision,” said Veronica.