A few years ago, a young lad was taken into custody in an outback-Australian town. After being processed and interviewed, and having been refused bail, he was locked in the cells for the night. But he worried the station officers because he appeared to becoming depressed. He curled up in a foetal position and didn't move. He wouldn't speak, so an officer came to me and asked if I could help Michael.*
I agreed, but first prayed, asking for the right words to say. At the cells, a suicide watch had been instituted. Cameras watched Michael's every move. The cell door was opened and I went in. With assistance nearby and the security camera, I felt safe enough. Young Michael scared me, for I knew what he was capable of. At that moment, though, he was in need. I sat down on the end of his bed. "Michael, will you speak with me?" Nothing. "Michael, will you speak with me?" Still there was no response. I repeated my question three more times, but he wouldn't respond. "Michael, can I help you?" Now he moved into a sitting position, placing his head on his knees. I could see he was crying. My heart took a flutter. Here was a boy, crying, in need. My motherly instincts overcame my fear and I moved closer, putting my arm on his shoulder. "Michael, is there something I can do for you?" Now he lifted his head and looked at me. Then, with tears streaming down his face, said, "Marilyn, I want Mum." "If that's what you want, then that's what I'll do," I replied. I stood and turned to leave. "Give me 10 minutes. I'll bring her back." Michael looked directly at me, and asked, "Can you ask her tobring my new baby brother, too?" I left the cells. What had I committed myself to? It was already after
5 pm and being winter, darkness was falling. Now I had to go and get Naomi, a woman who disliked me. Actually, she scared me more than did her son.
Time to pray again. Lord, if ever I needed You, I need You now, I breathed.
My brain was racing, processing everything I knew about this woman: I'm going to pick up a woman who hates me. She's the most feared person in town. I'm going to ask her to travel with me in my own car. Am I mad?
I prayed again, asking for angels to protect me. Even as I pulled to the curb in front of Naomi's house, I could tell from the yelling coming from inside that she was in a bad mood. She walked to the front gate and barked: "Whadda ya want?" I told her I was there to take her to the police station with me. "Michael needs you, Naomi. Right now. And he wants to see the new baby." Naomi yelled to her children to get the baby, and then walked to the car. With the baby on her lap, we drove to the station. "Stay with me," I told her and we walked straight to the cells. Michael was sitting up when we walked in. A chair was brought for Naomi. "Can you wait and take me home?" she asked me. Agreeing, I told her she had 20 minutes, then left mother and son and baby. As I walked by the duty officer, he asked how I could stand having "that smelly, rough lady in your car." Oddly, I hadn't noticed any smell, and she'd also been quite nice to me. When I returned to the cell, Michael was sitting down, holding his brother, his mother's arm across his shoulders. I took the baby, and then Naomi and I quietly left. "Are you all right?" I asked as we drove the short distance to the edge of town. She nodded, asking me if I would buy Michael some lemonade, which I agreed to do. Soon we were at her gate. She climbed out and walked through, the baby in her arms. The moment she entered the front yard, it was as if a shroud had been removed. She was her old self, swearing and yelling at the children as she entered the house.
I drove off. Later that night, as I prayed a prayer of thanks to God, I cried.
We often hear "mission stories" of needs far away, and wonder if God really does help those people.
Well, I know He helped me in a real and tangible way that day. Since then, my life has changed. I want to make myself more available to God, so that when He needs someone on the spot, He can count on me. *All names have been changed. Pure and lasting religion in the sight of God our Father means that we must care for orphans and widows in their troubles, and refuse to let the world corrupt us. James 1:27.
–Marilyn Reed lives in Bourke, New South Wales.