In 2008, when she was 52 years old, Phyllis Jenkins was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism. The potentially life-threatening blood clots in both of her lungs were a wake-up call for the Plano, Texas, woman.
“I remember the doctor coming into my room to tell me I was lucky to be alive because the patient in the next room was not going to make it,” she explained. “I left the hospital five days later thanking God for saving me, but asking Him this question: ‘You took the other woman, but left me here. What more do you have for me to do during my time on earth?”
For two years, Phyllis searched for what she calls her “God assignment,” a specific purpose given by God that she was ideally created to fill. After much soul searching and many conversations with God, Phyllis realized she had been looking for her purpose in the wrong place.
“I had always been looking outward for that purpose when I should have turned my focus inward,” she explained. “Ever since childhood, I have been an encourager. I loved to write and kept a journal of things I learned. But, I also loved to read, especially stories about people who had overcome obstacles.”
Phyllis launched the Powerful Journey organization to help people, primarily women, turn their life challenges into life-changing messages of hope, inspiration and encouragement. After coming through their ordeal, now they could thrive by helping people through similar situations. When others hear about those struggles, they realize they are not alone and there is someone who understands what they’re experiencing, and can help them navigate through the turbulence.
Understanding your God assignment
As soon as she discovered a new purpose for her life, Phyllis moved right into it. Although she had been engaged in a lot of good and productive activities, they did not pertain to her assignment. So, she pushed them aside to spend time focusing on her new mission.
For two years, Phyllis kept asking God for more details of the assignment. As soon as she would complete one step, she’d be given another. That could have been to protect her from being overwhelmed by the enormity of her mission, or seeing her ultimate destination and allowing fear to derail her.
Phyllis had worked as an elementary school library aide and librarian for many years and loved helping children not only learn how to read, but to fall in love with reading themselves. She knew her assignment was from God because it tapped into something Phyllis loved to do, it utilized her natural talent, and allowed her to apply skills she’s learned along her own journey.
Best of all, the experiences Phyllis had throughout her life seemed to be nudging her toward the climatic God assignment.
The Bible explains, in Psalms 139:16, that God ordains all the experiences we would endure, both good and bad, before we are even born. Phyllis realizes those experiences serve a purpose to either help us grow, make us stronger or draw us closer to God. With Powerful Journey, she’s helping others identify and pursue their own God assignments.
Once Phyllis understood what her assignment was, she did not seek confirmation from anyone else. She had heard from God and that was all the permission she needed to move forward.
“If we share our dreams with the wrong people, they can talk us out of pursuing those dreams,” she explained. “Dream stealers aren’t always mean-spirited. Many times they want to save us from pain or potential failure. But, they don’t see or hear what God tells us, nor do they understand how our dreams fits into God’s plan.”
Phyllis did share her plans with her husband, Dave. However, throughout their 45 years of marriage, he has been steadfastly supportive of whatever God told her to do.
Powerful Journey women’s conference
When Phyllis felt called to develop the first Powerful Journey women’s conference, surprisingly, God sent her back to her hometown of Shreveport, La.
“I was nervous, but joyful at the same time. I had not lived there since I graduated from high school decades earlier. Therefore, I wondered if anybody would show up. But, I was obedient,” Phyllis explained. “A total of 70 women showed up and that sparked many other conferences around the country.”
While getting ready for a conference, Phyllis likes to give back to the community she’s visiting. In Shreveport, she partnered with a homeless shelter. Conference participants brought items the shelter would need, and the shelter transported a van of residents to the meetings.
The conferences serve a dual purpose. First, to empower others to share their stories and, second, to identify new clients who need help writing a book and developing a business platform. Since starting Powerful Journey, Phyllis has aided 49 new authors in publishing their own books, 12 in the last year alone.
“It is the best feeling to watch clients share their stories. It’s their weekend to shine and it blesses my heart to see them taking their stories to the stage, and interacting with other attendees at book signing events,” she explained. “We should not take our stories to the grave. Rather, we should take our stories to the stage.
“Everyone has a story, and that story is not for us. It is for us to tell others so they realize they are not the only people going through whatever that situation is,” said Phyllis. “Any lessons people learn from our own stories can become a lifeline for others who need it.”
Sometimes people who attended a Powerful Journey women’s conference in the past, just to support someone else who wanted to participate, wound up wanting to share their own stories after God spoke to their hearts.
Phyllis typically puts on one conference a year in Texas, which brings in dozens of new authors. However, as word spreads of the powerful impact those meetings have on participants, Phyllis is being invited to set up conferences in other cities across America. She has even introduced the Powerful Journey to a church in Paris.
