“The Lord told me years ago that things would be different for me and I would have a ministry for the people others don’t want. The ones who don’t look like us or smell like us. Every morning I pray that God gives me his tears and compassion for people who are struggling. I am 76 years old and I have been fighting for the people at the bottom for a long time. Everyone calls me Mama.
I grew up in the country in Yellow Bluff, Alabama then moved to Choctaw Bluff. Beautiful young ladies were walking the street late at night. They get into the wrong lane and got addicted to drugs. They stopped by my house at 2 or 3 in the morning to talk or sleep because my door was open at any time. Sometimes I went to them to help. It is a hard life.
Most people don’t want to face the problems out here because they are easy to ignore if they don’t affect you. But hard times will come to your house, too, and you will want people praying and caring about you. Drugs jump the track. It will make your son steal your Rolex like it makes my daughter steal my Timex. Living in nice neighborhoods outside of the projects doesn’t make you safe and the work of the church is not in the four walls.
I started a church about 20 years ago in Trinity Gardens. We called that little church ‘The Shoebox’ because we had one door and no windows. The police were called many times on complaints we were making too much noise. There were drug houses on all sides of our church and we were knocking their hustle. They needed me out of there. A deacon once told me he was one of the ones who called the cops and said they couldn’t sell dope while we were over there.
I walked the streets of the projects helping people. During that time I had a daughter on drugs and the judge sentenced my oldest daughter to boot camp in Texas. I also raised all of my grandkids. I know how hard life is. This area is infested with drugs and they have destroyed, homes, families, and our communities. It is in our schools. There is one parent or no parent in the homes. We have to do something. The only way this changes is through an encounter with God. He is the one who can change hearts and the direction we are going in. I have dealt with this a long time and know is not easy.
Seeing a life get better humbles you because you see the mighty hand of God. We are the hands, and feet and mouth of Him, but It takes God to change a person. You never know what is around the corner and who will hand you your last glass of water on your dying day.
We started Prichard Prep at our church with six to eight students and one set of books that we passed around. Sandy Stimpson, the mayor, saw a letter I wrote to the community asking for help. He didn’t just read the letter, he got involved and helped give students in Prichard a better chance. At our board meetings, I always sat down in the same chair for the chairman of the board, but one day Sandy came in and the chair was vacant. I was sitting in another chair. He said, ‘Ms. Ruby, you are in the wrong chair.’ I said, ‘No, that is your chair now. All I want is for these students to get a good education. I could never take the school where you can.’ Selfish would have been staying in that chair, but the school would still be struggling. Sandy knew the people who could get the job done and they did. If you want things to get better in Mobile, we have do better with these kids.
The last two weeks have been a real trying time. There are many needs but God gets me through them. When we run out of food or clothes, someone shows up with them. God provides. My hardest time was when my daughter burned up in a fire and died, but I never gave up on God or people. The only thing I could say was, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord. God giveth and he taketh.’ We didn’t come to this world to stay but it is up to us to spread kindness as we travel through.
Last week we fed over 500 people. We set up under a big oak tree and fed the whole community. Every day we give out food and clothes and give people a place to sleep. We have fixed a lot of houses for the elderly. We also have a ministry that houses prisoners. They are released from prison with $10 and no clothes and this becomes their home. We do ministry with them and help them transition back into the world. We give them clothes and can always use donations of clothes and food.
We also have a daycare. I know every child here that is a foster child. They never go on field trips unless I pay for it. They don’t get a decent snack unless I buy it. They have a look in their eyes that says they are so lost. Some of these kids aren’t going to make it. They don’t have joy and laughter because they have nothing to laugh about and they are angry at the world they are brought up in. They are getting beat and cussed out like grown people. Sometimes it is too much.
All of these people need is love. It breaks my heart when they tell me they didn’t know what love was until they got here. Patience and just talking to them and telling them there is a better way helps a lot. People are so hungry they just want bread or a kind word. You will be amazed how far kindness, hope, and a smile goes.
Access magazine took 15 of my girls on a boat ride and then shopping, and to lunch. It made a difference in these girls. Every month, Jackie Butler takes one of these girls to the mall. Just someone taking time out of their day with these kids makes them walk different and talk different.
Get up and make something happen. Other people will come along and help. When we started this church, people said it would never happen. They thought I was crazy, and I was a woman. I was starting with no members, no money and two drug addicts. God told me if I would be faithful that in six months He would bless me with a church. A few months later, I was driving down the road and heard the spirit say this is your church as we drove past it. My grandson was with me and fell in the floorboard laughing when I told him. But God made it happen and Pure Word Ministries is here today.
My next dream is to have a safe place for the young people. I want a row of shotgun houses for the parents and create a neighborhood where they can all be safe.
Life is funny and I have seen it throw a lot of darts. Somebody is going to pull somebody. You are either going to pull them up or they are going to pull you down. Every knockdown is not a knockout. Every stumble is not a fall. Life is not over. Keep moving and trying. Give away your love.”
(This is the last story in our series about Prichard, Alabama. It is a city with many problems and people struggling with deep issues, but it is also a city where people are reaching out to help each other and to help the kids. Many move away from Prichard for a better life, but a few people are returning home to make a difference. Life is hard here, but there is also hope.)