Jala Ridgard doesn’t look a day over 26 years or so. She is warm, youthful, practical, and generous, with a beautiful, easy smile befitting her personality. Maybe it is the love of her adoring, easy-going husband, Wade Ridgard, and the birth of her 8 biological children that keep the 36-year-old looking so young. Family and Faith Magazine was eager to get to know Jala, Wade, and the bounteous Ridgard clan, so we took the trek up the cool, misty hills of Irish Town, St. Andrew to sit, sup, and share in their lives on a beautiful Sunday afternoon after church.
Jala and Wade have been married for 10 ½ years and during that time they have been blessed with not 1, not 2, not 4, but 8 beautiful children: Isa, aged 9; Hannah, 8; Seth, 7; Luke, 6; Grace, 4;Nailah, 3; Samuel, 20 months; and 2-month-old daughter, Hope. Today’s modern family oftentimes wouldn’t willingly have more than 2 or 3 children, much more 8, but the Ridgards maintain that their lives are ‘not their own’ but rather are submitted and surrendered to Christ, even as it concerns the very personal and sensitive subject of reproduction.
Jala, who is from Kingston, and Wade, from St. Ann, met in 2003 through a shared passion for outreach and volunteerism. Through a conspiring of Wade’s father and a suggestion from Jala’s mother, the two eventually had the opportunity to interact. They were increasingly drawn to each other and became solid friends before ultimately tying the knot in 2004.
“I found that in spite of the fact that at the time I had this commitment to the Lord (to be alone for 2 years) I felt drawn to her instinctively,” shared Wade. Continuing, he explained that “we started seeing each other randomly. (For example) my brother was getting ready for his best friend’s wedding and he would just say ‘Wade let’s go to town.’In the middle of the week, I would go to Boulevard Shopping Centre and Jala would be there, or we are coming for a conference at the (then) Hilton Hotel and Jala shows up there.” With Wade living in St. Ann and Jala in Kingston,all of these interactions were unplanned. “I became convinced that God was setting us up and creating opportunities for us to talk and to get to know each other,” expressed the doting husband and father.
Surrendering Her Reproductive Capabilities
Coming from families with siblings, both Wade and Jala expected to have children and to build a happy home together. Before they wed,Wade joked with Jala about having as many as 12 children, but the two eventually settled on 4. However, it seems that God had bigger plans for the young lovers. In the early days of their marriage they embarked on a 40-day fast with family friends. Jala shared that during that time the Lord spoke to her about reproduction.
“After we had devotions with them, I heard the Lord say that I want you to surrender your reproductive capabilities to me,”explained the mother of 8 children. “I didn’t know that it would lead us here, but my answer was yes,” she declared.
Her apparent obedience notwithstanding, Jala didn’t immediately stop taking oral contraception, the birth control method she used at the time. It was after learning more about how the pill workedand its negative effects that she eventually stopped taking it.
Asked if she is going to stop at 8 or continue having more children, Jala says she hopes she has the courage to continue to obey. “You commit to living a lifetime as a Christian, you commit to doing whatever the Lord asks you to do, but daily you still have to walk it out. It is like every day you have to make that decision again and again. I guess my answer is that I hope I have the courage to obey Him all the days of my life,” she said humbly.
Her husband is also committed to their chosen path even though at first he questioned if Jala had really heard from the Lord. “At first when she said it to me,I actually doubted that she had heard from the Lord…Yes I wanted children but I wanted to ensure that when the children started coming our relationship was solid and we were prepared in other ways, as well financially and stuff,” he told Family and Faith Magazine.
Wade truly struggled with giving up complete control to God but eventually rested in God’s will. Theoretically, he says, he always knew he didn’t belong to himself but to God and therefore had to obey what he believes the Lord had called him and Jala to do. Ultimately Wade started to learn that living what you believe takes real courage.
“Walking this out was revealing to me how little I really believed it and practiced it.So every time I would be tempted to gripe or complain about how things were working out, how quickly the children were coming, having to deal with the criticisms, the cynical remarks and stuff, every time I try to argue with God about it, or try to get some scheme to regain control, I would hit up on this brick wall, that basically I am a servant and I don’t have the right to my own will,” he confessed.
‘Happy is the man who has his quiver full’
Asked how he feels about having his 8thchild in January 2015, Wade says, “Great! My only concern was that Jala would be ok and once I saw that she is ok, I’m fine.” The courageous couple welcomed each of their 8 children through normal,uncomplicated births with typical labour pains.They are now reaping the fruit of a bounteous family.
Of course, this is not how some view the idea of having more than 2 or 3 children. The family has endured criticism for their choices but they maintain that children are a blessing from the Lord.
“For a non-believer, I get it; my life doesn’t need to make sense to you and it shouldn’t because this walk is with someone they don’t know,” shared Jala. “But for the believer, for me, it is ‘Whose report will you believe?’From Genesis to Revelation, He is saying again and again, children are a blessing, children are the heritage of the Lord. The person is happy who has many, happy is the man who has his quiver full. So He is constantly saying having children is a good thing.So for me, everything points to the fact that children are a blessing and if we really truly believe that, how then can we limit it, because we don’t limit it with anything else that we call a blessing?” she reasoned.
God has shown His ability to provide in so many ways
Raising children in any economy these days can be a serious challenge but the Ridgards declare that God has proven Himself to be their provider again and again. A project manager at Fusion West Indies (a youth outreach ministry), Wade testifies that “God has shown His ability to provide in so many ways.” For instance, while living in Moneague the family was struggling, but after much prayer, Wade says “the Lord spoke to me and said I am going to send you back to Kingston because that is where I have provided support for you.” A few weeks later, he received an unexpected job offer and the family moved to Kingston.
In terms of education, the couple decided to homeschool their happy bunch. Wade, being the more philosophical one, was very attracted to the idea of homeschooling from the get-go, while Jala, the pragmatist, was more focused on the economics.
Initially,“I didn’t want to homeschool,” she admitted. “They go to school, I wave goodbye and I have my day free. I have enough to think about when they come back home. But by that time we had started to feel the financial pinch in 2007 with the financial crisis, so from an economic side it made sense,” explained the practical mother who has the awesome responsibility of planning lessons and teaching the school-aged children. After teaching for quite a while, Jala is now completely passionate about it. “I’m passionate about the results and the good things that come out of doing it myself,” said the university graduate. Jala says she will continue homeschooling for as long as she is successful at it.
Empowerment is making choices with Godly wisdom
Family and Faith Magazine wanted to glean from Jala what she believes empowerment means for today’s woman: “Empowerment is the freedom to be weak, when we really are. We can’t do it all, it is a lie.You can’t do the super career woman, the super mom, super wife and still be sane; it is not possible. I think wehave to make choices and I think empowerment is the ability to make those choices with godly wisdom and stand by it with every breath that you have.”Asked whether each woman should surrender her reproductive capabilities to God, Jala says, “I think we are called to surrender every part of our being to Him; I think we are called to surrender our whole being to Him, bar none.”
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