From times of singing in a dark closet to the founding of a national women’s mentoring ministry, Thelma Well’s life has been a courageous journey of faith. The name on her birth certificate read simply: Baby Girl Morris. Thelma’s mother was a severely deformed teenager with no husband and no place to go, since her own abusive mother insisted that she take the baby and leave the house. So when the baby was born, her unwed teenage mother found work as a maid cleaning “the big house” while living with her baby daughter in servants’ quarters. She toiled away with her one good hand and foot. Eventually, the baby went to live with her great-grandparents, who called her Thelma Louise Smith and loved her dearly. They took little Thelma to church, where she learned to love the hymns and praise songs.
On those occasions when Thelma was taken to her grandparents’ home, her grandmother abused her, just as she had tormented Thelma’s mother. She was locked in a dark, smelly, insect-infested closet until just before her grandfather came home when her grandmother would bring her out of the closet, clean her up, and act as if all was well. In spite of her deep fear, little Thelma spent her time in the closet singing every hymn and praise song she could remember. She would sing herself to sleep in that closet, and the Lord received this little girl’s innocent praise and rewarded it with an abundant life of joy, protecting her from feelings of anger or bitterness.
Thelma grew up to become a trailblazer for black women, a prominent international speaker and author, and a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. As a student at North Texas State University in Denton, Texas (now the University of North Texas), she was a member of the first group of girls to integrate the school’s dormitories. She earned her Bachelor’s degree there and eventually received a Master’s of Ministry from Master’s International School of Divinity in Evansville, Indiana. In 2002 she became the school’s first black female professor.
In 1980 Thelma became the first black woman in the South to organize her own international speaking and consulting corporation. Her natural talent for public speaking and storytelling attracted the attention of the Women of Faith Tour, and in 1996 she became the first black core speaker for the organization. She has authored several books, including her latest GOD IS NOT THROUGH WITH ME YET, an inspiring examination of her own life experiences in which she encourages readers to “sing in the closets of their lives.” She serves as the president of The Daughters of Zion Leadership Mentoring Program, an organization she founded in 2000 (another first for a black woman). Through this ministry, “Mama T,” as she is affectionately called, has mentored over 100 spiritual daughters.
Thelma has been married to George Wells, her best friend, supporter, and encourager, for over 45 years. The couple lives in Dallas, Texas, and has three married children, ten grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.
Back to top.
International speaker, professor and writer Thelma Wells is the author of GOD IS NOT THROUGH WITH ME YET, a collection of life lessons about hope and faith based on her own personal experiences as a Christ follower. In this interview, Wells describes some of the fears and hardships she has endured in her life and details how she was able to overcome them through her spirituality. She also shares her thoughts on the power of music and offers suggestions on how to pray from the heart, as well as build and strengthen one's relationship with God.
Question: Why do you feel that, despite trying all the programs and reading all the how-to books, many believers feel so distant from God?
Thelma Wells:I believe the how-to books go as far as they can in giving the human side of situations/circumstances, but they cannot answer the core of our being which is rooted and grounded in God. Once we’ve read the how-to’s, we find that they really don’t apply to everybody. A relationship with Jesus applies to everybody. Therefore, in order to be close to God, we must talk to Him (pray) any way we know how; we must listen to Him talk to us in our spirits (minds); we must study the Bible to see what He has to say to us from His Word; we must praise Him (say thank you to Him, sing to Him, love on Him); and we must watch the company we keep because people who don’t believe as we do can weaken our trust in Him which creates a breach with Him.
Q: In your book, you discuss the importance of “singing in life’s closets.” Would you tell us why the act of singing is so meaningful to you?
TW: In my experience of being put in a closet when I was a girl, I would sing hymns and Christian songs that would put me to sleep. When I got out of that closet on those days, I had no anger, vengeance, bitterness or anything that caused me to hate my grandmother who put me there. In later life, I’ve found that whatever the circumstance or however hard it is, when I sing Christian songs there’s a peace that surrounds me that I cannot explain. The Bible talks about praising God in Zephaniah 3:17 when God hears the praises of His people and He rejoices over them. When we praise God in singing, I believe He dispatches his ministering angels to protect our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Q: Are there any areas of your life in which you have struggled with an attitude of disobedience?
TW: Yes, there have been times when I struggled with going to church like I should, with spending money like I was a billionaire, with not doing or saying something God told me to. The most difficult was totally surrendering everything I am and have to God. You see, I was afraid to give Him my all because I didn’t know what He would want me to do, and some things I just didn’t want to do. In 1994 I totally surrendered to the will of God. That was the most freeing time of my life. God is in charge and is in control of my everyday events with my job, family, church, career, finances, relationships, etc.
Q: As a child in the segregated South and, later, as a young woman battling segregation, you felt no fear. When did you first experience real fear in your life? How did God help you to overcome that fear?
TW: There have been several times of fear in my life. When I was sick, I was not at all scared about the cancer or lungs. I did get disturbed about my ability to do for myself. To have someone have to bathe you, prepare your meals, comb your hair and all the other things people were doing for me was a humbling experience. I had thoughts of not being able to be a help to others as I had in the past.
Q: How would you explain prayer to a person who is not sure what it is or how to practice it?
TW: Prayer is as natural as breathing. Can you talk? If you can talk or think, you can pray. Prayer is the heart’s sincere desires unuttered or spoken out loud. A pray can be as simple as saying “Help me Lord!” or “Jesus” or as in-depth as telling Him everything about you. Prayer is not to anybody but God. So, when you pray, be honest and true and just tell it like it is.
Click here now to buy this book from Amazon.com.
Back to top.
© Copyright 2017, FaithfulReader.com. All rights reserved.