Grateful am I to be able to continue this incredible journey. God has touched my life in ways I never knew possible. The unconditional love that I feel is unspeakable joy. To have arrived here at this place of peace, love and forgiveness is a gift from the most high that I humbly accept. There is a verse from the old gospel hymn “Amazing Grace” that resonates in my soul: “for he could love a wretch like me.” God, never forsaking, living in me and my desire is to share that unconditional love and understanding.
My book, Slavery of Faith, which was published earlier this year, was the beginning of this journey. As a body builder changes his eating habits to create a lean machine, the food for my soul changed me. I was able to feast off the spirit of love. John 3:3 states: “If a man is not born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” My new birth encompassed changing my thoughts and habits. Once a lost sheep, now found.
On this journey, everything I required to complete the book was provided. God’s hand held mine and pushed me forward to receive the blessings and the promise. Getting laid off in the midst of the process was another test of my faith and understanding. I lost more than half of my income, and taking the lessons I learned, I prayed and held fast, knowing that if I did not panic, for another blessing was around the corner. God never skipped a beat. I would look towards the heavens and cry out “Oh my God, look at you. You are too much!” Laughing at the true meaning and manifestation of faith.
Slavery of Faith was important to my healing. Writing it for eight years, I was never sure I would ever publish until 2007. For the first time, I dreamed of my husband, and his message was of love and forgiveness. I awoke to find my entire family circling me letting me know that they were all right. There was a supernatural power surrounding me and I was able to see, hear and listen. I wrote and wrote.
The CNN documentary “Escape from Jonestown” was the beginning of the Faith campaign. The responses from around the globe were amazing. The responses and personal emails left me more humbled and honored by the outpouring of love. People responded to the baring of my soul, the good, the bad and the ugly. They reached out with compassion and empathy. Some people were surprised that I was still able to maintain my belief in God, others that I could forgive Jim Jones. My response was that Jim was a victim also. Other people continued to enable him in his sickness. My healing was 95% complete once I was able to forgive Jim Jones.
I believe someone died on the cross for our sins. That same compassion and understanding for humanity regardless of our imperfections remains within me. I am so grateful for that gift. I call out to those who shout “I hate Jim Jones” to cease. Through that outward hatred, we are dishonoring those who died – including my family. Each memorial service should be to honor, to uplift, to inspire. If the world truly loved, there would have been no need for Peoples Temple, there would be no hunger, no war. We would just love. But the conditions existed, the need was there, and Peoples Temple filled it. That’s why I believe we should be uplifting the reason behind Peoples Temple and the community of love in Jonestown. Regardless of the outcome, no one went to Jonestown anticipating death – they went to live. We must continue to honor them, to live their love and not their death. Let’s honor them with Love.
* * * * *
The reception to the book has surprised me. Folks have come out of the woodwork, some with less noble motives than others. I am still learning that once a written interview is given to a magazine, it does not guarantee that your words will be used accurately or as you intended. Sensationalism still sells.
The marketing of the book has been my responsibility. And I tell you it is hard work. There are so many avenues to travel. What has been amazing is that I have received gifts from people who believe in what I am doing. My voice-over engineer does not charge me for any studio time; my editor did not accept any monetary compensation. God is continually bringing people in the circle.
My new career is Motivational/Inspirational Speaker, with my first engagement in October and one in November. Other projects are in the works. It took 30 years to find out what God actually intended for me to do, and that is to inspire, encourage and help others. It is feel good work and my soul is happy.
My message to all of the survivors and the Peoples Temple family (I say family because I believe we will always be connected; we are special, unique and blessed) is to write your stories. Each one will be different – each as unique as we each are. We have a history to share – and through each story, the puzzle will fill in one more piece, and the world will eventually understand who we were and who we are now.
Peace, Blessings and always Universal Love.
(Leslie Wagner-Wilson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. A review of Slavery of Faith appears here. Other reviews at Amazon.com appear here. Her complete collection of writings for the jonestown report may be found here.)