A couple of weeks ago I received a phone call from Kristen telling me that a lady was sitting under our All Saints Lutheran Church sign holding a small cardboard sign that said simply “Hungry”. A neighbor of All Saints had just called and said, “Don’t you have a food pantry?” to which Kristen said, “Yes, and that we would help her.”
Craig and I drove to All Saints and as he was getting a box of food ready I approached this lady. She had just been given a plate of chicken and rice from the neighbor who had called and she was intent on eating it. I introduced myself and asked how she was. Her name was Bonita and she had taken the bus as far as the corner of Jersey Ridge and 53rd Street. She got off with her sign and a cane and a small cart on wheels. She said when she saw the All Saints sign and that she could sit on the concrete surround she knew this was the place. Her face was sad, etched in lines, her hair was long and unkempt and she had a nice smile even though she had many missing teeth. I told her to finish her plate of food and then come to the food pantry and we would give her a box of food.
Craig had made the box but the fact that she could barely walk and only had a small cart it was obvious that she would not be able to get this box of food home. She slowly walked across the parking lot and we told her that if she wanted us to we would take her home. As we drove her home we listened to her story. She said she gets $700.00 a month assistance, her rent is $500.00 and her utilities for July were $130.00. Do the math. That leaves $70.00 a month for everything else. She told us it took her four days to make her little cardboard sign that said “Hungry” because every time she worked on it she cried and cried. She told us that when her little Yorkie (Jamison) who obviously meant the world to her, didn’t have food either she knew it was time to ask for help.
I asked if she had family, someone that could help her. She said she had a son who lives in Rock Island but has special needs. That was it. I asked her what her plan was. With tears streaming down her face she said, “To survive.” We took her to her apartment behind Menards in Americana Park. She had stairs to walk up and the apartment hallway was dark, dirty and smelled badly. You could hear “Jamison” barking excitedly at her door. Her apartment was small, but taken care of. She looked up at Craig and asked, “Are you the Pastor of that church?” to which Craig replied no. Well she said, “Why would you do this for me if you aren’t the Pastor?” He replied, “God put you here today to tell you that you are not alone, that God is with you and he sends people to help you when you need it.” Again, she started crying as we both hugged her and told her we would help her. We gave her the Food Pantry information and the All Saints phone number.
We haven’t heard from Bonita since that visit beneath the All Saints Lutheran Church sign. Do we absolutely know God placed her there so someone could help her, to hug her and tell her she is not alone and we are there to help her. When Craig and I got back in our car we looked at each other and we both said we were the ones God helped today. We were the ones who were profoundly touched by her and her story. We were the ones who were reminded yet again of what God calls us to do. We were the ones blessed that day.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46
Your humble servants,
Craig and Bonnie