Spence: I’m proof God can do the impossible
Gina Spence believes she is visible proof that God can do the impossible. The 53-year-old was raised in foster care, physically abused, and had her first daughter at the age of 19.
She refused to become a statistic.
Ms Spence has devoted her life to championing underdogs and helping build the community. Her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. She recently received an honorary doctorate from New York’s CICA International University and Seminary for 40 years of community service.
“A lot of doors opened in my life that only God could open,” she said. “I had the opportunity to buy my own house as a single parent and put my daughters through university as a single parent. I became a senator and was able to sit in that honourable chamber without a GED. I built my own successful business and can honestly say I don’t know what it’s like to have an event and it not be sold out. That’s all due to God.”
She got interested in helping others at the age of 12 as part of a Warwick Secondary School dance group that helped to raise funds for a heart monitor for children at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.
“Right after that happened we got to visit the ward and see the children who would be benefiting from the equipment and it just showed me it wasn’t about necessarily the money we raised, but the effort we put into something together to help someone else,” she said.
Seeing an infant hooked up to the machine kept her motivated for years. As a teenager, she joined a performance group. ASDE travelled the Island highlighting hard-hitting social issues like HIV, drug abuse and teen pregnancy.
It wasn’t until years later that she developed a personal relationship with God.
“I had been through so much in my life and things had got so hard I was on the verge of suicide at one point,” she said.
“I just wanted to go and leave the planet, but God didn’t let it happen. He sent someone, as I was contemplating suicide, to visit my house. They weren’t even a Christian, but they sat down with me and talked me out of that dark space.”
The talk helped her through the moment but she continued to question God.
“I said, ‘If you’re real why do so many bad things happen? If you are real, reveal yourself to me’. And at that point he took me to a verse in scripture, Psalm 23. I read it, but thought, ‘So what? I’m still hurting. Nothing has changed in me.’ At that very moment God opened my eyes. He said to me, ‘You’re just quoting scripture, you don’t believe it. An atheist can quote scripture, but it’s only when you begin to believe that I’m God, and that I won’t leave or forsake you, that things are going to change for you’. That’s the moment I connected with God.”
It changed her life.
Ms Spence founded Gina Spence Productions in the late 1980s. Her hope was it would have as great an impact on the community as ASDE did years earlier. All went well until she decided to make it a faith-based production company.
“We discovered after we changed our name to Gina Spence Productions In Christ that a lot of people wouldn’t support faith-based events,” she said.
“We lost a lot of funding for our outreach programmes, but eventually new people came on board. A whole new crop of people just started to support us and that just showed me I’d made the right decision and God was certainly in it.
“We used to go into the prisons twice a year and one inmate actually became one of our board members. He got saved and used to deal with a lot of the recovering addicts because that was his testimony. And we began to see again and again how we had a very unique niche. The combination of arts and faith really gave us a lot of favour because people just knew us for that.”
Ms Spence said it also gave her a renewed sense of purpose.
These days when she writes a skit it’s not just about highlighting social problems, but providing people with hope.
“Now I can say, ‘I know someone who can get you through your pain and sickness and offer prayer’,” she said. “So for me that was the ‘aha’ moment. This wasn’t just about writing scripts or about myself dancing or singing.
“It’s about giving people hope and giving them an alternative to their lifestyle.”
The honorary doctorate was a pleasant surprise.
“Once someone nominates you, you have to send off all your professional certificates, awards and citations that show you achieved these things,” she said. “You have to get three reference letters from trusted persons in the community to verify it, then you have to sit an exam and go through an interview process. It took a while, but I’m very proud.”
She said she received the honour on behalf of her mom, Silvia Trott, who sacrificed a lot to raise 13 children.
It was also in honour of her Heavenly Father.