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Success From the Inside Out

A TRAUMATIC PAST
Nona’s biological father loved her very much, but unfortunately he died before her second birthday from stomach cancer. She was raised by her mom who never wanted children. She often told Nona she was a burden and life would have been better if she had not been born. For years, her mom would physically and emotionally abuse her for no reason. To make matters worse her mom’s live in boyfriend, Lee, began sexually abusing Nona and forbid her to tell anyone. At school Nona began acting out. She was labeled a “problem child” because she talked back to her teacher and she didn’t do her schoolwork. Nobody knew what she was battling at home. In desperation she finally told her mom about the sexual abuse. Her mom called the police. Lee was arrested and even served jail time, but to Nona’s horror her mom allowed him to return to their home again to live with them. Apparently, Lee’s disability check to help her mom pay the bills was more important than Nona’s safety. For the next four years Lee continued to abuse her. “I learned to pretend I wasn’t there when it happened. I was air. Anywhere else but where I was,” recalls Nona. On the weekends, her mom had parties with loud music. Nona could not sleep or get her school work done because she could not concentrate. Food became her source of comfort. At school, she got teased for her weight by her classmates and by her mom at home. One night her mom flew at Nona in a rage and tried to choke her. With nowhere to turn, Nona decided she was worthless and attempted suicide for the first time by drinking laundry detergent. Her attempt failed. Her second suicide attempt occurred after Nona’s fifth-grade teacher told her, “You’ll never be nothing more than a failure.” Nona went home and tried to slit her wrists, but her attempt failed. “I didn’t know anything about God at that time, but there was a sense in my heart that death wasn’t the answer,” shares Nona.

RISING FROM THE PAST
In sixth grade a classmate invited Nona to church. At church the people were kind and loving, something she had never experienced at home. She learned how God is a “father to the fatherless.” Nona’s heart longed to know the God they were talking about. At twelve years old she asked Jesus into her heart. Around this time her mom also kicked her out of the house because she did not do the dishes one night. “I’m sick of you! I never wanted you! Get out of my house! And don’t take anything I bought you,” her mom shouted. She left the house in her pajamas and socks. Unsure of where to go she headed in the direction of the church. She remembered one of the families that attended her church lived in a trailer nearby. She knocked on the door and the lady invited her in, fed her, and gave her clean clothes. For the next month she lived with this family until her mom showed up at school one day and told her to come home.  Nona was devastated to leave the family that had become like family to her. During her month away from her mom, she had started to dream of a future. She had even begun to think about college. They inspired her to imagine what she could grow up to be if she worked hard for good grades. After returning to her mom’s house she was not allowed to attend church and she could no longer see the family that took her in. Nona set a goal for herself – graduate from high school and never come back.

At school, her teachers began to encourage her and she began to excel in school. She was promoted to advanced classes. In tenth grade, she ran for class president and won. She had a 4.0 GPA in her honor classes and was considered a star student by teachers and administration. By the time she graduated from high school she had accumulated many awards, recognitions, and honors. The one and only college she applied for accepted her application early and offered her a full academic scholarship. Outwardly she had it all but on the inside she was battling the shadows of trauma while living in a dysfunctional home.

She began attending church again in her junior year of high school and became a youth ministry leader. The summer before her senior year she felt a call to preach. The pastor invited her to give a sermon as the final step in her ordination process. In the audience that day were her mom and Lee. After the sermon she acknowledged them both in the congregation. Her mom even wanted to get a picture of them together. Nona thought maybe things are going to change. Instead, as they rode home together in the car her mom cussed her out, called her ungrateful, and selfish for not acknowledging her better from the pulpit. Nona made a promise to herself that day that she would never return home after she left for college. When Nona got to college she was outwardly successful, optimistic, and confident, but inside she was full of bitterness, insecurities and anger from her past. Healing finally came when she learned to forgive. Nona and her mom do not have a relationship today. She is unaware of Lee’s whereabouts and he is no longer with her mom. As she gained emotional, physical, and spiritual distance from her past she was able to discern what God was building in her through the pain of her childhood. Success that radiates from the inside out sees the purpose for past pain as helping us build: (1) Gratitude: All things work together for good in the end; (2) Character: What you do when no one’s looking says more about you than your resume does; (3) Work Ethic: Every assignment you have is designed to showcase your reverence for God; (4) Curiosity: Being teachable is more valuable than being right; (5) Love for People: People in your life are more important than the task on your to do list; (6) Righteousness: Look to God and his Word for the answers to life’s questions.

BLUEPRINT FOR SUCCESS
After college, Nona married Tim and her career blossomed. She was hired with a Fortune 500 company as a quality assurance analyst right out of college. The position was challenging but Nona’s hard work ethic helped her to excel in the job. One year later at 23, she joined the executive team for the southern region. She felt insecure at times but learned how to ask questions and rise to the expectations of the job. Nona was then asked to join the public sector to lead the local, state and federal legislative and community affairs team for a multiservice utility. A few years later, she was asked to take the role of chief external affair officer of a large nonprofit. "Four years into the role, God said this assignment is over. So, I met with my boss that day; met with her at 1:00. I finished talking with her at 1:40, got in my car, was driving home. At 2:05 my cell phone rang, 25 minutes, my cell phone rang, and I didn't recognize the number. So, I wasn't going to answer it. But the Holy Spirit said, 'answer that.' So I said, 'hello,' and the lady said, 'is this Nona Jones?' And I said, 'Yes,' and she said, 'I'm calling from Facebook.'" Twenty-five minutes after she resigned from a job she loved, God blessed her with a job she never would have dreamed of because she did not think it was possible. She says, “God meets our faith at our level of obedience. I’m a living witness that when we trust God in irrational, nonsensical, and unexplainable ways, he can show his irrational, nonsensical and unexplainable favor in our lives.” Today she leads the Global Faith-Based Partnerships at Facebook. She is also the Founder and CEO of Nona Jones Ministries and CEO of eChurch Partners, a digital discipleship firm. Nona shares her story to bring hope to others. “When we see the goodness of God in our past, we are able to build a strong foundation for our future. This is especially true when we allow God to use our past to encourage someone else.” Nona also serves alongside her husband, Pastor Tim at Open Door Ministries Church in Gainesville, Florida and is the proud mother of two.

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Guest Info

Credits

Author, Success From the Inside Out, (Zondervan, 2020)

Leads Global Faith-Based Partnerships at Facebook

Founder and CEO of Nona Jones Ministries

Serves as CEO of eChurch Partners, a digital discipleship firm

Co-pastor of Open Door Ministries with her husband, Tim

International speaker

Named by Essence magazine as an Under 40 Woman to Watch

Bachelor in Communications and Master of Business Administration from the University of Florida

Completed graduate studies at the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation

Two children: TJ and Isaac

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