In the Hood

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My sister and I were living in rather a low socio economic suburb and we both would bring children in our street to church. One night my sister helped  a certain little girl’s mother, she was in desperate need, she was an very drunk and I have no doubt that she was on other substances as well.  Since then she had been knocking on our door regularly and at all hours of the day and night, usually wanting to use the phone or wanting a lift in the car. I was trying to do the right Christian thing, I was struggling with this, but I did it only out of obedience to God. This women smelt bad and her children (3 under 7years of age) were out of control they walked in our garden beds, crushing our flowers, deliberately destroying them, clambering on the boot of my car and once I caught them climbing up on our very high fence about to try to scale the neighbours garage roof until I caught them and told them nicely to get down. One time she also came to the door and asked my sister for a lift in her car and she had with her a gang of male relatives, my sister had to firmly say no.  More and more frequent the knocks on the door would come. I would inhale a deep breathe and open the door with a forced smile.

One time she wanted to come in and use our toilet, I was honestly thinking what is she going to steal, because the bathroom and toilet were in the same room and I had a lot of makeup and toiletries in the cupboard, I was studying at the time and was not flush with cash to reimburse any theft. But what could I do, so I said, “Yes”. Then to my utter shame, I inspected the bathroom and she had stolen one roll of toilet paper, it really did make me feel ashamed of myself, to steal toilet paper you have to be desperate, this poor woman needed toilet paper and of course I would have given it to her if I had known. So I apologized deeply to God for my judgement and asked him to help me and give me compassion for this family.

Then one night on Easter weekend which was a very big weekend for me, as I was a part of the church drama and had been working very hard on it. I was exhausted so I fell into bed and was woken up at nearly midnight by not a knocking but a bashing on the front door security screen. Amanda, the lady was yelling out at the top of her voice for us to open the door. I really didn’t want to open it, but I thought she is probably going to wake up the whole street, the way she was going, so very begrudgingly and somewhat fearful I opened up the door to a very drunk and very violent women. She wanted us to drive her to the children’s hospital in the city, she said that one of her children was sick in the hospital and she had to see him. I thought in her state they would never let her into the hospital any way, to be frank, I wasn’t sure she was telling the truth. She started shaking the security screen which was not very heavy duty and I was worried that she might shake it off the hinges. In fear and not knowing what to do I got angry and yelled out,  “No” and told her to go home, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer and she was getting more violent then, I saw her eyes change to a very evil hardness. I felt oppression of darkness and called  out to my sister who was in bed to pray and I was trying to pray. I look back now and I should have done what Jesus did in the bible and told the darkness to go, hindsight is such a wonderful thing. The oppression subsided as we prayed to Jesus. Then she wanted me to check her bank account on the phone, no way was I letting her in so she called out the numbers to me, she had only cents in her account. Then eventually I just yelled at her and told her to go and shut the door and my sister and I were left in the house praying our hearts out for protection as she unrelenting bashed her fists on our window and drunkenly called out our names for help, we were considering calling the police but they would have taken ages, so we trusted God and she left. God answered our prayers she left without smashing any windows which was quite a feat, but not before tripping over our large metal pot plant stand which must have surely been painful for her in the morning. I felt quite sad for this lady, eventually after prayer we went to bed. I woke up the next morning feeling glad that we got through the encounter with the night before. But I was quite justified that under the circumstances my behavior, yelling at her, was acceptable. Although, I felt the occasional pang of guilt, that maybe her child was really in the hospital and she in her drunken state just wanted to see him. The guilt disappeared as I saw her walk past in the afternoon with all of her children in tow and they all looked perfectly healthy. 

Fear rose up in me and I didn’t want anything to do with her anymore, so I would be abrupt when she would knock on the door. I started to feel the conviction of God regarding my behaviour towards her and I wanted to love her like Christ but I was afraid and all of the advice from my Christian friends was your doing to right thing by keeping her at arms length. But the conviction continued until one day she came to the door and asked if I could drive her to the hospital, she showed me the enormous ulcer on her leg that would have been 25 by 15 centimetres wide. I felt queasy as she showed it to me. So I drove her to the hospital, she stank so badly of lack of showering and cigarettes that I felt like being sick, so I quickly wound down the window and discreetly tried to breathe in the fresh outdoor air. I was thinking to myself, ‘oh gee this is just classic, what adventures with God I get myself into’ and chuckled inwardly. This time she was very gentle and very nice and we talked in the car. I could see that she felt uncomfortable about the way she had acted before and she knew that I had come to the end of my patience with her bad behaviour. But I was trying to love her as Jesus would want me to, so I dropped her off at the hospital and didn’t hear a lot from her for a while. 

On the weekend whilst I was listening to the message at church God spoke to me about really loving the woman and he pinpointed the fear that I had in my heart towards her, that it was due to an experience that I had when I was a teenager, I was hit in the face by a strange woman who wanted money.  God reminded me of the authority that I now have in Christ, I don’t have to live in fear any more as I have God to protect me. And I felt God wanted me to buy a nice plant and give it to her. For me this was an enormous ask because I knew that once I gave her a present I was extending friendship to her and I would have to deal with her again and again. But I bit the bullet and headed straight to the shop and with determination and a lot of prayer I walked around to her house but there seemed to be no one home.

