ALTHEA Stoddart describes herself as a low-key, easy-going individual who enjoys thinking about positivity and inspiring the same in others.
But for the 32-year-old who was born and raised in the small district of Lime Hall, St Ann, positivity was not always part of her thought process.
In fact, she told All Woman that growing up, she had self-esteem issues even though her mother often gave her words of affirmation. This, coupled with one key life experience, made her journey to positivity a lengthy one.
“After leaving high school my mother wanted me to go to Bible school but I said no, all my friends were going to teachers’ college and I wanted to go too. The transformation took place when I went to college. I was a Christian but I got into the wrong company and I ended up leaving teachers’ college after one year. I got pregnant. Being a pastor’s child, that in itself was an emotional experience. I wasn’t just dealing with church people, but with my own self and how I felt about myself prior to being pregnant,” Stoddart said.
From there Stoddart, then 17 years old, was sent to Kingston to live with an aunt because of the humiliation, guilt, loss of friendships and negativity she had to endure. She eventually became isolated and depressed to the point she felt she was going to die.
“During the pregnancy I was constantly sick. I did five ultrasounds, doctors didn’t know what to say, and the last ultrasound I did said the baby was dead and they needed to do an operation to remove the foetus. I thought because I committed fornication I was sentenced to die. My mom prayed for me and even after that I thought I was going to die. But at 7:55 am on the 29th of May, 2003 I went into labour and gave birth. I looked at the doctor and asked, ‘Is the baby dead?’ She looked at me, looked at the baby, she laughed, slapped the baby, and the baby cried. I don’t know if I was relieved or more stressed out. I was now living with the evidence of what I did. She was now here, alive and real,” Stoddard said.
Facing the music was not easy, and for the first three days of her daughter’s existence, she shared that she resented the child and paid little or no attention to her, until she sat listening to a worship song and realised she needed to embrace her child as this was now her miracle.
Eventually, Stoddard slowly returned to church and decided to lay aside the thoughts of others, then approached her bishop indicating her interest in attending Bible school.
“Fornication is a sin, I believe it, but there is also room for grace. Back then the first part of the process was shame. People didn’t talk to me, people had other things to say, but when I approached the late Bishop Thomas and indicated my interest, he asked, ‘Have you repented of your sins?’ and I said, ‘yes’, and he said that’s all he wanted to know and signed the form for me to be admitted into the United Pentecostal Churches Eastwood Park Bible School.”
After the interviews with the selection committee, Stoddart was admitted and eventually graduated with a diploma in theology, which she said brought her to another level in God and showed her that nothing is outside the reach of God’s grace.
Subsequently, Stoddart wanted to impress upon the lives of other women in the same situation or other situations of doubt and negativity. After consulting with her best friend Zena Hylton and First Lady Jillian Thomas of Emmanuel Apostolic Church, she decided to do a conference dubbed, “Women of Faith”.
“At first I wanted to do a concert and First Lady Thomas said no, do something more impactful, and suggested a conference. I thought of women in the Bible, they all had faith. Looking at my own journey, I had to have faith to stay in church, love and trust God, and believe He could turn my situation around,” she said.
The conference, held for the second time on March 24 under the theme, “The Esther Encounter: Living a Purpose Driven Life”, saw in excess of 500 women at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel coming to hear from speakers who included Stoddart, Marion Hall, Rev Evon Blair, Pastor Jillian Thomas, among others.
“I believe that God is calling us to fulfil our purpose. It is said that one of the richest places on earth is the graveyard. So many died never carrying out their purpose, whether it was to write a book, song, establish ministry, business, or impact people’s life. We are in a purpose season and every woman has her purpose,” Stoddart said.
“So many women just need to unwrap themselves to really walk in purpose. The first conference saw those in need of a release, a breakthrough, women who were abused, raped, felt they weren’t pretty or sexy enough, women with husbands cheating on them. We got together and something broke. The more spiritual things you are exposed to and are able to take away from, it is better for you,” she said.
Outside of ministry, Stoddart enjoys giving motivational talks and has adopted the Kingdom Kids Preparatory School where she works with the children through mentorship, and also works closely with the Triple A movement within her church, taking care of the elderly.
She also cherishes the time she spends with her daughter Gabriel and the relationship with her mother, Angela Moulton, who she emphasised “never stopped being a mother” and loving her.
By Kimberly Hibbert