After four marriages in about 12 years, and considerable physical abuse, Jackie Holland felt like her life was in the dumpster—especially after shooting her fourth husband—but it is in a dumpster that she literally regained her purpose.
Holland, 68, is founder and president of Whosoever Will Outreach Ministries in Dallas, Texas, dedicated to hurting people, especially women suffering everything from domestic violence to a desire to escape the adult entertainment industry to addictions of various kinds, and more. Holland also regularly ministers in local jails as a volunteer chaplain, founded a nonprofit called Chaplains for Women International and also owns and operates a nonprofit thrift and consignment store called Upscale Design in Sherman, Texas. Yet, heading any sort of ministry is more than she ever envisioned. With the marriages she had, she knows just being alive is an accomplishment.
As she travels the country for seminars, conferences, and more, she tells her story, which also appears in her book, “Exposed Heart.”
Holland grew up in a strong Christian home, attending a Baptist church with her parents. After dating her high school’s basketball star for a year, she married him at age 15. Her mother had also married at 15, but thought her daughter was too young for marriage. Her dad, however, felt she was doing the right thing because their marriage had been happy and loving, so they signed the consent papers.
Holland says her husband was sweet and kind—the side her parents saw and liked—but when he drank, he became a “monster,” flaring up at the slightest wrong word. She became expert at covering with makeup the many black eyes and bruises, believing—like many abuse victims—that she had done something to deserve such treatment. She went on loving him, living for his approval, believing another misconception—that the abuse would stop when they had children. By age 17, she had a boy and girl, but her husband was frequently absent at night, carousing. After four abuse-filled years with him, she took someone’s advice and left him at age 19, moving to Minnesota at her sister’s invitation.
Feeling she couldn’t make it on her own with two small children, she rushed into another relationship that lasted only a few abuse-filled months, so she moved back to Texas, where she met a big, strapping guy at a rodeo. Two weeks later, she married him at a justice of the peace. Shortly into this marriage, her husband lost his temper, and when Holland demanded an apology, threatening to move out, he heaved her outside their home, then pinned her down and beat her face bloody. Feeling he was going to kill her, she cried out an apology, which got him to stop. She later managed to escape, filed charges, and never returned.
Instead of stopping to reevaluate her life, Holland continued her romantic pursuits, spending the next two years going to clubs with friends. It was never a sexual thing, she says, but a desire to be found special and desirable. Though by now she distrusted men, she felt she was living a fairy tale in search of Prince Charming, thinking that finding the right mate would complete her.
“I had this weird thing about getting all dressed up and going out,” she says. “It made me feel good about myself. I just needed attention so bad. I needed people to look at me and say, ‘You’re so pretty. You’re just beautiful.’ And then to be pursued also made me feel good. I became all tangled up in a web of my own making.”
This led to her third marriage—and the only non-abusive one—to a country singer. This one ended due to his continued longing for his ex-wife and kids. After Holland gave him an ultimatum about this, she returned from an appointment to find him gone, which broke her heart, and propelled her to hit the clubs nearly every night to dull her pain.
After about two years of the single life, Holland married for the fourth and final time in 1973, at age 27, to a successful businessman. When she gave birth again, her two children from her first marriage were ages 12 and 10. Shortly thereafter, her husband took custody of his 5- and 3-year-old kids from his ex-wife, giving Holland—now age 28—a family of five kids.
Eventually, the abuse began—both physical and emotional—and again, Holland felt it was deserved. However, when she realized her husband was also unfaithful, and disrespected her in the process, something snapped. The accumulated years of abuse and unfaithfulness all came to an abrupt head, and she got her .25 caliber pistol. As her husband watched, she shot a dish in their china cabinet right next to him. All he did was complain about the broken dish, which infuriated her even more. As he walked toward the door, she shot him. In the end, he refused to press charges and she was free to return home after one night in jail.
“I know shooting him was a horrible thing to do, but I didn’t feel like I could take it anymore,” says Holland. “I just felt overwhelmed and so trapped. It was like, ‘No, no one else is going to walk out on me again.’ I guess I tried to kill him.”
Her heart’s cry had been for God to change her husband, because all she had desperately wanted was to have a family. But at that moment, she found herself asking God to change her, and turned her life over to Him.
“I remember that day saying, ‘God, if I lose everything—my family, my children, my husband, anything—I want to serve You,’” she says. “’I want You to be enough.’ It really changed me.”
Holland says she had always loved Jesus and prayed, but had never grasped the depth of His love for her; consequently, she had lived with one foot in the world that kept her lukewarm and defeated. When her daughter began attending church and exhibiting great enthusiasm for God, Holland became inspired to take her spiritual life to the next level, regularly going to church with them, as well as watching Christian television, attending Christian events and more. Meanwhile, a desire to minister to the poor grew in her heart, and she approached her pastor to say she wanted to “clothe the naked, feed the hungry, help hurting women.”