Building a brand around a story
A lot of organizations help authors write and self-publish books. However, Phyllis wants clients to go far beyond simply writing books. She helps them develop entire brands around lessons found in their books.
“In our Next Steps program, we help our authors develop a website, email system, podcast, educational course or whatever else they need to take their messages to a wider audience,” she said. “Some of my clients want to put on workshops and conferences themselves. One author is turning her book into a movie. It is just a blessing to watch how God helps them overcome their fears in order to flourish.”
Because Phyllis invests so much time helping her clients succeed, they must complete an application process in order to be accepted into the Powerful Journey program.
“The only people I turn away are those who are still in the middle of their story. If you haven’t become victorious over the situation, you really can’t help someone else to do so,” she explained. “If someone is still struggling or hurting in a particular situation, then I ask him or her to wait until God brings them through to the other side. In the end, their messages about overcoming are much more powerful and inspirational.”
Once accepted into the program, Phyllis creates a blueprint for clients to follow. They not only have to share their stories, but be able to describe lessons learned so they can teach them to others.
“I don’t want my authors to just stand on stage recalling their personal stories. I want them to speak in a way that makes others in the audience better than they were before coming in the door,” she said.
With a solid story, effective blueprint for growth and personalized lessons in hand, Phyllis’ clients are able to develop self-sustaining platforms to help others heal and grow themselves.
For example, a woman named Fran shared her story about becoming a widow at an early stage in her marriage and raising three young children by herself. She talked about difficulties she encountered and how God brought her through that challenging time. During lunch, a woman in the audience approached Fran to explain that she, too, was struggling in the same way and had even contemplated suicide.
Fran connected with the woman outside of the conference and became a supportive resource to help the young widow move on with her life. Today, that woman is flourishing, too, Phyllis explained.
The key to growth
The best decision Phyllis made to help her grow personally and professionally was to surround herself with others who were already successful or wanted to develop platforms themselves. She joined several mastermind groups which not only provided the technical expertise she needed to launch a website and a podcast, but also establish a network of emotional support she needed to walk through the valleys. She took a few courses as well.
“I wholeheartedly believe in investing in myself,” she explained. “I can’t ask others to invest in themselves by joining my Writers’ Journey group, Authors Academy or any of the other programs I offer if I am not working to make myself better at the same time.”
Phyllis gives back part of her income to her community in ways that help others become stronger. One way is by funding two scholarships:
- The Madian Chumbley Scholarship is awarded to a single mother of a special needs child. It is named after a former educator in Collin County, Texas, who worked with special needs children.
- The Mildred Ida Byrd Pugh Scholarship is awarded to a graduating high school senior. It is named after a former trailblazing educator in Shreveport, La., who had a heart for helping students extend their education.
At each conference, or whenever Phyllis is invited to speak, she describes the scholarships and gives others an opportunity to contribute. As a result, strangers have approached Phyllis to make donations which enhance the scholarship program. One woman and her husband donated $10,000 to help single mothers.
Coming to faith
Phyllis became a Christian as a young child, but her father didn’t make it easy. A Baptist minister himself, they were attending a revival at their church when people were given an opportunity to come forward to publicly accept Christ into their lives.
“All my friends around me were going toward the altar. My sister and I looked at each other and also got up to walk down the aisle,” Phyllis explained. “But my father followed us and asked why we decided to come forward. When we couldn’t really tell him, he told us to go back and sit down.
“That meeting took place on a Wednesday evening. By Friday, we knew what salvation was all about and what it meant for us,” she added. “The next time we heard an invitation to come to the altar, we were able to go up front and explain why we wanted to be saved.
“My daddy was an amazing man who pastored a church for 32 years. Every Saturday night, my sister and I had to read our Sunday school lessons before we could watch television or do anything else. Then, one at a time, each of us had to sit with daddy and explain what the lesson was all about and, more importantly, what we learned from it,” said Phyllis.
When she started the Powerful Journey organization, Phyllis was still working full-time as a school librarian.
“There were many nights I was still up at 2 a.m. working on my plan for Powerful Journey. But, because I knew it was my God assignment, I was actually energized by it rather than feeling worn out,” she explained. “But, I stuck with it. When I left my librarian position, it was like taking the Powerful Journey organization from the service road onto the freeway.”
Phyllis couldn’t really teach others to share their stories without writing a book of her own. In fact, she has published seven books, including:
- Share Jesus Journal – Phyllis interviewed other people about their journey to faith, and published their stories in a way people could read them and journal about their own life experiences in that area.
- Just Finish It! – A story about how God transformed Phyllis from a big procrastinator into someone who routinely finishes what she starts. The book encourages people to take action now and celebrate their big wins along the path to complete projects, goals or embark on God assignments.
