I guess it all began in a government housing project in the small town of Lilbourn, Missouri. One night, Momma and Daddy piled into the back of a pickup truck sent into the projects by the local Pentecostal preacher Ernest Jenning Kerr, father of Sister Mickey Godair. The truck—full of migrant workers, farmhands, and their families—headed for a tent revival. Daddy, the handsome square dance caller, received the Holy Ghost the first night, but it took Momma a bit longer.
You see, Momma was a different sort of woman. While Daddy was quite a looker and of a kind nature, Momma was the complete opposite. She was older than Daddy, larger than him, and had a temper. She was pregnant with me at the time they started going to church, and I was born in Project #13, the tiny government rental. New to the church, Momma decided to name me “Micki” after the preacher’s daughter, “the prettiest girl she ever saw.”
You might assume Momma would be excited about finally having a healthy baby girl, but that was not the case. She already had four boys, and those days were hard. Daddy made very little money following the harvests from city to city as a sharecropper, and having yet another “mouth to feed” was a great irritation to Momma—and she never hesitated to let me know it.
When I was six years old, we moved to the small town of Windfall, Indiana, so Daddy could work in the steel mill. It was the first time they had enough money to pay their bills, but they were worried because the little town didn’t have a church. Daddy prayed and tried a few denominational churches (even got kicked out of one because Momma spoke in tongues too loud) before he felt led to begin a small weekly Bible study in our home. It wasn’t long before we had quite a group of people. Daddy wasn’t a preacher, so he called Brother Lester McGruder and asked if he would come be our pastor. That little Windfall church grew into quite a revival place that sent out many missionaries, evangelists, and preachers.
Yet, even though Daddy served as the Sunday school superintendent and Momma was a very faithful member of the church, there was a deep anger inside her that she seemed to direct toward me. I often heard, “Micki, you ain’t worth the salt that goes in your bread.”
I remember the real beatings started at about age four. The cycle was vicious. I developed a nervous stomach and vomited almost daily. She knew the vomiting interfered with my school work, so she threatened more beatings on the days I vomited, which in turn made me vomit all the more. She would accuse the school teachers of teaching us evil things. We weren’t allowed to go to the library or check out a book. If she saw me studying or reading, her favorite line was, “What you tryin’ to be, an educated fool?”
Today, Momma probably could have gotten some help, maybe even a medical diagnosis, but back then you just didn’t talk about those things. One minute we would be shopping, laughing, and having a good time, but the next she could turn on a dime and enter into a rage if something was said or done that displeased her.
In Windfall, Daddy finally made good money. On payday, everyone in the household, including my adult brothers, turned their paychecks over to Momma and she would divvy up the spending money. She always wanted me to look nice so every payday she would take me to town to buy a new outfit. One day we were in the car together laughing hard about something and I casually said, “Oh, Momma! You’re crazy!” Immediately, I knew I had messed up. She turned to face me, her eyes glaring a hole through my new top. “So? That’s what you think of me, huh? I’m crazy!” I knew better than to defend myself, lest it be labeled “sassing.” When we got home, the belt came off the hook in the bedroom and found its way to my back.
My haven was the church, my accordion, the keyboard—any musical instrument, really. Thankfully, God had given me a gift. The gift of music. At age eight, I could pretty well carry a church service. I deeply loved and respected my pastor’s wife, Sister Fanny McGruder, and I had no idea what trouble Momma caused her and Brother McGruder. Yet, she loved me, mentored me, and let me travel with them to revivals and fellowship meetings to play for them.
Honestly, I didn’t speak about my Momma for a while. I really felt like she had some sort of medical issue that was never diagnosed, and I didn’t want to dishonor her. But, a few years ago at a General Conference, God gave me the words, and I have been sharing my story ever since. My husband rescued me at just eighteen. He had no idea the psychological and physical scars I carried from the years of abuse. But, we made it. Through prayer—long nights with our hands clasped together across the bed—through fasting, through tears, and through love, somehow the nightmares ceased. The panic subsided. I came to understand. It was Momma’s problem, her anger, her cross to bear—not mine. I could raise great kids. I could have a happy home. I could be what God called me to be.
It’s a wonderful life!
Writtten by: Micki Mooney. She is the wife of Paul D. Mooney, assistant general superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International Eastern Zone. She is the first lady of Calvary Tabernacle and Indiana Bible College (IBC), Indianapolis, Indiana. She teaches and serves as a counselor at IBC, travels extensively, and is an encouraging mentor and speaker. Sister Mooney is the mother of three children and grandmother of nine.