“I Loved a lovely lady there/She opened up my eyes
She ran a dancing school/ It was a front/She loved the Lord…”*
Shandra had danced on Broadway for ten years, but had been appalled at the way business had been done. The in-fighting. The affairs. The lack of faith. The emptiness of fame and fortune.
She had returned to L.A. after a short bout of burnout. She had returned to her roots, the projects. She knew she would be needed to help steer youth away from the streets, to give them purpose. She knew they could look up ti her as a role model.
She was able to keep her virtue, despite all the pressure. The Lord had been her rock through it ll. Upon her return, she had sought out T-Bone…who was now a minister. They had grown up together. They had gone to church together as children. But they had parted ways in their teens after T-Bone joined the gang.
She had reached out to him again after she heard that he had cleaned up his act and quit the gang. She had been impressed when he told her he had gone to seminary. Then, when she returned, she was even more surprised to see him as a pastor. He really had turned his life around.
It had been T-Bone who’d introduced her to Jamal, a young actor who was looking for a partner in a special ministry for the inner city youth and those in the projects.It had even been at T-Bone’s suggestion that they combined their efforts and opened the dancing and acting troupe. But their partnership became much more than simply a business partnership. She fell in love with Jamal the minute she laid eyes on him. Jamal had fallen in love with her as well, but held back until he felt things were right.
Two months later, they were married, after making sure their new troupe was going to make it. Now, a mother of two, she felt her life was complete. She had never been stronger, and they now had a new business partner. He was a writer and wrote the most wonderful plays and musicals. He also introduced them to the most amazing lyricist and composer teams they had ever met. Now, their team was just about complete.
Neither Jamal or her hesitated when T-Bone called them. They knew this was an emergency and needed immediate attention. T-Bone would not have asked them to pray otherwise, with such urgency in his voice. They gathered their students together and, as a group, began to pray.
Kinesha had rebuilt her life after losing her fiance in the last war. As with a lot of young visionaries, Mel had enlisted at the mention of patriotic duty. His father had served, his uncles as well, as had his grandfather. Now it was his turn.
Kinesha’s last memory of him alive was his waving to her before boarding the plane for basic. They were to be married at the first chance they had, but that chance would never come. He would be shipped out to Afghanistan right after basic. Of course, she would see him-via Skype-three times before receiving the news that he had been killed.
But during those long months while he was still alive, she threw herself into her duties in the church. Each message, she would hurt a little more, though there was always the promise of his Christmas furlough. That hope kept her going. She prayed daily that he would return safely to her. But it was not meant to be.
It was on Thanksgiving when the news came in. She was dining with T-Bone and his wife when the call came. It was then that her world came crashing in. T-Bone tried to console her. And she knew he meant well. Unable to finish the meal, she requested to be taken home.
Home. That was the house that Mel had bought her. She no longer wanted it. She wanted to be with family, but her sisters were less than desirable when it came to being understandable. Their “men” had left them both nine months pregnant and destitute. They had moved back in with Granny, who had raised all three girls after their parents’ untimely deaths.
Granny would be able to help her make sense of her loss. And Granny did. But it would never be the same. She could never go back to the house Mel had bought her. Never.
In the weeks and months that followed, Kinesha threw herself deeper into her roles at church. She helped form a youth choir. She became more involved with the adult choir as their lead soprano.
Tony, T-Bone, had been impressed. She seemed to be taking things better than he would have imagined. He mourned along with her. Mel had been a very special young man, and a precious part of their congregation.
At Mel’s funeral, she announced that she was going to be moving. She had found a new job in the Midwest and would be leaving L.A…probably for good. It was at that point that Tony knew that she had made the choice to leave her past behind and start new. Of course, she would return. But only when she had healed. Only when she was called about Granny.
Kinesha moved to Omaha to take on her new job. She found a small church that she could serve in some capacity, and settled in. The first person she became well acquainted with was Max. Brown-haired, hazel-eyed Max. The immortal jokester. He made her laugh. He made her feel good. Moreover, he was a Christian and a very wise man for his 30+ years. Yes, he was older than her. But he made her feel alive.
The first person she told about Max was Tony. Her old mentor could not have been any happier for her. He realized that she had been called to move so that she would be able to find a new reason to smile. And she had.
That had been ten years ago. Now, T-Bone had called her. He needed her help. And it had been good to hear a familiar voice.
She hung up the phone and began calling the rest of the congregation. When she hung up from the last call, Max entered.
