Turning Trash into Treasure: The Testimony of Paula White
By Stephen Hubbard and Lisa Ryan
The 700 Club
Her daily TV show reaches 90 percent of the world. She has a big-time book deal and the endorsement of one of America’s most respected spiritual leaders… Bishop T.D. Jakes.
All this from a lady who was practically unknown less than five years ago.
“I think it’s funny,” Paula White says. “T.D. Jakes said, ‘Paula, everyone thinks you’re an overnight wonder.’ I said, ‘Daddy, that is the longest night of my life!’”
Paula White’s life started in what seemed to be an ideal situation — the adored child of wealthy parents.
“My father took care of me every day,” she recalls. “He would take me to breakfast every morning and then to the country club. My mom ran the businesses. They were entrepreneurs. We owned toy stores, craft stores, restaurants, and seafood chains. So I just knew that loving arm that would hold me and draw smiley faces on my pancakes.
“I was always told I was Daddy’s little girl. In fact, we owned toy stores, and I would run in and want to get the latest toy off the shelf. My mom would say no way, and my dad would say, ‘Get whatever you want, baby.’”
Paula was five when her family moved from Tupelo, Missisippi, to Memphis, Tennessee.
Out of the blue… her life changed forever.
“My dad comes in one night. He’s been drinking excessively, and he grabs one hand of me. My mother grabs the other, and they begin to pull at me like a Raggedy Ann doll — just tugging at me. He says, ‘Give her to me, or I’ll kill myself.’ She said, ‘No, I won’t.’ She held on to me with her life, and my father extended his hand out and began to bash her head in. I had never seen a violent side to my father. So they call for the police, take him away, put him in jail overnight, he gets out, and takes his life as he had said he would,” Paula says.
Paula faced a much different future without her beloved father to watch over her. Her “perfect” life became increasingly unstable.
From the ages of six to thirteen, Paula endured years of sexual and physical abuse.
“Some were caretakers, some were neighbors, different people,” she says. “It wasn’t a consistent abuse, but it was enough to do damage that psychiatrists said that I would be dysfunctional all my life.”
Paula’s downward spiral continued as she searched for the love she so desperately needed.
“One thing just began to build in my life after another. Then there were the eating disorders: bulimia, anorexia… Sleeping with different people, thinking this is how you find love,” she says. “There was such a fear in me that [men] would never come back so do whatever you have to. Hit me, beat me, call me a dog, do whatever, just don’t leave.”
The odds that Paula White would find Jesus seemed slim since she’d never even been to church.
“I never heard the Gospel until I was 18 years old,” she says. “Jesus Christ… the name was synonymous to me as the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. I’d heard the name but I did not know that He was the Son of God, that He walked the earth that He lived, He died, was crucified on an old rugged cross… that there was a God that loved me unconditionally.”
At 18 Paula was visiting the home of a friend.
“I’m sitting in the living room, his uncle comes in, and says, ‘I can see all your pain’. I’m thinking, How can you see any pain? I am a master at this time at masking any hurt [and] anything that would show the dysfunction.
“He begins to pierce me with words that penetrated my being. He starts saying, ‘I know what you’re going through.’ He doesn’t know anything about who I am, my background. He gets out a Bible, and I don’t even know what a Bible is. I have no idea what he’s doing. He says, ‘I have the answer for everything that’s hurting you, for every problem that you face.’ He just begins to, what I call, read me my mail. He takes me through the Word of God — shows me the plan of salvation. Not only does he lead me to the Lord but he releases all the things in my past, shows me from the Word of God that I don’t have to be a victim to the things that happened to me. I have this supernatural encounter. I mean, I got saved! I got rescued. I was radically changed.
“I cannot tell you what exploded on the inside of my being. I can just say I, for the first time in my life, knew love.”
Paula set out on a journey to find out what God was all about.
“So I held the Word of God up and said, ‘I want to know You. I want answers for life. I want to understand who You are. I don’t want to trainwreck my life. I don’t want to go back to anything that had been a part of that dysfunction.’”
Soon Paula’s passion for evangelism was born.
“I found myself in the inner cities of America, all over the world for years,” she says. “Just hugging little boys and girls, telling them about the love of God, and picking up little broken Paulas. I was holding myself, restoring myself, and giving them the Word that so transformed me.”
“There’s so many things that God has given me,” he says. “I have a wonderful husband, wonderful children, wonderful friends, a great church. My life is so satisfied and fulfilled in so many other areas that I focus on what God has given me and what I do have instead of what I don’t have.”
Most of all Paula White is determined to pass on “what she does have” to the people who need it most.
“My greatest thrill was not preaching in public,” she says. “It was going into a restaurant, looking into a waitress’s eyes, seeing behind the package [to] the depth of her soul, and giving her that same love that God gave me when I was 18 years old.
“Life labeled me, people gave up on me, and thought that there was no hope, but God takes the people who have been cast aside and look like trash. God’s in the recycling business. He recycles that trash and brings forth treasure.
“What nothing in this world can put back together, God can. If someone says it’s too much, what they’re saying is that the blood of Jesus Christ, the covenant that God made, is not enough. I stand as an [example] to say it is more than enough.”