Without resources himself, all the pastor could do was pray for doors to open. About two years later, in 1987, Holland’s youngest son and his friend returned home one day with a cluster of nice grapes they had found while walking near a dumpster outside an upscale market. When Holland inquired of the source, he led her to the dumpster, full of more perfectly good produce, only discarded because it had reached its expiration date.
Since Holland did not need the food, she prayed for direction and felt impressed to visit some apartments behind the church. At the very first home, the woman who answered the door began to cry upon hearing the reason for Holland’s visit. She had just fed her children their last food. Giving God all the credit, Holland felt a rush of excitement at how God had used her and became a regular dumpster-diver for His glory, filling her car with food, personally distributing it and low-income housing or a laundromat.
“I’d found treasure in the trash,” she says. “My ministry basically started from getting food from a dumpster, just trying to meet needs.”
Upon Holland’s request, the store manager agreed to begin setting aside his produce for pickup, and a mobile food ministry was born. Meanwhile, Holland’s personal life again went south. After she discovered her husband not only in the midst of another affair, but that a pregnancy had occurred, he then divorced her.
Throwing herself into her newfound ministry, Holland often forgot about her own problems. Though she needed money herself, she began selling personal items to meet ministry expenses. Her brother, though, made her house payments, and her older son loaned his car for food pickups. When other stores agreed to donate their food too, a man then donated a van. When Holland ran out of things to sell, she felt God lead her to approach her church elders, who agreed to underwrite the sum Holland needed to sustain the ministry, as well as provide a van and insurance.
As the ministry grew, the church brought in staff to help Holland and allocated a percentage of its budget for thousands of pounds of additional food. Eventually, Holland became care pastor for 15 years at what came to be known as The Care Ministry at Restoration Church in Euless, Texas.
The biggest setback of all came in November 1989, when her older son Mike took his life. Holland said he had suffered from both depression and considerable physical pain from nerve problems in his feet. She returned home from church to find Mike in the backyard—a gun beside him, and no note. She acknowledges a steady heartache, her voice quavering.
“He waited until no one was home,” she says. “He was my best friend and prayer partner. He had cerebral palsy and was teased a lot growing up, but he loved the Lord and would always be sharing tracts. He was quite a soul winner.”
In 1991, Holland’s ministry expanded after a dream in which she saw a place where people needing ministry were going for healing. She then set up her own nonprofit called Whosoever Will Outreach Ministries, which still operates today. Its outreach is to anyone hurting from all walks of life—women wanting to escape the adult entertainment industry, domestic abuse victims, nursing home residents, widows, and many more.
Holland can relate to just about any woman in the Bible, she says, feeling like she has experienced it all, and she continues dedicating herself to ministry.
“What the devil meant for evil, God turns it around for good,” she says. “Now I can use those experiences to help other women. Maybe they’ve lost a child, had a divorce, are going through domestic violence. Maybe they’ve got a health issue they don’t understand. They love God and wonder, ‘Why me?’ Why not you? We live in an imperfect world. That’s why we don’t quit. We just keep keeping on.”
For those in a hurry to marry, she counsels careful consideration and avoiding unbelievers. One thing she learned is how her poor choices not only hurt her, but her family and others.
“There are consequences to my actions,” she says. “I wish I had more sense then. I wish I had known that it’s not just about us. People think you’re not hurting anybody, but you are. So many are affected by what we do. You really are not your own. Life is a gift and we need to make it count.”
Today, Holland is happily single, with two grown children, four grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter, living in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. However, she currently faces yet another obstacle—a Stage 4 blood and lymph cancer called Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)—one of the most common types of leukemia in adults.
She said the diagnosis was sad, leaving her family brokenhearted; yet, if one has to get cancer, this is the best kind to have, according to her doctor. It’s so slow-acting, he says, she may outlive everyone else. She says she tires more easily, but is otherwise carrying on as usual, seeing the ministry possibilities even here.
“I know the Lord will use it,” she says, “so it has enlarged my sphere of opportunities to share my faith. I’m not ashamed or afraid to talk about cancer, but I don’t think about it. I’ll keep doing what I’m called to do. I don’t want to stop. I’m not retiring; I keep refiring. I want to take every opportunity I can to speak on His behalf. If my ministry started in a dumpster, where will yours start? God asked Moses, ‘What do you have in your hand?’ What is in your heart to do? How can you make something positive out of your situation? Many are first trying to get their lives perfect. Don’t wait to clean your life up; just hand it over to Jesus Christ and He will do it.”
For more information on Holland’s ministry, or to contact her for speaking and ministry: www.whosoeverwill.tv or: P.O. Box 57, Sherman, TX 75091. Telephone: (817) 689-0654.
Holland lives by faith via love offerings and gifts through her ministry.
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