By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
BALTIMORE, Md.—Inner Harbor Ministry’s (IHM) Curtis Bay Feeding ministry drew a full house just two days before Christmas for their Thursday feeding ministry at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church on Pennington Avenue. Men, women and children, some homeless, some just trying to stretch out their income until the next check, listened as IHM Interim Director Elwood Ulmer read the Christmas story and prayed before they scrambled to the food line.
Volunteers served spaghetti, salad, bread and an assortment of cakes and pies. My husband, Barry and I, along with our oldest son, Michael and a few of his friends, volunteered that night. I began helping with the food and Barry started doing table ministry, talking with people, asking them how they were doing and praying with them.
One exhausted looking couple, Joe and Anne, slowly came over to Barry and asked if they could get a ride to a local hospital’s detox ward. She was a crack cocaine addict and he had a 25-year heroin addiction. We agreed—me, not as quickly as Barry. I hesitated and was fearful, but trusted God and my husband’s discernment. I was even more afraid when they asked us to take them home first. “Home” was a dilapidated boarded-up building. Joe went in to get a bag. Anne had nothing but the clothes on her back. It was one of the coldest nights of the year.
“I can’t live like this anymore,” Joe said as he tossed his duffle bag in the back of the truck.
“I don’t ever want to go back there again,” Anne said, shivering.
We chatted along the way to the hospital getting to know one another. Barry assured the pair they were doing the right thing. He led the four of us in prayer, asking God to work mightily with this couple, to heal them of these addictions and to bring them close to Him.
“This is a new day, Baby,” Joe said, holding Anne’s hands.
Anne, determined suicidal, was in a bare room with just a bed. Joe shivered and curled up in a fetal position, shaking in the emergency room.
“I’m so ashamed,” Anne cried. We assured her that Jesus could take away her shame, that God loves her and has a marvelous plan for her life. We held her hands and prayed for her.
The next day, Anne was in a ward, visibly better. Joe was transferred to the University of Maryland. Anne asked us to pray for her, and also for Joe – that he would receive medicine to help with his addiction. He hadn’t been given any yet and was suffering terribly from withdrawal. By the time we got home from the hospital, Anne called and said, “God heard our prayers. Joe got his medicine.”
On the following day, Anne asked for us to bring her clothes, chocolate, and a Bible. While visiting, she asked us to help her find her family’s phone number. They lived in a southern state. We did find the number and Anne was going to call home and wish her parents and her son a Merry Christmas and tell them that she is trying to start a new life. Before we left, she asked us to pray. She said it made her feel so much better.
Anne was transferred to a transitional home within three days. She was called a Christmas miracle by one social worker.
Joe was released and is waiting to go into long-term rehab. As an addict for over 20 years, Joe said he knows it’s the only way he will get the care he needs.
Two weeks after that fateful Thursday, Anne went forward during an altar call at a BCM/D church. When the pastor asked her if she wanted to receive Christ, Anne said, “More than you’ll ever know.” Joe came forward shortly after Anne and he cried as he prayed with me to ask Jesus into his life. Later, Joe admitted that the night before he went to the hospital he was at the end, ready to shoot a huge amount of heroin and hopefully die. He said they left the church that evening but felt like they needed to go back, that it was the only place they were going to be safe.
The couple has made strides in their addiction’s recovery and they’ve grown as new believers. They are attending worship and small group. Anne is in the Word daily and reads me scriptures that speak to her heart. Joe, in his everyday conversations, will say such things as, “I know Jesus forgave my sins…”