The first woman is Nell (not her real name) – a middle aged, homeless woman who lives in Sumter, South Carolina. Nell suffered from domestic abuse for years until she finally moved out of her home and in with a friend. Her job at a nearby Salvation Army helped her to survive on her own . . . for a while. But when the Air Force shipped out Nell’s friend and the Salvation Army closed, Nell was left homeless and unemployed. The streets of Sumter became her home and handouts from anyone who had mercy on her were her sustenance.
Eventually, Nell discovered the Samaritan House, a homeless shelter in Sumter. We do not know how often Nell went to the Samaritan House, but we do know that it provided her with a life-changing encounter.
The second woman is Alice (not her real name) – a twenty-something single woman, a medical professional who also lives in Sumter. About a year ago, Alice lost her job. Even worse, she was accused of misdeeds that led to a judgment against her for which her penance was 200 hours of community service…
Alice is an active member of the First Church of God, Sumter, so she inquired what she might do around the church to fulfill her required community service. Alice accepted the assignment of making a video the church’s softball team. Although she had never created a video before, Alice discovered a new talent and soon became the official videographer for the church.
Over the months, Alice completed 182 job applications and all the while nursed deep resentment over the events that led to her unemployment and her “required” service. As she tells the story, God used that time to soften her heart and show her that He had a better plan. At some point Alice learned that all the volunteer time she’d put in at the church would not satisfy her community service atonement – which only fueled her resentment. Nevertheless, Alice found appropriate service at the local Habitat Restore. When Alice completed her required service, she continued to volunteer at the Restore.
First Church of God, Sumter, participated with a dozen other churches in the first Inasmuch United Sumter this past April. The church conducted 21 projects with a little more than half of their average Sunday attendance participating. The Inasmuch organizers asked Alice to visit all of the projects video their members serving that day. She went to 32 locations to interview and take videos of her fellow church members as they volunteered.
Alice’s last stop was at the Samaritan House where church members served a meal to the homeless. She noticed a woman sitting by herself. It was Nell. Alice invited Nell to her church and offered to give her a ride the following day. Nell quickly accepted saying: “I’ve been looking for a church to attend.”
Following worship, Alice invited Nell to stay for a spaghetti dinner at the church. The church members at dinner welcomed Nell warmly although they had no knowledge of her story or homelessness. So many people greeted Nell that she began to cry. She said: “I have never felt so loved, not even by my own family!” When Alice and others comforted her, Nell said: “Earlier your pastor talked about how a person can receive Jesus and be baptized. I want to do that.”
Alice led her new friend into the pastor’s office where he shared the gospel with Nell and she prayed the Sinner’s Prayer. Says Alice: “I know Nell accepted Christ right then because I have never felt the power of the Holy Spirit like I did at that moment.”
Later that week, Alice called her friends at the Habitat Restore and asked if they had a job opening. They did and they hired Nell that day. The same day a medical facility in Sumter hired Alice.
Two women: unemployed, mistreated, in need of mercy and grace, brought together by Inasmuch, and forever united in eternity.