This post is part of my “stories” series. In this series, I share stories of how people live their lives in response to the gospel and as a demonstration of God’s love in order to teach us and to provide an example to provoke us to love and good works. (See “stories: A New Series” for more information about this series.)
I published part of this story a few months ago (see “I needed to talk to you“), but I’ve added some updated information about Sheila’s story.
Our family travelled from North Carolina to Alabama and Florida for a few weeks around Christmas. While our family was still in Alabama, I got a phone call from “Sheila”. She is one of the residents of the government assisted housing development (see “stories: The Neighborhood“) where we’ve been spending time since last summer. (see “stories: I thought she was rude” for the first part of our story with “Sheila”.)
She was very upset, and asked if Margaret and I could come over to talk to her. I explained that we were out of town, and I asked if she wanted to wait until we returned home, if she wanted me to find someone else for her to talk to (someone that she was acquainted with), or if she wanted to talk on the phone. She asked if we could talk on the phone.
Apparently, there had been some type of incident in which Sheila felt she was wrongly accused of something. Because of that accusation, she and her three children might have to move out of the housing development. This would be very difficult for her family because they can’t afford to live anywhere else.
Primarily, she said, “I just wanted to talk to you and Margaret. I needed to get this off of my chest, and I didn’t know anyone else that I could talk to about it.”
For the first time since we’ve known her, Sheila began talking about her faith. She talked about some of the struggles she’s had in life. She said that she didn’t understand why her life was going wrong while people who were violent or did drugs seemed to have a good life.
When we first met Sheila, she seemed cold and distant. But, through the time we’ve spent with her, we’ve developed a relationship that seemed impossible at the beginning of last summer. Now, when she needed to talk to someone, she thought of us. How amazing!
A few weeks ago, because of the incident that Sheila called us about, she and her family were forced to move out of the housing project. They decided to move down to Raleigh to live with her mother for a while until Sheila could afford to rent a place of their own. I contacted some of our friends, and several of us helped her move some of their belongings to a storage unit.
As we were packing her furniture and clothing into one of my friend’s trucks, I noticed that Sheila was always quiet whenever my friends were around. But, when it was just Margaret or me, she perked up and talked a little. During the last trip to the storage unit, Margaret and Sheila stayed at her home by themselves. While we were unpacking her belongings, Sheila began unpacking many of her troubles and struggles and questions with Margaret. She opened up even more about her life, her failed marriage, her broken relationship with her mother, and many, many more things.
We continue to stay in touch with Sheila. She still has to deal with the ramifications of the incident that I mentioned earlier. Of course, we don’t know if she was falsely accused or not. However, we plan to continue to walk with her through this ordeal.
Once again, God has confirmed to me that my responsibility is to love people in his name, and allow him to give me opportunities to help people in their faith. It is not my responsibility to force things on people, or to manipulate conversations and relationships in order to disciple people. I must let God lead them to himself.
So, we’ve loved Sheila and her family. We’ve helped them through various situations. We’ve served them in different ways. In every case, we’ve let them know that the reason that we love them is because God loves us and he loves them.
Please pray for Sheila and her family. Pray that even if this situation is not resolved the way she hopes, that she would learn to trust God through all circumstances. Also, please pray that whatever happens, she would allow God to reveal himself to her however he desires.
Finally, as Paul asked, please pray for me and my family, “that God may open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ.”