Jessica Vega had given it everything she had. She was stretched beyond her limits studying for class, working and raising her young daughter on her own. It felt like she couldn't do any of them as well as she wanted.
When a teacher passed her anatomy and physiology test back, her feelings were confirmed. Vega hung her head. When a classmate asked how she did, she mumbled, "I did horrible."
They were the best words Vega could have spoken. The classmate sensed Vega needed help and told her about a program she was in – Buckner Family Pathways in Lubbock, Texas. Maybe Buckner could help Vega as well.
Soon, Vega visited the campus. The ministry amazed her. Buckner provided a place for single-parent families to live and helped with child care so parents could attend college. It was a program seemingly tailor made for her.
“They had openings,” she said. “That’s so rare. It must have been the right moment.”
Vega and her daughter, Thalia, entered the program – then called My Father’s House Lubbock – and quickly settled in. Thalia loved having children around to play with. Vega connected with other women in the Family Pathways program and was heartened to see people overcoming similar lifestyle mistakes as she had made.
Buckner provided the encouragement Vega craved as well as the structure she discovered she needed. Sharion Stephens, director of Family Pathways in Lubbock, bonded with Vega, built her up and held her accountable to the ministry’s rules.
From their first visit, Vega expressed an interest in connecting with God. Stephens and Vega regularly read the Bible together, discussing what Scripture says about God’s feelings toward her versus how she felt about herself. Vega built a solid foundation of spiritual truth that changed the way she viewed herself.
“I try to teach Family Pathways residents to go to God and God’s word for encouragement,” Stephens said. “I don’t want them to be dependent on me for that. I think everyone has a deep hole in their heart that isn’t filled by education or finances. It’s filled by a relationship with God.”
That first encounter set the stage for a special relationship.
“Sharion’s like another mom,” Vega said. “At times, I’d wonder why she’s up in my business. But then I knew she wanted what’s best for me. She taught me self-respect. She taught me budgeting. She got me in touch with my spiritual side. We read the Bible together. She got me straightened out in a number of ways.”
Vega pursued a nursing degree at South Plains College in Levelland, successfully completing class after class. Her life was improving. Thalia began calling Family Pathways “home” as she made friends.
“She went from being this shy, quiet, introvert to being very confident and knowing what she wanted,” Stephens said.
Then Vega hit a roadblock in the form of a test required for a nursing degree. She tried multiple times and studied hard but fell short each time. Realizing she could not complete the degree, she contemplated dropping out of school and the Family Pathways program.
“I felt like a failure,” she said. “I felt like I let everyone down, even Buckner.”
Stephens and Vega prayed through the situation. Stephens encouraged Vega to continue in school. Vega discovered she only lacked a few classes to earn an associate degree in science, so she changed her major.
“I wouldn’t give up on her, and I wouldn’t let her give up on herself,” Stephens said. “I knew God hadn’t given up on her.”
Vega graduated from South Plains College in 2015. She was the first person in her Family Pathways class to find a job as well. She’s a lab technician where she can use the knowledge she learned in her nursing classes. She’s purchased a house and recently a puppy. In March, she married.
Her life is completely different than when she entered Family Pathways. Because she is a completely different person.
“Buckner means a lot to me,” Vega said. “They gave me another shot at life. When I first entered My Father’s House, I really didn’t think much of myself. Today, I feel much more accomplished as a person, a woman and a mom.”