One year, my art was stolen and I suffered loss. San and I, with our three small kids, one a newborn, had to start over. We moved to Oxnard, where I’d grown up. I borrowed a room for two months, worked three and four jobs to earn enough money to get another apartment. At two months, I’d earned enough to move in. No furniture. Not even a refrigerator. We kept food in a bucket with ice. It was tough, but we persevered.
Sometimes, while driving from late-night shifts, I’d search for lost sheep, people God loves, including a backslidden Brother Arthur, out on Rose Avenue, dealing drugs. One particular night, when I got home, something happened. San said Sister Jessie Mae Bryant came by with a clipboard, walked through our apartment, and shortly afterward, everything we needed was delivered and put in place. It was fully furnished, with two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, and even a refrigerator! The place was bare-bone empty when I left, full when I returned. We were happy and amazed.
In the years before I went to Alabama, I frequently prayed with Sis. Jessie Mae’s son, Brother Tommy, and sometimes with her mother, Sister Ivery Lee Bryant. But at the end of the eighties, after I returned from Alabama, there I was, back in that town, starting from scratch again.
Before Sister Bryant returned to the Lord, she was known as “Cadillac Mama,” owner of a café in Colonia and a club near the airport. She’d bring in people like Ike and Tina Turner. But that was her prior life, and maybe a story for another day.
Sister Jessie Mae had nine children, all grown. Even so, all of my family was invited over to Sister Bryant’s house for Christmas, a home filled with her own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. They welcomed us, fed us well, and made it lovely, like family, like home.
Who would imagine that? Not me. I had no such expectation. But that family loved me, loved us. And they did not keep love in a Sunday box. Their love expressed itself abundantly, exquisitely. They saw me struggling to get on my feet, and they communicated love to us in such a tangible way. I am so grateful and amazed.
Those gestures of care were rooted in love, which always must be given away. It reminds me that God, who feeds all the birds and beasts around the world and knows the current number of hairs on my head, knew of my loss and my struggles. He knows your struggles, also.
Love creates such possibilities that can scarcely be imagined. Love empathetically sees what others ignore, and creates an atmosphere for making whole. Love impacts the one who loves as much as the persons who are loved. Love creates the possibility of reset and healing.
The birth of Jesus Christ is part of God’s great love story. Long ago, a virgin conceived and was with child, as promised by Isaiah the prophet. The entire human family has been shown kindness and given the good news of God’s love for a sinning world. All are invited, and we are welcomed. So, today, from every corner of the world, from every nation, tribe and tongue, Jew and Gentile alike, believers have been adopted into God’s dear family.
Who would imagine?
In addendum, I should probably say that during the above-mentioned season of difficulties, God added some elements to the fabric of my life I could not have gotten any other way. I know God better and have the cure for bitterness, which I freely give away. My hope is undiminished.
Before she passed, Sister Jessie Mae requested that I do her eulogy. I was humbled. But it gave me opportunity to comfort those who loved her, to reach for lost sheep, and remind them all of the great goodness and love of God.
By Frank Robinson