“When I was in school, I didn’t know I had a learning disability. Teachers knew very little about disabilities in the 60’s. I didn’t want to be seen, called on, or picked on. I tried to hide and didn’t cause problems, and the teachers kept passing me. I brought my books home and applied myself, and I would still make a D. I stayed with it and taught myself to read in high school. I realized I can do almost anything, I just learn in different ways than most.
Shortly after my divorce, I got a job as a receptionist for a non-profit In Quitman County, Mississippi and was trained to inspect houses. I was raised poor, but the poor housing conditions I saw brought me to tears. The Lord started speaking to me about doing more for my community of Jonestown, Mississippi, but it took 20 years to obey Him. I didn’t want to do this work because helping people can become complex.
In ministry, there is a continuous cry for help. It is easy to repair homes, dig wells and attend to those physically sick, but the real work is spiritual healing. The age-old question is, ‘how do you help those who don’t want help when you know they need help?’ The answer is in Matthew 6:33, ‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.’
The Lord gave me a holistic ministry before I understood what holistic ministry was. If you have burns over 100 percent of your body, and I heal only 10 percent of them, that’s not much help. Holistic ministry works on every aspect of a person’s life. I started small with an after school program that emphasized reading. I had 25 kids every afternoon, and it was the joy of my life. As I taught kids to read, I understood more about my early educational experiences.
Every year, I attended high school graduations at my old school. One year many of the names they called were from my first reading program. The kids I worked with were graduating from high school. Wow. That did something to me.
Jonestown is a small community in the Delta, and I have lived here my whole life. My great-grandmother came here from Yazoo City. She had 12 kids. My grandmother had 10, and my mother had eight. I only have three.
Before the mid 80’s, Jonestown was a farming town with almost everything we needed: three grocery stores, two banks, a movie theater, a drugstore, and a doctor. Everyone knew everyone, and they all came to town on Saturdays to shop and visit. The farmers and wealthy families moved out in the mid-80’s, and the Jonestown slowly died. The stores are gone; grocery shopping is a 20-minute drive to Walmart. Transportation is an issue in this community, especially for the elderly. They often have to overpay for a ride to the Clarksdale area, where the shopping and other appointments are located.
I’ve seen Jonestown thrive, and I’ve seen it die. Now I see it struggling to find new life. Things are looking better.
I often pray for the Lord to send workers into the field. The harvest is plentiful, but the labor is lacking. But God Ministries (BGM) came into our community with a plan for holistic ministry – there was that word again – and I joined in helping. Since 2018 they have opened a medical facility, a dental clinic, and an economic development center. They are removing dilapidated houses and bringing in mission teams. Now I work for BGM as the Life Center Coordinator.
Ministry travels in a circle, ministering to everyone around you as you are also ministered to. It’s about seeing needs and helping others, as countless people have seen my needs and helped me. A nun working in Jonestown knew I needed help after my divorce, and she arranged for a couple who she knew to buy me a car and help pay my college tuition.
After my divorce, I was a single mom with a full-time job and no money for childcare. I had to leave my three kids at home during the summer, but two elderly neighbors kept an eye on them, making sure they stayed in the yard and out of trouble. That’s community. People helped me during my hardest times, now I try to do the same. If the Lord blesses you with a gift, skill, or resources, it’s only a blessing if you use it to help someone else.
I tell kids that God loves them and has a purpose for their lives. God gave each of us a gift to benefit others. That gift must be given away.”