"Preach the gospel at all times, if necessary use words." - St. Francis of Assisi

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Hey, Mr. Jimmy. This is Tonya"

"Hey, Mr. Jimmy. This is Tonya.”

This was my introduction to a lady almost a year ago that would prove to teach me much about determination, strength and character.

“I just got laid off my job and need just a few dollars to pay my phone bill this month. I really hate to ask, but I really need just this little bit until I can get work.”

Everyday in my job I deal with people who need assistance for various and sundry things. Rent, utilities, clothes, gasoline, food, somewhere to live, a job, medical care and almost everything that we take for granted in our daily lives. We try to help out as best we can, as do other churches and agencies, but funds are short and the needs are great.

As I talked and helped with Tonya more and more over the past year, her story unfolded to me and I realized this lady had more life than most folks I know. She has no transportation, so she rides a bike everywhere she goes; and I mean everywhere. From the McDonough Square up Hwy 155 to the East Lake area to try and find work and then back again. She had a serious drug and alcohol problem until four years ago when she got herself clean, but her face shows the harsh scars of knife fights and beatings during that period of her life. Her priority is to remain clean, and find a long-term job so she can take care of herself without asking for more help.

As the year passed, Tonya and I spoke of her broken family, of her problems in the past and her efforts to get a break in life. I rarely spoke to her about the need of God’s place in her heart because she needed some physical food and shelter before she could begin to understand about God’s Love and provision. She could not relate to a loving Heavenly Father when all she had known in her earthly life had been verbal and physical abuse, crime and isolation. Perhaps I was wrong, but I felt she needed more at the moment than spiritual talk when her stomach was growling and she still had a seven-mile trip on a bicycle to get home. But, each time we talked, we would have a prayer.

Last week, Tonya showed up at my office beaming as she excitedly told me that she was leaving her man and moving to a shelter where they would help her stay clean, find her a job and set her up in an apartment when she was ready to be on her own. All she had on her bike was a paper bag with some clothes and a couple pictures. She spoke sadly of leaving her house and belongings, but was thrilled at the anticipation of a brand new start in her life. Her smile and the glistening tears on her cheeks made the knife scars invisible and I saw a true child of God standing there waiting for a new life. She said that she knew God was working in her life and she was ready to finally listen. We were all crying as we walked her out the door to her bicycle where she put a new Bible we gave her into her basket and rode off to start a new life.

She promised to keep in touch, but we all know how that goes. What I do know is that a lady named Tonya entered my life last year needing assistance and she gave far more to me than I ever provided for her.

“Then Jesus said, if you have provided for any of My Children, then you have provided for Me.” (Matthew 25:40)

And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.