The story of a Ford Focus, faith and friendship
It was Christmastime, and I was busy. Busy with children, work, shopping for presents and memorizing music for choir. I love Christmas, but it is a demanding time of year. In the midst of this hectic time, my neighbor and fellow church member, Leon Gamber, asked if I needed help with my residential cleaning business.
Did I need help? Yes. Did I want to take the chance on a stranger? Not really. But as Leon told me about Melissa, something told me to give her a try. It wasn’t what Leon said, but the look on his face. She was a good girl, Leon said, and she needed a break. I trusted him, so I told him to tell her to give me a call.
Melissa called the next day. I’ll never forget her words: “I’m desperate.” Desperate. Have I ever been desperate for money? I can honestly say no. We agreed to meet.
After getting to know each other over a Dr. Pepper, we decided to try working together for a couple of weeks. During the first week, Melissa either borrowed a car or was dropped off. I asked her about her car. “I don’t have one,” she said. “I did have a nice little car. Paid cash for it. Then an uninsured driver hit me last May and totaled it.”
She began to cry. “I need a car; I need a job. I can’t get a car because I don’t have a job; I can’t get a job because I don’t have a car.” The tears flowed. She told me, “It seems like ever since my mom died a year ago, my life has fallen to pieces.”
How much can one person endure? A young mother of two, going through a divorce, her mom suddenly dies, uninsured driver totals her car. A little voice within said, “Someone needs to help her.” But I didn’t have the time. I was too busy.
The next morning, the radio DJ was asking, “What’s your Christmas wish?” While others called in wishing for a Wii, a TV or a new doll, I called asking for something huge: “I am wishing for a new car for my new friend Melissa.” The radio station said that they would put it out there and see what happened.
A few minutes later, a woman named Shauny from another church in the community called the station to say that a car had been donated to their church. Maybe we could make it work. I said a quick, “Thank you, God, for hearing my prayer.” When I met with Shauny and we talked about the car, reality hit. This car was 30 years old and had been sitting in a field for three years. Back to square one.
“Don’t give up.” That little voice was a little louder. Maybe God had a different plan. Maybe God wanted me to work harder on this wish. I began to pray in earnest about it. Could I actually find a car for Melissa?
I had never done anything like this before. This was huge. I didn’t have the time to do this. I prayed more and listened to my heart. Melissa needed help. I recalled her words: “I’m desperate.” I knew what I had to do: Give it to God.
With the help of Tom Voth, pastor of caregiving at my church, we contacted Sunday school classes to ask for help. I told everyone I met: people at First MB Church, neighbors, clients, even my dentist. If they couldn’t give a monetary donation, would they please pray about it? Shauny was my encourager. She continued to help me and sought help from her church’s benevolent committee. The rest, as they say, is history.
Contributions began to pour in, some large, some small. My motto was, “Not many of us have a lot of money, but a lot of us have a little. Give what you can.” And give they did. Dozens of people donated.
I also received suggestions for finding the car. I contacted Goodwill and a local car dealership. Nothing. Then I got word about a car that was a good possibility. The asking price was higher than I ever dreamed we would get. But it was such a nice car: a 2002 Ford Focus in good condition.
Again, I gave it to God: “Lord, you know how much money we need. I know that you have the perfect vehicle for Melissa. You know and see all. Please, just show me the way.”
By Dec. 31, we had collected enough money to purchase that beautiful little car. And we had enough money left over to take care of tags, taxes and insurance, plus a gas card. Is God good? Does he hear our prayers? Yes!
I truly believe that God placed this young woman into my life for more than one reason. She needed me to restore her faith in humankind. But much more than that, she needed me to restore her faith in God. This experience also has restored my faith that God truly hears our prayers. When we ask specifically, God takes care of our needs. I could not have done this without God’s leading and guiding.
When I told Melissa about the car, and she heard the whole story, all she could say was, “You bought me a car? Who does that? No one has ever done anything like this for me before. You bought me a car?”
I quickly told her, “No. I didn’t buy you a car. God’s people bought you a car. I was just the foot soldier.” Then, to say the least, we both cried.
Interestingly enough, through this whole story, I was still busy. This adventure took priority over everything else. Still, I got everything done. Presents were purchased, music memorized, tree trimmed and work completed. God gave me the strength and the energy to complete my tasks and to fulfill a need for someone who had been a total stranger. This was, without a doubt, the best, busiest Christmas ever.
It was December. I was utterly depressed and in need of a miracle. The one-year anniversary of my mother’s death was weeks away, and I didn’t know how to face it. I was going through a divorce, trying to take care of my two children, ages six and nine. I was not sure at all how I was going to make it.
To make matters worse, I had been without a car for eight months. A year ago, I had purchased the nicest car I had ever owned: a 1997 Chrysler. In May, an uninsured driver ran a red light and totaled my car. A car is such a simple thing we often take for granted. It was unbelievably hard getting back and forth to work, taking my kids to school, feeling as if I had no independence whatsoever. I felt I didn’t have any place to turn.
God always seems to provide a way through my times of struggle and grief. I started working for Kim, an amazing woman who has her own cleaning service. Kim helped me every day without realizing it. I saw God’s love in her. Her warmth and love lifted my spirits daily. She always seemed to really listen, and she comforted me when I was down, like a mother. She kept saying, “You need a car, girly!”
Then one day, Jan. 7, Kim called to say she would come and pick me up. We were not working that day so I was a bit confused, but I waited for her at my door. We drove to a home on the west side of Wichita and pulled into the driveway.
Kim parked the car and told me that it is such a pleasure to work with me. With tears streaming down her face, she said, “You see that car over there? It’s yours!” She dangled the keys in front of my face. “It’s yours!”
I started crying immediately. “Are you serious? What? Why would you do this? For me? I don’t understand.”
I listened as she explained that she had organized donations and that the church family had reacted with generosity and love. I thank God every day for that love, generosity and compassion to help a single mother in need. God is good all the time.
Kim West and her family attend First MB Church, Wichita, Kan. She says this experience has opened her eyes to God’s goodness in other areas of life and inspired her to plan a summer volunteer experience. “I will never question that little voice again, nor will I put it on the back burner,” she says. “I’m not too busy to help someone.”
Melissa Grube still works for Kim. What started as a two-week temporary job has turned into a regular part-time job and the two have become good friends. “With this new car, I have a new beginning on life,” she says. She is enjoying her new independence and ability to “be there” for her family.