Eighty-something years old and tiny, she lives in a small frame house across the street from City Hall in Florissant, a community in north St. Louis County. Miss Jackie moved there 30 years ago. Not long after that, her husband died. They had no children, and no family near.
And so began a lonely life. Maybe because of her fiery Irish temperament, or maybe because of fear, or maybe because it seemed safer for a woman to be aggressive than to be taken advantage of, or maybe because it felt like she was battling the world on her own, Jackie consistently lashed out at people. She cursed readily, yelled mostly and developed a reputation as someone to avoid if at all possible. Miss Jackie pulled the curtain around her and sank into an unhealthy solitude.
Over time, her little house deteriorated badly. The yard grew unruly, the paint faded, window frames rotted and storm damage to the roof remained covered with a blue tarp. The lovely city of Florissant (founded almost 200 years ago by French settlers) has very stringent codes for how property is to be maintained. The problems would have to be fixed. But Miss Jackie is poor, on a fixed income and could not possibly take care of all that needed to be done. It was very possible that in time,her property would be condemned and she would be homeless.
Miss Jackie needed somebody to help.
Enter I Heart North County, a community service organization formed by three churches including Passage Community Church and Pastor Joe Costephens. In cooperation with the city of Florissant and using government grants, I Heart North County organizes people who will volunteer to do the labor on houses like Miss Jackie’s Those volunteers are Christians, like the Mission St. Louis team from Highland Baptist.
We partnered with I Heart North County for Miss Jackie’s good and because the love of Jesus compels us to serve “the least of these” and to spread His love in concrete ways to the real-life needs of people. Because He has loved us so completely, we met needs and shared Christ and His gospel with Miss Jackie. Scrubbing brushes, scrapers, a power washer and a few gallons of paint helped us express Jesus’ love to her – and gave an opening to share the gospel.
Another group had come before and cleaned her yard. Miss Jackie hung their picture on her wall. Ours will join it soon. She simply could not believe that people would travel from Kentucky to help her—for free. The students lined up to hug her—and Miss Jackie fought tears.
Miss Jackie is a woman overwhelmed by a concrete example of God’s grace to her in Jesus. And if one conversation we shared is any clue, she is near to stepping across to faith in Jesus. Miss Jackie is not the meanest lady in Florissant anymore. She is being transformed by the application of the gospel –in word and deed—to her heart. She is being changed by Jesus.
You know, Miss Jackie doesn’t just live in St. Louis. She lives in Shelbyville, and Louisville and Frankfort, too. Precious souls like her matter to God, and are too important to leave alone in their pain and lostness. They won’t come to us.
Jesus’ people must break out of our church buildings and discover ways to love the people in our community with all the fullness of Jesus’ gospel. Through us, He changes the world, one life at a time.
Is there a Miss Jackie in your world?
How can you serve her (or him) this week?