Saturday, August 25, 2007

The African American Joan of Arc

Juanita Bynum

Born Juanita Bynum on January 16, 1959; divorced, 1985.
Education: Saints Academy of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) high school in Lexington, Mississippi.
Religion: raised COGIC.


Author. Recorded videos include: No More Sheets; Are You Planted for the Kingdom (also available on CD); I'm Too Fat For the Yoke (also available on CD); Limp of the Lord; Now That's Dominion; The Refiner's Fire; My Delivery; The Spirit of Isaac; The Umpire of my Soul; Tied to the Altar. Wrote: No More Sheets; Don't Get off the Train. Speaker. Engagements include T.D. Jakes' Singles Conference ("No More Sheets" message), 1997; T.D. Jakes' "Woman, Thou Art Loosed!" conference, 1998; Women's Weapons of Power Conference, 2001.

Life's Work

In a time when sexuality permeates the culture, there is a woman who encourages women to find closure for previous relationships, live chaste, and be the kind of people they hope to attract. Using her own mistakes as a basis for her sermons, prophetess Juanita Bynum has dedicated herself to reaching others with a message from God, a message that offers healing and encouragement through suggesting celibacy for singles. Treading on territory where few women have ventured, Bynum has allowed herself to be God's vessel, telling her colorful story to the masses, in hopes of saving souls from following the same dark paths she once walked.

As a child in Chicago with her parents, Katherine and Thomas, and siblings Janice, Kathy, Regina, and Thomas, Bynum embraced the church as a distinct part of her life. The family were members of St. Luke Church of God in Christ, where the father was an elder.

According to Ministries Today, Bynum was an outgoing child. Her charisma became apparent to those outside her immediate realm, when she landed a starring role in her middle school's production of My Fair Lady. Her performance grabbed the attention of television show agents who wanted to cast her in programs similar to Julia, starring Diahann Carroll. Bynum's mother, however, declined the offers. "I used to make her stop playing outside and come in the house and just sit still," she told Ministries Today. "I wanted my daughter to listen to the voice of God," she added.

Though she later admitted in Ministries Today, "Every time I got on my knees I kept hearing [God] say, 'Before I knew you, I formed you in your mother's womb to be a prophet to the nations,'" she struggled in her youth to obey instructions from God. Still, Bynum had hopes of being a servant. She attended Saints Academy of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) high school in Lexington, Mississippi and graduated second in her class. Soon after her graduation, Bynum, still a teenager, began preaching at churches and revivals. Eventually, she traveled to Port Huron, Michigan, to minister for pastor William T. Nichols and his wife, and ended up on an unanticipated journey that changed the course of her life.

Choices Led to Hardship

At the age of 21 Bynum married, despite the warnings of her loved ones. "Everybody told me he wasn't right, but I was screamin', I'm in love. I can change him," she told Essence. As Bynum later found out, she could not change her husband, and she had married him for all the wrong reasons.

A virgin until her marriage, Bynum admitted in Essence, "I married for sex--and what the man looked like." Her husband left her in 1983 and divorced her in 1985. The pain of the failed relationship landed her in an institution, battling anorexia nervosa, and questioning her life's turn of events. She lost sight of God's path, and eventually sought refuge and healing in empty sexual affairs. In addition to her emotional state, her financial state crumbled. She was forced to go on welfare to survive.

Struggled to Rebuild her Life

In 1990 Bynum returned to Chicago, became a hairdresser, and managed to leave government aid behind. Her next steps led her to New York as a flight attendant for Pan American Airways, a job she held until the company went out of business in 1991. Bynum told Essence that friends believed the fate of Pan Am was God's way of telling her that she was supposed to be a preacher. "I knew God was saying that this was my destiny, but I didn't want to hear it."

In New York, Bynum joined a new church and began ministering again. In 1996 she met a man who would prove to be a key figure in her transformation into a renowned prophetess. Though he knew nothing of her story, Pentecostal evangelist Bishop T.D. Jakes invited her to the singles' conference in Dallas--a step that, according to Essence, was the result of his obedience to God's instruction.

