Nothing is random for believers in Jesus, so it’s no coincidence that Mary ended up at Mary’s Home with her four-year-old son, Cash. Mary at 19 had never known stability. She had grown up fatherless with a mom who was in and out of psychiatric hospitals, and on and off the streets. Manic-depressive episodes that sometimes lasted weeks, unemployment or underemployment and a string of men kept the family in constant motion. Here is Mary’s story.
“When I was a kid I remember one summer church people came to our neighborhood with games and candy, and we colored pictures of Bible stories. I memorized a Bible verse and won a whole box of lifesavers shaped like a house. Some of the adults were kind, while others seemed bothered by us kids. We were just rowdy. Sometimes they brought us sandwiches. They taught us to pray to God and promised that if we prayed hard enough he would give us what we wanted. That summer I begged God to help my mom, and to send Tyler or “rat face”—what we called him—away. I suppose God answered my prayer when mom was hospitalized and he left. But, not before he tore our place apart, stole our TV, and came after us with a belt. He was the worst of mom’s boyfriends.
“While I felt drawn to the Bible stories and even to praying, the chaos of life—of foster care mainly, and being separated for a time from my sisters—brought that chapter to a close. I suppose it was more about survival then.
“Mom was in and out of the hospital when I was a teen. Sometimes we lived with her, and sometimes our visits were supervised at a Denny’s—always the same Denny’s! We stayed with new people, some nice, others not. I always knew we were moving to the next place when the black trash bags or shopping bags filled with our belongings made an appearance in our bedroom or the family room.
“At sixteen, I met Byron at school and got into a rough crowd. In spite of their troublemaking, I was one of them and they had my back. It was then I got pregnant with Cash. We lived with Byron’s mother for a while, and I got pregnant again. I miscarried this child at 17 weeks. I named her Tiffany. Byron was like the string of my mom’s boyfriends: not interested in caring for us, and gone for long stretches of time. Then, we got evicted, and that’s when I ended up on the streets.
“This is what I can remember from the past. I have blocked out a lot, I think. When I think of my childhood, it’s just a swirl of hurt. And then came Mary’s Home. Through my job at IHOP, I met some girlfriends, and they let Cash and I crash on their couches. We did that for a couple of years. At the food pantry one day, a woman mentioned a home for single moms and their kids—a place where we could have our own apartment, and I could get help getting my GED and a better job. I called the number and our lives were changed forever.
“Well, it has been a year since we’ve been at Mary’s Home, and it has been so much more than I could have imagined! It is the first time we have known a normal, safe life and felt really, really cared for. These people have our backs for real.
“At first I didn’t trust the staff; surely they wanted something from me. But week after week, I encountered such kindness. They didn’t throw us out when Cash acted up or I failed at something. I thought, ‘What is it about these people? What makes them so different?’ I began to want what they had—mainly peace, to freely laugh, and to not always worry about being used or rejected.
“The ladies who run Mary’s Home are Christian and often invited us to join them in prayer or to attend services. We weren’t required to go, and I didn’t at first. I was drawn, though, just like I had been as a kid. People talked about God like he was part of Mary’s Home, someone with his own bedroom and sharing our meals! I attended my first worship service after I had been at the Home a month. I remember a new feeling creeping in, something joyful, something that seized me from head to toe. When people prayed to Jesus, they prayed as if he were in the room, and he was the ultimate got-your-back person. I wanted that.
“I went up for prayer during my second worship service and the lady asked if I’d like to open my life to Jesus—to believe in him, and trust him with everything. I did! I wanted what these ladies had at Mary’s Home. I got a taste of it when I lifted my hands in worship. It has been six months since I entered into a personal relationship with Jesus. My life will never be the same.
“Sure, I still have questions like why God allowed so much crap in my life, and why he took my baby girl. I have come to accept I may never fully know. But what’s important is that he has been with me. I know that whatever I walk through in the future, he has me in his hands; he will never let go. He is a wise and loving father, who gives the best gifts to his children (like this community!). I have love in my heart. I have hope for the first time! And I know our little family will be alright.”
Most believers can relate to the great change in our lives when we trust Jesus. While the Holy Spirit continues to heal Mary, she now knows a permanent place of belonging. She is a child of God and it’s no coincidence.
Do you have a story to tell or a skill to share with the residents of Mary’s Home? Would you be willing to contribute to help those like Mary find their place in the world? We’ve enclosed information about volunteering your time, talent and treasure. Please consider joining us in this eternal work. Help more Mary’s find their heavenly Father.