“What is it, Hon?” He knew when something was wrong.
“My old mentor just called. A friend of his mentor is about to face the greatest test to his faith and all prayers are needed.”
“Then, let’s go do as we have been asked.”
Together, they walked toward the bedroom, where they would kneel and pray as a family. They would add their voices, though in silence, to the others now rising to heaven.
Jesus had moved from L.A. to San Diego shortly after he had finished seminary. There, he had built his church plant. There, he had begun his outreach. And he was a godsend for the Hispanic community. They had needed a new pastor. A young pastor. Someone the youth could identify with.
And Jesus fit the bill. His testimony sent chills down the spine of many. He told of being involved of drive-byes. He told of dealing drugs. He even told of pimping. But he never bragged. He only wanted the youth to know what he had been called out of. He wanted them to understand that that was not a life they really wanted any part of.
He told of how he had stopped into T-Bone’s outreach, searching for a delinquent gang member and a few rival gang members. Instead, he found God. He told how one became a target for all gangs when they left. He told of being a hunted man. And a haunted man.
In his three years of ministering in the community, he had watched many youth turn away from the gang life. He had seen many youth leave the streets. He had seen that he had been instrumental in keeping several in school even after they were evicted from their homes or kicked out by a
parents who either drank too much or were addicted to illegal drugs.
His little congregation had gone from just a handful to being hundreds of people, most of them youth. He had made a difference. One of those had been a young woman named Maria. She had come to the outreach for the first time at the age of eighteen. She had been kicked out of her parents’ home for not wanting to allow them to use her for their drug habit. She needed a place to sleep, and Jesus had fixed up a cot in one of the spare rooms of the outreach.
At first, she worked as a volunteer. Then, she began accepting payment for performing the duties of a secretary. But she had other motives. Though she had come to God, she had also fallen in love with the man who had showed her true kindness. She had fallen in love for Jesus.
She playfully blamed his mischievous grin for stealing her heart. But she knew it had not really been that. He had shown her real love through giving her a place to stay and not expecting anything in return.
In a year, he had asked her to marry him, she had said yes, and they had married. That had been two years ago. Now, she found herself answering the phone again. Jesus must be out, she thought, or he would have already answered the infernal thing.
“Hello?” She inquired. “No, Tony. Jesus isn’t here. Yes. Yes. OK, I will tell him. Yes. We will. You too.”
She hung up the phone. Jesus walked into the kitchen where she was and saw the concerned look on her face.
“What’s up, mi amiga?” He asked, that mischievous grin spreading out over his face.
“I was getting ready to call you.” She looked into his brown eyes. “Tony called.”
“Tony? My old mentor? What was on his mind?”
“His mentor called him. They are calling all those they know. They need prayers.” She continued to recount the whole conversation she’d had with T-Bone.
When she was done, Jesus picked up the phone and called every member of their congregation one by one. When he was done, he took Maria’s hand and led her to his office. They would pray in there.
“Come. We will go do our part.”
San Su had been born in the Chinese Syndicate. He had been groomed to be a cold-hearted killer. Yet, his heart wasn’t in it. He didn’t mind mean-spirited mischief. Or the extortion. But to kill was not his will to do.
He ran away from home at the age of sixteen, vanishing into the shadows of alleys. There, he believed, he would never be found. At least by his father. And for a while, he lost himself in a street gang until he couldn’t take being enemies with those around him anymore. Then, God found him.
Stumbling into T-Bone’s outreach center, he came face-to-face with the man he’d been taught to hate the most. Yet, this man was no longer part of a gang. He wore the uniform of a preacher. Nothing he was taught now made sense.
Over three years, Tony took the young San and turned his life around. Like all of Tony’s students, San entered seminary. Yet, unlike most, he did not want to do a church plant. Instead, he became the chaplain for a nonprofit that was involved in construction projects throughout the world.
Currently, they were in China. Here, he had come into contact with the underground churches and knew how to get messages to them. As his cell phone went off, he took time to see who was calling. When he saw Tony’s name, he answered immediately.
“Hello? How ya doin’ T-Bone? That’s good. What do you need? Really. OK. I can get that done. No worries. Good to hear your voice too, Man. Don’t be such a stranger. Later.”
after he hung up, he began calling in his messengers. after they had arrived, he wrote the message on several pieces of paper and had them each take a strip and leave. He knew his messages would reach their destinations. He called his team together and they also began to pray.
*”The Devil” By Hoyt Axton. Used with permission