Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you can recall a time in your life when you were depressed and despondent. Perhaps your legs felt like you were dragging potato sacks when you walked and you felt overwhelmed… the word hopeless may have been in your thoughts.
Often when people get to this point God seems so distant and unaware. And then a friend comes along. One who prays faithfully. One who assures you that God loves you and has a plan for your life. This friend nudges and encourages. While the issues that are bringing us down are still there, they begin to seem a little less difficult to overcome because of the encouragement. The legs feel lighter. The fog begins to lift. Hope is in sight. The families we serve live lives full of brokenness. It seems there is no way out and that God is not hearing their plight and then YOU come along. You are a vessel that God uses to bring light to a world full of shadows, fear and despair. We are worshipping God when we connect with people living in the blind spots of society.
Here is Dorothy’s Story…
PAYCHECK: Some of you know Dorothy. In despair, she reached out to me a few years ago as she was in an abusive relationship. Her struggles included severe depression, paranoia and helplessness as she was being taken advantage of by her “boyfriend” of many years. Dorothy is what is known on the street as a “walking paycheck”. You immediately know she is vulnerable. It is typical that men and women simply seeing her walk on the side of the road will try to “adopt” her, promising her that they will take care of her and then siphon her check until it’s gone. That’s how Dorothy’s boyfriend came into her life. He was in control of her accounts and money as she cannot read. Bills were not being paid, constant and stressful threats of homelessness and rip-offs were daily concerns (Local Cricket employee was stealing $60 a month from her telling her that her phone was about to be disconnected).
I met Dorothy by chance while working at a food pantry. Many of us in the room were laughing and having a good time when she walked in for food assistance. Dorothy pitifully and quietly demanded to know why we were laughing at her. I reassured her that “we are simply enjoying the good things God has given us — we are not laughing at you, we are happy”!
Dorothy put her head down sullenly and said, “I want to be happy too”.
We prayed with Dorothy that day. We heard her story and dismissed most of it initially. We, just like every other organization just couldn’t believe what she was going through. It’s unbelievable that humans could be so cruel. But we stuck with her and investigated if only to console her that life was not as bad as she thought. Soon, it was clear that she was telling the truth. We worked with Dorothy in becoming independent and she even got her own housing. We cut off the Cricket employee and repeatedly wrestled with her abusers getting her back in control of her checks (her boyfriend and his mother had all of her passwords, social security info and fraudulently kept changing the check back to their address). Once the financial hurdles were taken care of Dorothy found some relief. But after a year of living independently Dorothy threw in the towel and returned to the abuser.
There were several reasons why she returned. One was that I was not a part of a “relational” organization and had limited contact with her. She was stressed out and felt alone. The other is that her former abuser promised that he had really changed this time. Dorothy thought about what he said and the timing was perfect. This 60 year old woman had just gotten out of a relationship with her next door neighbor in her apartment complex who was also taking advantage of her. He was a counselor at the local mission. Half her age, handsome, well-spoken — an addict. She was a paycheck to him and was pressuring her and other neighbors for sex. He gave her a bogus wedding ring (claiming it was a diamond) so she would give in and have sex with her. But she was beginning to catch on. She figured if her long-time boyfriend really had changed she would give him another chance. It was an opportunity to escape the new abuser and it was the only way she knew to get out. Later she would confess that she felt too much shame to come to me for help again.
Of course you know the outcome. After 2 years, Dorothy finally realized that her abuser would never change. She took a leap of faith once again and left her house where drugs were regularly used (she does not drink or use drugs) becoming homeless. She was wiser this time (had control of her accounts except her electric bill) but to the point of being so fearful and paranoid she couldn’t make good decisions. She walked the streets and slept where she could. Finally, she called me from a cheap motel out of money and resources. She was sick and the temperatures were going to be in the 20’s for the next few days. She didn’t want to be a burden… just needed a tent and warm sleeping bag.
I picked Dorothy up and took her to a doctor around 10 pm. The hospital admitted her diagnosing her with pneumonia. The hospital would be a warm place to sleep for a night and the next day we put her back into a motel where she could take her medicine and rest. Thanks to some of our volunteers we were able to fund her for 5 days. Our household had strep throat and once we were better we invited Dorothy to stay with us and continue healing physically, emotionally and spiritually. It took several days (and several people — Matt, Michelle and Zack) to break through her paranoia and pain. Once we broke through she found joy and she found power in prayer. She witnessed God working in her life. Her disability check hit and she has enough to begin living independently again.
Dorothy wanted to move to Lexington Gardens where she could be close to our family (seeing us regularly) and seeing her new friend Zack Gordon (our new ministry partner) for regular visits. She is excited to work in the community garden. She is appreciative of the help she has received.
Yesterday Dorothy said, “Your family is my family. You believed in me when no one else did. I am thankful.”
The journey continues but the difference this time is that she is among friends whose mission is to be connected. Will you connect with Dorothy? Who will take her to coffee or sit with her in conversation? Here is a list of Dorothy’s current needs (as of Wednesday night she is sleeping on a couch):
• Pots, pans, plates, silverware
• Queen bed, queen sheets, pillows, blankets
• Vacuum cleaner and broom
• Cleaning supplies
• She owes $235 for her deposit and application fee
• Food (her food stamps will be late as she will be changing her address this week)
Post by Alan Murdock