After my post on Saturday, I find Virginia Hamlin’s Reach Out story very encouraging. Notice, she and her husband served for five years. Many of the men and women they served likely stayed on the streets. But one woman grasped onto the hope of Christ and found radical transformation. As you read Virginia’s story, stop to consider Jesus’ parable of the 99 sheep. It’s easy to get so focused on the 99, we lose sight of the one. But not God. Each one of us are incredibly important to Him–dearly loved.
My husband and I were involved in our church’s compassion ministry for over five years from 2002-2007.
We helped prepare 100 meals each Sunday to feed the homeless in a local park. (We enlisted the help of other s to serve and sometimes play worship.) My husband would give a message and then we would break bread with the homeless. Yes, we would sit down at the picnic tables and get to know people. It was during one of those times that I was inexplicably drawn to a woman, Melodie, who was seated alone. We only talked briefly, but I knew God had ordained the meeting. I invited her to our home Bible study and to my joy she accepted!
I came to learn that Melodie was living in her pickup truck with a camper shell that had a hole in the roof and leaked when it rained. One particular night during our Bible study it began to rain as if the world was ending and knowing what I knew there was no way she was going to spend the night in her truck. To make a long story short, my husband and I took Melodie in based on my sharing with my husband that I believed God wanted her to live with us for a bit.
Melodie ended up living with us for over nine-months. During that period, God blessed her with a job, and my husband helped her learn how to budget. She saved her money and during those several months with us, she got medical insurance and dental work done. God also restored a strained relationship with her family on the East Coast. The most wonderful part of all of this is that she came back into relationship with her heavenly Father.
Melodie currently resides on the East Coast. She is no longer homeless. She has a place of her own. She is working full-time and was quickly promoted to a supervisory role. She is attending a local church and sees her family, nieces, and nephews on a regular basis.
I’ve included a copy of a letter she wrote to me (she told me long ago to share it whenever I was led).
“How do I thank thee, let me count the ways…?”
(Just a little paraphrasing of a very famous line.)
I started this letter this way because I couldn’t decide which “Thank You” to write first. Most people would start with the most important “thank You”, but to me they are all equally important enough to be first written or #1 at the top of the list. Even after writing this statement, I don’t know where to start.
So I will begin with telling you that I “thank God” for making me think I had hit “rock bottom” when I was so hungry that I had to swallow my pride and go to the “City Park” where I hear food was made available to the “homeless”.
That day was the day I met you and Ed for the first time. So I thank God for showing me why He let me wallow in self pity and made me swallow my pride and go to the park that day. I know now, he had been trying for months to get me there: because there was someone there he want me to meet.
After I complemented Ed on his beef Stroganoff that day, you finished serving everyone , then came over to talk to me. It was a brief conversation, more of an introduction really, so I know I didn’t reveal my situation. Yet when I left the park, I knew, that you knew what I was going through emotionally, just to be there (among the homeless).
You see, I knew about the outreach program for months, but would go because of pride. I didn’t want anyone to know that I was at this desolate place in my life. I put on this “facade” of “No Worries”, so I wouldn’t be asked questions that would make me reveal my fears or emotions.
All my life I have been a “Giver” without expectations, except for one: I expected others to know or see through the facade when I was in need and offer assistance to me. For me, to have to ask , is such and emotional turmoil of feeling like a failure that it literally makes me ill. For days, I will continually cry while awake. Exhausted from crying I will go to sleep, without eating, thus from not eating I will get sick. By the time I regain my strength, I forget what I am wallowing in self pity for and start looking for answers to my “ dilemmas” in the same old way, until I get frustrated again, I start the self pity cycle all over. Since 1975, I have been repeating this pattern over and over. (But that is another story at another time.)
Do you know what they call people who repeatedly do the same thing over and over , not changing the way they do it but expect a different outcome? “Insane!!!” I was very close to that state of mind.
Then I met you! From the first time I spoke with you I knew what an intuitive person you were. But now after only a few other conversations we’ve had, I know God has brought this lost, stubborn lamb back into His fold and has appointed You as my shepherd.
Don’t look shocked! (and close your mouth, I know it fell open when you read this last paragraph.) Don’t you see? Because of what you have been through, your trials, your struggles, your disappointments, your pride, your turning your back on God at a point in your life when you were saying, “If there is a God, why…?” All this and more I don’t know about, you have overcome through the guidance of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I don’t know if you got to the point of “giving up hope”, but that is where I was until the day I met you. God knew it! He knew I had given up hope. I ignored His pleas in the past and I believe in my heart, that He became desperate for a solution to bring me back and found hunger to be the answer. He showed me, through your own testimony, that you have been where I am now! God wants me to come to you for the guidance and knowledge I need, because He has already given you the answers. We were destined to meet. You said it yourself. “For some reasons I feel very drawn toward you”. The more I talk to you the more I am encouraged and uplifted. He wants me to have patience and to not give up hope. You may not know you are saying these things, but this is what I am hearing from Him in what you do say.
After church services tonight, I came home and went through all of the clothes you gave me. It was like Christmas! I tried everything on and everything fit. (Except the bathrobe and the two nightshirts.) In fact they fit me better than the clothes I’ve been wearing for the last four years. So I started this letter to “Thank You”(and your mother) for all the beautiful clothes you gave me. This was around 10 p.m. It is now 4 a.m. and I still haven’t thanked you.
So, “Thank You” so much for the clothes. I feel like a new person when I put them on. Please thank your mother for me and tell her I’ll send her pictures, through you , of me in her clothes.
And “Thank You” for thinking of me. “Thank you for watching out for me, “Thank You for keeping me in your prayers and “Thank you for your words of encouragement. “Thanks you for sharing your life with me. “Thank you for being a good listener, friend and confidant. And “Thank You” for keeping your promises and strengthening my trust.
God Bless you for being you, for God Blessed me when you came into my life and rescued me for His sake.
Always in Friendship, with Love in Christ,
Virginia Johnson-Hamlin is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers association and participates in two critique groups, which she also facilitates. She is an active member of her church and is involved in the church’s marriage ministry. Virginia also meets with women from the church in small groups, as well as one-on-one, to discuss women’s issues and the challenges of marriage and family life.
As an author, Virginia writes stories in hopes encouraging readers to live an abundant life, bringing honor to God, by inspiring them to pursue a Christ led lifestyle. Her novels reveal the natural consequences of the characters addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex, and pornography, which will lead them to face reality. Many will relate to the struggles portrayed by the characters in her novels and it is her hope the characters will create a bridge for discussion in real life
Virginia left her position as a public relations manager for a large southern California ambulance company to care for her mother, who was diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer in 2007.
Virginia (Ginny) Johnson-Hamlin writing as G.E. Hamlin
Once again, I want to give a shout out to all my July Reach Out Donors:
Thanks to July’s Reach Out Donors: Elaine Marie Cooper with the Road to Deer Runand the Promise of Deer Run, Sandra Robbins with Shattered Identity, Katie Ganshert with Wildflowers From Winter, JoAnn Durgin with Awakening, and Ann Lee Miller with Kicking Eternity.
Do you have a Reach Out story to share? Send it to me at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.