Story and photos by Jacob Factor, Features Editor
“But, Madam, let your grief be laid aside, And let the fountain of your tears be dry’d,” said Phillis Wheatley in her book “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.”
Wheatley was the first African-American woman (and the third woman in America) to publish a book of poems, which she did in 1773 when she was 20 years old.
Wheatley’s story is inspiring to many, including OBU student Jillian Murphy, a sophomore nursing student. Jillian has authored two Christian books and was the co-author of a third one.
“I don’t want people to think of me as a good writer,” she said. “I want my writing to have a meaning. I want to be a vessel.”
Jillian’s mother Michelle Murphy said Jillian has always had a love of sharing her faith. When she was a child, Michelle said she remembers seeing Jillian jumping on the trampoline with a neighborhood girl and telling her about Jesus.
“Before I knew it they were sitting down and praying, and Jillian runs in the house and says, ‘Casey asked Jesus into her heart!’” Michelle said. “That’s nothing I put in her; It’s a gift from God.”
Jillian still follows that love of sharing her faith with the books she’s written. They’re a reflection of her life and how God can be seen working through her experiences. Those experiences started long before she could see God’s purpose for her.
This Is Why
During her fourth, fifth and sixth grade years, Jillian said was sexually assaulted by someone close to her family.
“I don’t even know how many times over the three years it happened,” she said.
She said she was scared to go forward and tell anyone because he was close to her family, and she didn’t know how people would react.
“I would never scream. I was scared, so I would just sit, and I would just lay,” she said. “I wouldn’t move.”
Jillian said she started feeling like it was her fault because she let it go on so long without telling anyone.
In middle school, she said she finally came forward and told her mom, but the pain didn’t stop.
“My mom told me it was like everybody was walking on eggshells around me because they didn’t want me to break,” she said.
Jillian said after she came forward she didn’t want anyone to touch her or talk to her. She said she went through several phases after she came forward. In the first one, she didn’t want to feel anything.
“It hurt too much.”
In the second phase, she didn’t care what she did.
“Hurt people hurt people,” she said. “I was really hurt, so I was hurting everyone around me.”
In the last phase, she tried to be a good person on the outside.
“I tried to get the best grades. I wanted to be the best person.”
Then, she said, she broke.
“Nothing I was trying was working.”
At a Disciple Now conference with her church during her freshman year of high school, Jillian heard a sermon about the parable of the lost sheep, how the shepherd left the 99 sheep just to find the lost one.
“So, You’re going after me,” Jillian said she thought about God. “I’m not alone.”
This is when Jillian said she became a Christian, and this experience became the subject of her book “This is Why” published June 2017.
Jillian said she knew she was supposed to write about her being sexually assaulted, but she didn’t want to.
“I was thinking, ‘You can’t use this for good.’”
At Restored Hope Ministries, a safe house where Jillian worked, she met a young girl who became a prostitute after being sexually assaulted for three years.
Jillian said she realized then that she could’ve been that girl, and she could use her story to connect with this girl. She began witnessing to the girl, and she became a Christian.
“I get it now,” she said. “I would’ve never wanted this to happen, but if this is what You’re going to put in my hand to bring You glory, I’ll use it.”
A Bigger Purpose
“From the beginning, she was a special miracle child,” Michelle said of her daughter.
She and her husband had been trying to conceive for seven years. They lost one, and adopted two, but thought they could never have one of their own. When she found out she was pregnant with Jillian, Michelle said she knew it was a miracle.
“We prayed that God would do great things through her,” she said.
Another of Jillian’s book, co-authored by four others, is called “A Bigger Purpose.” Jillian’s section, “The Power of Prayer” came from another instance of a miracle in her life.
During her senior year of high school, she was in a car accident.
She said the doctors told her she only had a concussion, but different tests had revealed something else. She had tumors on each of her ovaries.
When she found out, Jillian said she was angry. She didn’t want to tell her youth group because she didn’t want to be pitied.
“When I finally told them, they started praying over me and sending me scriptures,” Jillian said.
She said the doctors thought the tumors could be cancer.
“But even if it wasn’t, one was the size of a grapefruit, and the other a lemon.”
The doctors said the ovary with the grapefruit couldn’t be saved, so they had to remove it.
“They asked me if I still wanted kids.” she said. “I did.”
The doctors then moved to the other ovary to see if it was savable, and they found the tumor was gone.
Jillian said she hopes God can continue to use her as a way to share the message of His Kingdom.
March 12, Jillian spoke at the sophomore class chapel about God parting the Red Sea for the Israelites to escape the Egyptians.
She said God is always with us, but we have to fully trust that He will work.
Before she spoke, she prayed over her class.
“God, I pray they don’t remember my name, but remember the words I say.”