- From Vision-2-Victory: 26 Successful Strategies to Take your Visions and Dreams to Victory – Phyllis invited 25 other women to share stories about their struggles, what held them back and how they eventually achieved victory.
- Brain Aneurysm: What Did You Come to Teach Me? – A record of conversations Phyllis had with God while going through that difficult period in her life. He certainly taught her some lessons that anyone could apply to challenging situations.
- The Librarian’s Missing Voice – Phyllis cowrote the book with her then 7-year-old grandson. It’s about a young boy who is determined to help a librarian find her missing voice by following clues that lead to greater misunderstandings. It helps children understand homophones, or two words that sound the same, but have very different meanings, such as “night” and “knight.”
- Telling Our Stories: An Anthology of Faith – Currently a two-volume set, Phyllis condenses the true stories of some of her clients who have overcome shocking difficulties, but walked away in personal triumph.
Many of Phyllis’ books are available on Amazon.com.
Giving voice to authors
Phyllis’ organization offers several programs to help authors find their voice and boldly declare their messages and life lessons.
During this 10-month program, Phyllis meets with a small group of authors monthly via Zoom. The sessions guide aspiring writers through the writing, publishing and marketing processes to ensure they have the tools and knowledge to create a successful book. The group also provides accountability to keep writers on track.
The goal is to help people write and publish a book in a year, and then prepare to teach important lessons from the stage at the next Powerful Journey conference.
Enrollment in the academy requires a tuition fee.
Designed exclusively for women, this program offers weekly Zoom training sessions with experts, access to a training library, writing sprint sessions, accountability, and a supportive community of like-minded individuals. It is favored by people who may not need an intensive program to help them write.
The community includes a “writer’s sanctuary,” where people carve out time in their schedules to come together to talk about what they want to write about or get ideas to help them get unstuck in advancing their story. Then the writers go off-screen to complete their writing in a 30-minute sprint before coming back to share their progress.
Membership in the community is on a month-by-month basis for as long as a writer gets value from being in the mastermind group.
Adopted from Brian Moran’s book, The 12 Week Year, this program is for people looking for help in setting personal goals and developing a blueprint to achieve them will find this self-directed course to be valuable.
Participants are guided to set achievable and measurable personal goals and develop the habits and skills needed to achieve them.
Every week, Phyllis interviews courageous women who have turned pain into passion, tragedies into triumphs and scars into stars. Their stories leave listeners lifted-up, fired-up and fueled-up with hope, courage and inspiration.
By hearing the women’s stories as well as lessons they teach during the 30- to 45-minute podcasts, listeners can walk away with actionable strategies and advice to apply in their personal and business life.
For information about any of the Powerful Journey programs, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Phyllis is happy to provide a complimentary consultation to help women determine which program would be best to utilize and how to take the essential first step toward pursuing their God assignments.
Although Phyllis said she had no regrets in the way she launched the Powerful Journey organization, she admits she wish she had moved faster toward that objective.
“I always wish I had known more about the entrepreneurial life even before I went to college,” she explained. “Neither of my parents or grandparents were entrepreneurs. As children, we were taught to get an education and find a job working from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If I had known more about being an entrepreneur, I would have gone into business for myself many years earlier.”
To overcome that problem, Phyllis and her husband attended a three-day small business boot camp put on by a millionaire business mentor, Marshawn Evans Daniels, in Atlanta. During that seminar, God stirred an entrepreneurial spirit within her and showed her a business idea to help others turn their pain into purpose.
“I wanted a business name that used my initials, so I wrote down P and J and looked for words that started with those letters,” she explained. “After many iterations, Powerful Journey was born out of that event. I came back with a huge playbook of things to implement in jump-starting my own business.
“My husband is a relationship coach himself, so we are always working on making our marriage even stronger,” said Phyllis. “Every year around our anniversary, we would check into a hotel and share our dreams and goals for the coming year. Then we’d figure out how to support each other’s goals. Not only did we know where our spouse was heading, we were committed to helping him or her achieve those goals.
“I strongly encourage people over 50 to adopt a mindset that their latter days will be their better days,” she added. “Don’t just think that you’re done when you reach a certain age. Don’t be afraid to dream new dreams or to ask God to reveal new visions and goals for your life.
“When you hear from God, then don’t let anyone or anything stop you. Never let anyone say you’re too old to do something you feel called to do,” said Phyllis. “I’m a firm believer in thinking that if I’ve still alive, then God is not done with me. I am to continue doing what he created me and called me to do.”
To connect with Phyllis, visit her blog at www.phyllisjenkins.com or email her at email@example.com. You can also find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/phyllis.byrdjenkins. Her PowerLift Stories podcast can be found at www.youtube.com/phyllisjenkins.
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.