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The 700 Club

Chasing Truth In a Prison Cell

Julie Blim - 700 Club Producer

“’United States vs. Tressa Brantley’ and that kind of blew my mind because I’m like the United States?  Who am I to go up against the United States?  I can’t win this,” Tressa remembers.  

Facing federal drug charges, Tressa couldn’t believe her life had sunk so low.  Inside, she still felt like that little girl whose parents divorced when she was three.  

“There was no foundation of love, and saying ‘I love you,’ or holding you, or just the things that you see, I guess like on TV,” she recalls.  “I do remember times when my mom, she was working and she was doing good trying to take care of us. But in the process I think she kind of developed alcohol addiction.  My father, he really wasn’t there for us.”

As a teen, she followed the lead of her friends, skipping school and shoplifting.

“I think the reason that I did is because I was trying to get acceptance from them and to fit in. I was angry, hurt, out of control.  It’s like I didn’t even care about life,” she says.  

At 15 Tressa was sent to a juvenile facility.  She was also pregnant by the 21-year-old guy her mother warned her about.  

“I felt loved,” she explains.  “Like somebody cared—he cared about me.  You know, I found this new guy that’s giving me some attention. So you don’t know what you’re talking about, Mom.”  

When Tressa was released six months later, she infuriated her mom by moving in with the guy.  A drug dealer and addict, he became abusive when she tried to leave with their son. One time he knocked her unconscious.  

Tressa remembers it well.  “Went to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror and I had these black eyes, I just was tired and I felt like giving up. But by that time I had already had my first son.  So if I give up, what is the child - what’s going to happen to him?”  

He also forbade her to work.  Her mom had moved, so with no income, her only option was to stay with him.  

“I didn't have any money. I didn’t have my own place. I felt like I was stuck. And I wanted to regain my life,”  she recalls.  

After Tressa had her second son, she reached out to her mom’s sister, Jackie.  While she didn’t have the means to help, she tried to get Tressa on a different path.

“My aunt always would ask me to go to church with her. Or she would take my boys to church with her sometime because she knew I was in that lifestyle and stuff but she was still –she would still ask.   and I knew of God, but I didn’t know Him,” she explains.  

Finally Tressa decided the only way to make money without her sons’ father knowing was to sell drugs.  And she knew plenty of dealers.  

“And so I had asked them, you know, ‘Hey, let me try this,’ and the next thing I know it went from a kilo of cocaine to several kilos of cocaine.  And I mean, I would have $150,000 just there to do whatever I wanted to do with,” she says.  “I was buying clothes, cars, houses, whatever I wanted, I bought.”

Now with money and the protection of friends, Tressa finally got away.  For the next eight years she indulged in the lifestyle that came with drug deals and money laundering. 

“Life was good, but in the inside I was still not happy. I didn’t have peace, I didn’t have joy.  I spent $80,000 buying one car. Three weeks go by, I’m still back to the same feeling,” she explains.  “Then I was really wondering what’s wrong with me?  It’s like a huge void that’s in me and I couldn’t understand what’s wrong with me.”  

One night, Tressa decided her Aunt Jackie might have been right.  

“And I said ‘God, if there’s a God, it has to be a better plan for my life than this. I’m tired, Lord, help me. Help me, Lord, Help me.’”  

Three days later, Tressa was arrested and charged with conspiracy to sell cocaine and money laundering.  Her first phone call from jail was to Aunt Jackie.  

Jacqueline Harris, Tressa’s aunt, told her niece, “’Just be still.  Be still. God will fight your battle. Be still. Just be still. We’re going to keep moving forward. We’re gonna keep pushin’, and  that’s what we did.”      

Then later, some ministers came to the jail.   Tressa listened as they talked about Jesus in a way she finally understood. 

“It doesn’t matter what you have done in life,” she says.  “That He will redeem your life. That’s what He died for. I asked Him to come in my life, to help me, to save my soul. To turn my life around, make me new. Create in me what you have destined me for, Lord.”

Tressa was convicted and served five and a half years in prison.  She poured over the Bible every day and came out a very different person.    

“My heart totally changed. I felt the overwhelming love now. I had been set free from all the hurt. Because I started learning a Father’s love. I started learning the love of a friend. I started learning the love of a brother. I started learning the love of God that changed everything within me,” Tressa clearly recalls.  

Her Aunt Jackie remembers it too.  “Wow. Very proud. Very proud.  Look at God. Look at what He can do.”

Tressa forgave her parents and reconciled with both of them. She’s now very happily married to Willy and reaching out to others with the truth she’s found.  

“My purpose today is to help people change their lives, to help them to grow in Christ, to help them to know Him … cuz on the inside I had joy, I had peace, I had happiness.  I was free.”  

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