The next day I was sitting at my front window studying, as I was at bible college at the time and I saw Amanda and her boyfriend walk past. For a moment I paused not really wanting to do this but I made myself cease the moment and I grabbed the pretty gift wrapped plant and chased her down the street. Eventually I caught up with her, she was so delighted and surprised that I gave her a gift and I also got to meet her partner. She explained to me how she was just coming home from the hospital as she had to be operated on as the ulcer had gone deep down into her bone. So that was it now the doors of friendship were wide open, I chose to trust Jesus that he would lead me, guide me and protect me. 

In a couple of hours she was at my door asking for money and to use the phone, I never gave her any money, but I did let her use my phone. Soon we were taking her two boys who were old enough to go to the kid’s program at our church nearby and they absolutely loved it. The boys were hungry, so we fed them out of the church pantry mostly. On the way home the oldest boy who was about 7 years old once said to my sister, “If I come to your house will you give me bread”. I started to realize just how much of a desperate need this family was in, the children were going without food due to their parent’s addictions and I had to do something about it so we sent food from our churches food pantry with the children and their parents were really grateful. Over the next couple of months the boys came to kids church regularly and they absolutely loved it and they were the most well behaved children, their behaviour was very different from the initial times of meeting them, their hearts seemed to be filled with peace and there was hope on their little faces. It really did show me the big difference that a little time and effort on my behalf could make, to people in need.

While I was away at a conference in Melbourne I felt God leading me to fast lunch and just be with him,. So I went to a beautiful park in the middle of the city and as I sat in this enchanting oasis with birds and butterflies happily fluttering around. I could hear the hum of the busy city traffic and the occasional horn beep and a very loud chopper was flying over head. I was quite amazed that in the midst of all the chaos of the city that there was a sanctuary of peace. Right at that moment I felt God whisper to me, “Will you allow your home to be the sanctuary in the midst of chaos”. I thought about it deeply as I knew if I said yes, I was allowing the gates to open for all types of people to come to my home. But I decided to say, “Yes” to God and I was prepared to sacrifice my free time, my convenience and my own agenda to be the sanctuary in the midst of the darkness that God desired.

The next week Amanda came knocking at our door very early on a Saturday morning and wanted to use the phone. I was thinking of the boundaries to set with her regarding the time she was coming to visit, to use the phone etc.

Then at lunch time when I was exhausted after a hard week at a conference and trying to catch up on assignments. I heard a knock door, I reluctantly opened the door to Amanda, she seemed really worried. She asked me to call the police as her partner had been sniffing paint and was on a rampage and was destroying the house. So she rang the police and informed them of what was happening, the next moment she was terrified, as her kids had informed her that dad was coming up the street. I momentarily freaked out thinking that he might destroy our house or I might get hurt in the fallout of his rage. I said to her, “Amanda we are women we can’t physically protect you, lets pray that God will protect us.” She was too frightened and wanting to call the police again, so we prayed anyway, for God’s protection, as we wanted our house and ourselves safe. Then we heard her partner screaming out her name at the end of the street, she went out to our front yard and just stood there waiting for the police to come, but she wouldn’t go to  her partner. Meanwhile the little boys where running half way down the street to their dad and then back to their mum, they were obviously torn between the two of them. Then the oldest boy grabbed a chair that was by a tree and started smashing it up against the tree. I ran up to him worried that my neighbor might come out since it was his chair and his tree. I gently asked the boy to put the chair down, but he did it all the more. Then I kneeled down to his eye level and asked him if he was angry because of daddy. He looked at me with a little confused face and nodded his head and he put the chair down, my heart broke for this little boy. Then I took the little boys into our lounge room, they were so frightened, so we sat on the lounge and the boys calmed down for a while then they went outside again.

The screaming of the partner went on for a couple of hours, I was so exhausted I prayed, “Lord I give it all to you, I pray he calms down or gets put in jail”, then I just rested and trusted that God had it all in hand. Half an hour later the children came to our house all excited that their father had been put in jail, it was quite a deeply sad affair to witness little children so happy to see their dad taken away, none the less, relief filled us all. God answered our prayer. After this almost climatic episode, I didn’t see any of the family for a very long time, I heard through someone who knew them that the children had been taken into their grandmothers care and that Amanda had been put in jail.

I remembered her mentioning to me that it was her birthday coming up. I felt God speak to me and asked me to give her a beautiful silver pendent on a chain. I really did love this necklace, it had special memories attached, and I was studying so I didn’t have any money to replace it, but in faith I was obedient to God. So I put it in a lovely jewellery case and wrapped it up for the next time I saw Amanda. I had it in my cupboard for about 7 months, then one day I received a knock on my door, it was Amanda, she wasn’t  intoxicated and looked better than id ever seen, I invited into my home for a cuppa and we had a chat. She explained how that she was clean and wants to make a new start in life. At that moment I remembered the necklace and I explained to her that when she mentioned her birthday those months ago, God had told me to give her a gift. She was truly overwhelmed, she exclaimed, “Never in my life have I been given a birthday present”. I was in awe of God, although it was a sacrifice to give away my precious necklace. Wow I thought Jesus knew her heart, he knew the sorrow. She was so moved, she was crying, her first birthday present, in all her life she had never received one. My heart was so moved. I had opportunities to share about Jesus in past conversations, so I asked her if she would like me to pray for her and so I did and she was deeply moved. I haven’t seen Amanda since that day back in 2007.

Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.