“Hey, Mr. Jimmy. This is Tonya.”
By Jimmy Cochran
This was my introduction to a lady several years ago that would prove to teach me much about determination, strength and character.
“I just got laid off my job and need just a few dollars to pay my phone bill this month. I really hate to ask, but I really need just this little bit until I can get work.”
Every day in my job at that time, I dealt with people who needed assistance for various and sundry things. Rent, utilities, clothes, gasoline, food, somewhere to live, a job, medical care and almost everything that we take for granted in our daily lives. We try to help as best we can, as do other churches and agencies, but funds are short and the needs are great.
As I talked and helped Tonya more over the next year, her story unfolded to me and I realized this lady had more life than most folks I know. She has no transportation, so she rides a bike everywhere she goes; and I mean everywhere. From the East Lake area up Hwy. 155 to the McDonough Square to try and find work and then back again. She had a serious drug and alcohol problem until four years ago when she got herself clean, but her face shows the harsh scars of knife fights and beatings during that period of her life. Her priority is to remain clean, and find a long-term job so she can take care of herself without asking for more help.
As the year passed, Tonya and I spoke of her broken family, of her problems in the past and her efforts to get a break in life. I rarely spoke to her about the need of God’s place in her heart because she needed some physical food, shelter, and some loving on before she could begin to understand about God’s Love and provision. She could not relate to a loving Heavenly Father when all she had known in her earthly life had been verbal and physical abuse, crime, and isolation. Perhaps I was wrong, but I felt she needed more at that moment than spiritual talk when her stomach was growling and she still had a seven-mile trip on a bicycle to get home, only to face an abusive husband and trying to protect her children. But, each time we talked, we would have a prayer.
One day, about a year later, Tonya showed up at my office beaming as she excitedly told me that she was leaving her “man” and moving to a shelter where they would help her stay clean, find her a job, and set her up in an apartment when she was ready to be on her own. All she had on her bike was a paper bag with some clothes and a couple pictures. Her children would be staying with a relative until she could bring them to her new home. She spoke sadly of leaving her house and belongings, but was thrilled at the anticipation of a brand-new start in her life. Her smile and the glistening tears on her cheeks made the knife scars invisible and I saw a true child of God standing there waiting for a new life. She said that she knew God was working in her life and she was ready to finally listen. We were all crying as we walked her out the door to her bicycle where I put my personal Bible in her basket, telling her to read verses I had underlined and written notes, and then Tonya got on her bike, gave a ring on her bell, and rode off to start a new life.
She promised to keep in touch, but we all know how that goes. What I do know is that a lady named Tonya entered my life last year needing assistance and she gave far more to me than I ever provided for her.
“Then Jesus said, if you have provided for any of My Children, then you have provided for Me.” (Matthew 25:40)
And for today my friends, this has been the gospel according to Jimmy.
Jimmy Cochran is a resident of McDonough, a musician, a minister and the author of Being God’s and Staying God’s, both available at Amazon.com. Being God’s is also available at Moye’s Pharmacy in McDonough.