Life Story Became Testimony to Singles

Jakes' obedience turned out to be the stepping stone for Bynum's explosive break into national popularity, when two years after attending the singles' conference, Bynum's role changed from attendee to keynote speaker. In 1998 she delivered a message titled "No More Sheets" to 17,000 people, the majority women, and brought the crowd to their feet with praise and deliverance.

"No More Sheets" proved to be a testimony of Bynum's sexual deviation and her process of purification. She reached out to the crowd with brutal honesty, honing in on the concept that "single" is not synonymous with unmarried; instead "single" refers to those who are free from the remnants of past relationships. "In order for God to bring somebody else in your life, there's got to be room for that person in your life. You're not single yet," she told the crowd. "You're still attached."

Wrapped in sheets, Bynum explained that each sheet represented a past relationship and only God could peel those layers away in order to make people truly single--ready to receive their ordained mates. She shared a story of poverty that placed her in roach-infested projects, using McDonald's napkins as toilet paper. Bynum told the crowd that by allowing her to struggle, God was reconditioning her to release her dependence on men and embrace her dependence on Him. It was a sacrifice that she made in order to be blessed.

Bynum told Essence that when she was on stage, her message had a life of its own. "It wasn't me--it was God." By end of the video, the camera captured thousands in a moment of spiritual awakening, chanting, "No More Sheets! No More Sheets!"

Bynum's endeavors have taken her across the country to deliver her untraditional message to the masses at numerous venues including Jakes' 1998 "Woman, Thou Art Loosed!" conference. With her popularity came the conception of Morning Glory Ministries, a venue that allows people to find out exactly where Bynum will be delivering messages and to obtain information about the prophetess. Videotapes like the now famous, "No More Sheets," and other tapings like "I'm Too Fat for the Yoke" and "The Limp of the Lord," as well as books including Don't Get Off The Train, which was written about her experiences in Port Huron, are available for purchase through the ministry. Her lessons are also available through her ministry's television program, Morning Glory, which according to Ministries Today, was airing on 15 television stations throughout the country in 1999.

Despite the great success Bynum has found in ministry, her fulfillment comes from one-on-one contact with people. "I really love people," she was quoted as saying in Ministries Today. "My biggest joy is the individual contact I have with them." In fact, when she isn't traveling, she runs a bible institution training ministry at her church, New Greater Bethel Ministries in Hempstead, New York.

Bynum is constantly reminded of the rough days from which strength arose, and told Essence that the memories are still a great part of her existence. "If I close my eyes right now, I can see myself in the snow, wearing a black $2 coat and tennis shoes with no socks, waiting to get my $76 in food stamps. I can see myself in the hospital after my nervous breakdown, crying and throwing myself against the walls of the padded cell they put me in. When I remember the process it took to get myself from there to where I am today--and then I see a sister with no hope--I'm driven to get to that sister. I believe that the pain in each of our pasts gives us an opportunity to help others. If I honestly tell somebody what has happened to me, then maybe that person will be transformed."

From the pages of her electronic guestbook on, it appears that her mission to help others make a transformation is working. One message was just one of many that speaks to miraculous change. It read, "Sister Bynum, I want to thank God for you. I just read No More Sheets and I can't begin to tell you it has changed my life. I thought I knew, but am now aware that I knew nothing. Everything is so clear to me now. I can't explain how your book has changed me... If it weren't for you and your message, I would still be lost... .I can proudly say no more sheets for me and I love you so much for what you have given me."

While Bynum has touched the hearts and souls of many, she is still cognizant of life's little lessons. In fact she found one in her dog, Corky. According to her website,, Bynum purchased the red-pepper poodle at a time when her heart was heavy. "The Lord explained to me that the dog was feeling what I was feeling, which was rejection. He said the poodle is thinking: What's the use in going to the window and barking? She's not going to choose me anyway," she was quoted as saying.

Bynum did choose Corky. Something as small as reaching out to this dog quite possibly brought healing to both Bynum and Corky. Those who truly believe in God's wonders have testified that He works in mysterious ways. An example of his mystery, Bynum is on fire for the Lord, and she intends to do His work until the flame is extinguished.

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