Discovering the Father's Love
Susan Jaramillo never knew her dad. While growing up, Susan would often ask where her father was, only to have her mom become upset and tell her it was none of her business.
"I could never understand why she reacted that way to a question I so desperately wanted answered," she says.
That lack of a father's loving presence and guidance led Jaramillo to seek love in other ways, and she began traveling a road of seduction and lies, which led to alcohol, drugs, and promiscuity. By the time she graduated from college, she'd had multiple partners and three abortions.
"I struggled with relationships," she says. "I didn't know how to receive love. I didn't know how to give love. I had never seen that done properly by a man in my home."
She yearned to be embraced and told she was smart and beautiful and that she could accomplish great things.
When Jaramillo became pregnant a fourth time, she married her baby's father, and gave birth to her son, Tyler. Two years later, she had a daughter, Cameron. But her marriage was tumultuous because she kept looking for someone to fill the void of a father. The marriage ended in divorce in 2003.
"In some ways, I think I needed my husband to play the role of my dad," she admits. "But he was struggling with his own issues. He couldn't step into that role."
Jaramillo believes because she never had a father involved in her life it resulted in her placing impossible expectations on every relationship.
Although her love life was a failure, her career wasn't. She determined early on that success could fill part of the fallout from the father void. She found it in corporate America. But success didn't bring wholeness. Earning a six-figure income and being a sought-after interior decorator still left her feeling empty.
Jaramillo didn't believe church could help much, either. She viewed God as a judge who only condemned her toxic behavior. She didn't know where to turn, what to do, or how to heal her brokenness.
Then one day in 2007, Jaramillo heard a female guest speaker at the church she attended who talked about God's love and healing. Intrigued, she contacted the speaker and asked to meet for lunch. As they discussed Jaramillo's life and the idea that God could fill the void and be the father she'd never had, Jaramillo began to find hope. When the speaker prayed for her, it changed Jaramillo's life.
Jaramillo was stunned when the speaker began to pray about things that she had never shared with her, such as that she'd had abortions. "I knew that I really could find healing," she says, and she began to repent and accept God's forgiveness. "I'd been set free. I felt different. I was a woman of the Lord." And to her joy, she had found a Father.
Immediately she began to study God's Word, participating in Bible studies, listening to praise and worship music, and learning to discern God's voice. During that time she moved from Atlanta to her hometown Jefferson City, Missouri, and in 2009, while visiting First Assembly, Jaramillo met a couple who would become her spiritual parents. Ted and Sandy Ballenger began to counsel and pray for her. Immediately they could sense God's hand on Jaramillo's life.
"We were amazed with her openness and willingness to listen and learn about how much God loves her," Ted Ballenger says.
They helped her forgive her mother for not revealing her father's identity. Within 48 hours of that prayer of forgiveness, while visiting the local Social Security office to pick up new cards for her kids, Jaramillo discovered the name of her father. She was 38 years old.
She contacted some friends who could help her locate him and after just a few minutes, she learned he lived only 45 minutes away in a retirement center. Her delight quickly turned to remorse when after an awkward first visit her father informed her that he didn't want a relationship with her. Emotionally spent, she called her mother. That's when Jaramillo learned the full truth: she had been conceived by rape.
Because she had spent the time forgiving and leaning on God as Father, she weathered the news of the newfound heritage.
"God brought me to the truth only when I was ready for the truth," she says. "I'm so grateful my mother kept me!"
As she continued to grow in faith, God connected her with a number of prolife advocates. During one right-to-life banquet, Jaramillo sensed God calling her to minister to others who needed to hear her story. She began sharing the gospel in prisons and talking to men about the importance of being good fathers. She also started a speaking ministry in churches, schools, and conferences. One minister who heard Jaramillo, Isaac Mukisa, invited her to travel to his native Uganda. She went in 2012, and subsequently founded a prolife ministry there called The Remnant Generation.
As her ministry began to grow, Jaramillo attended seminary and became an ordained Assemblies of God minister. Now, 43 and living back in Atlanta, Jaramillo is amazed by how God has redeemed everything from her conception to her abortions to her painful brokenness.
"It's great to hear Susan say, 'Mom, Dad, God loves me so much,' and then give us an uplifting story about the miracles that God has provided for her," says Ted Ballenger. "She has experienced the tremendous love of her Father in heaven. And she tells everyone about it."
"I am grateful to my Heavenly Father, who embraces, forgives, heals, and loves unconditionally," Jaramillo says. "I want everyone to experience that."