Sometimes I think I have the best job in the world. Very often, on seemingly ordinary days and in seemingly ordinary people, I get to see God at work in big ways. It is thrilling to see His handiwork, His mercy and love evident, as plain as day, in the lives of those we interact with on a daily basis. It has long been my hope to share some of their stories with you so that you can be thrilled as well by the way our God works. Many of you have come and shared in some way in our work here at Western Avenue Ministries, here is an opportunity to share in our joy.
Linda grew up dependent on welfare in the Weiler homes projects. She and her 5 siblings never really thought they were poor. Her mother made sure their lives were rich with tradition, making Thanksgiving and Christmas feasts fun and plentiful. However the combination of the absence of God and the oppression of the neighborhood took it's toll when she found herself with three little girls and married to a physically abusive husband. "It was a very dark time in my life", she says, "I didn't know anything about Domestic Violence Shelters. I thought that if I left, the violence would stop. I thought I was the problem." It was then that she made the difficult choice to leave her husband and her girls. "At the time, I felt it was my only choice, but the sadness of it made me like the walking dead."
HopelessnessIt was then that she was introduced to crack cocaine and prostitution. "I was trying to self medicate. The pain of leaving my girls was so terrible." This led to a destructive downward spiral and a second husband who was nothing but trouble, more drugs, more prostitution, but no hope.
Sometimes it is a simple, desperate prayer that makes all the difference. One night while she was getting high with a customer, he jumped on her and began choking the life out of her. She regained consciousness with a knife to her throat and him confessing to murdering a girl just like her just two days before. Her windpipe crushed, she could not scream for help, but she did cry out to God. Four simple words: "God please save me!" changed everything. Her roommate heard her struggling, got help and got the man out of there.
One simple prayer that changed a life
It took her landing in jail for change to start happening. Still unable to speak because of her crushed windpipe she pleaded with God to restore her voice. "If you give me my voice back, I will only sing your praises!" The first week she was afraid to go near the Bible study group meeting in the jail. The second week she tried to sit close by so that she could hear what was going on. By the third week she was sitting with the group, asking questions. "I didn't want to be dead anymore and I wanted to live, but not like I was living."
Released from jail and rehab, it was time to start a life free from the bondage of sin, drugs and violence and to be re-united with her daughters. "My spirit started to flicker again. Before, it was just a small ember, almost snuffed out." It was during this time her nephew Terry joined her at 6 months old. But her still addicted and violent husband made their home destructive and unstable. "This time I had the strength to break the cycle and go to a shelter. After we got out of the shelter we had only cereal to eat. My neighbor told me about a church where I could get groceries and a meal. I sat way in the back because I didn't feel like I was good enough to be there. I know now that was a lie." It was there that she once again began to ask questions about salvation. Her questions were answered when she began attending our ladies Bible Study and she then gave her life to Christ. It was the first time that she had ever heard that God could bring good out of the bad things in her past and use them to help others. "At first I was just coming for the food, then I started coming for the word."
Since then, Linda has been a vibrant part of Western Avenue Ministries. She has gone from a young woman with no voice to a beautiful testimony of God's love, at times leading worship and singing His praises. She participates in and sometimes buys the books for our ladies Bible Study and she makes sure that all 8 of her grandchildren come to church. Her most recent testimony is of God's help with her weight loss, she has gone from over 400 lbs to just under 290 pounds and is still losing!
Linda's life did not just get easy after she gave her life to God, in fact she has had many challenges (including a traumatic home invasion by armed robbers who beat her nearly to death) but one thing is very clear in Linda's life. She cannot stop telling people about what God has done for her and what He can do for them. In her cab, in the ER after her home invasion, at work in WAM's kitchen, or at Bible Study it doesn't matter. "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" is her verse and life goal. " You don't have to clean up to come to Christ," she tells people, "He cleans you up pretty good. Just look at what He has done for me. He can do the same for you."
Western Avenue Ministries now serves more than 1200 meals a week and continues to pass out groceries to needy families in Toledo's Old South End. We are looking for 100 partners to give just $25 per month to meet our monthly expenses. We just passed 50 partners! Linda is One of a Hundred. Is God calling you to be One of One Hundred? Send me an email to sign up! firstname.lastname@example.org