“Yes, he called me,” Mary told me over the phone. I was driving home from work. He being Marnell’s brother Darrell, a plumber. “I am so happy. I could not keep back the tears or the hollerin’,” Mary told me.
That was Thursday. On Monday, Mary learned that the flood had destroyed both her hot water heater and her furnace. The flood waters in her basement had crested somewhere a foot shy of the floor joists, so it was hardly surprising. But Mary had just purchased the furnace in 2014 for $4,900. She did not have the money to do that again, not to mention a hot water heater.
“God is speaking to someone about our situation, but they aren’t listening yet!” Mary told Lily. I don’t know which day she told her this because I only heard about it later.
“Do you know of any licensed plumber who can install a hot water heater for me for not too much?” Mary called to ask Monday night. “I can buy a hot water heater for $430.”
Marnell called his brother Darrell who owns and operates Lee Plumbing. Then he called Mary back.
Darrell had an idea that Mid-City Supply might have a scratch and dent for not too much that would be better quality than the $430 unit. The service charge wouldn’t be too much since it usually doesn’t take many hours to install. But the total cost would still be a lot to Mary, I knew.
But another $4,900 for a furnace? Absolutely not. Mary did not have the money and she told Marnell she would wait. She had a kerosene heater and several space heaters. Elkhart had been declared a federal disaster, so she signed up for assistance through FEMA. But no money had arrived yet.
As they were talking, I thought of a fund of money Marnell and I had decided we would use to help someone since it didn’t “belong to us.”
Perhaps we could let her borrow that to cover expenses for now, I thought. And if the money never comes, so be it.
Marnell finished chatting and hung up.
“There is that special fund money,” I said slowly.
“You thought of that too?” He said.
“God’s going to bail Mary out anyway,” I predicted. (I will never forget the Thanksgiving turkey of 2012.) “But this way we get to be part of it.”
So on Tuesday, as the dump trucks and pay loaders moved into our streets to scrape up the banks of basement flood trash on the curbs, I called Mary and explained that if the FEMA money didn’t come, she could use our fund money for now. I should say, God’s money. If it came later, she could give the money back and we could help someone else with it.
“Okay!” Mary said, her voice sounding brighter. She hates big bills and imposing on people but she was relieved to have this back-up.
“I think it was from God,” I told her, “because we both thought about it at about the same time without talking to each other. It’s money we weren’t going to use on ourselves anyway.”
“That sounds good!” She said. And that’s when she told me that she had told Lily that she was sure God was speaking to someone about their situation.
Two days later, I was on the school bus with my patient, going to school, when a text came through from Marnell. I read it with astonishment.
With everything together, the estimated total bill was around $2500.
I remembered Mary’s words, as we jostled along in the bus. God is speaking to someone about my situation. I was so moved I shared the story with the bus driver.
On Friday evening, I asked Darrell how it happened. I mean really, I know God is all-powerful, but… how does He go about speaking to Mid-City Supply?
We were on speaker phone, Marnell and I and our friend Josh, gathered around the cooling hash browns and biscuits and gravy casserole on the kitchen table. Marnell and Josh were ready to go over to Mary’s to tear out the old furnace.
“What made Mid-City decide to do this?”
Darrell said that for their 70th anniversary in 2017, Mid-City had decided to perform “70 Random Acts of Kindness”. It went over so well that they decided to do it again in 2018. They took each request for help on a case by case basis. Darrell had called one of the administrators and left a message and they agreed to help.
“Have you made that request before?” I asked. Perhaps they always helped anyone he put in as a request. (Isn’t it terrible how quickly I want to rationalize God’s work?)
Darrell paused just a little, and then continued.
“I had originally been asking about another case, but that one just didn’t go anywhere. Communication fell flat somehow. So I asked them about this case. One of their supervisors called me back and they said they would be happy to help.”
I asked him what Mary said when she heard the news.
“She just broke down, and said, THANK you JESUS!”
I couldn’t keep back the tears or the hollerin’…
Mary is a real person. She would tell you about mistakes she made. I get frustrated with her every now and again. She has blind spots like we all do.
But she walks with God, to all appearances like a “man walks with his friend.”
“I just want to live my life, the rest of my life that I have left, for Christ,” Mary told me that day after the flood as we ate apples and cheese and crackers in my front room.
She said she feels like she wasted many years of her life before she understood what it means to have a relationship with God.
“What helped you change and quit wasting your life?” I asked.
“Well… Number one, I was sick. I was so sick, Katrina…”
That’s another story. But I can’t shake it, that the most prominent step on her pathway to Christ sprang from suffering . And then, Mary quit wasting years. Now she seems to know God so well she can sometimes anticipate what he will do next, even if she doesn’t know the details yet.
Because He did speak, to quite a few people. And they listened and got to be a part of God’s answer to Mary, as awe-inspiring as this morning’s spring sky.
Special notice: My heart has been heavy for my sister’s sister-in-law who has cancer and has been suffering for weeks. Today is their sixth anniversary. Please don’t seek or share details — but petition God for His presence and strength and mercy for those suffering.