I wrote this poem/song nearly 7 years ago. When reading in the portion of the Bible, [Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua], when the 6 cities were places in Israel for the safety of people who had either purposely or accidentally killed someone, this song hit me. In those old days, these cities were the refuge. When Jesus covered our sins and went to Heaven, the city for all of us as refugees from our sin, that's all I can count on forever. Hasn't been sung, hasn't been used. But it was a pure blessing when it was dropped into my heart, soul, and spirit. ==============================================
CITY OF REFUGE
I was fleeing for my life I could see the city gates Open to enfold and bring me in. Behind me, on the pathway, My enemy pursued me, Intending to destroy me for my sin.
Oh, Blessed place of Refuge I Cried, Oh, Refuge City, My only hope was found within your walls. Before the priest I trembled and pled my case for mercy I knew before this judge I’d stand or fall.
I was fleeing for my life, Fleeing to the Blood of Refuge Shed by Jesus Christ, it drew me in. Behind me on the pathway My Enemy pursued me, Accusing and condemning me for sin.
Oh, Blessed Man of Refuge, I cried, Oh, Blessed Savior, My only hope is through Your cleansing Blood. Before my Priest I worshiped He pled my case for mercy Freedom came through His Redeeming Love.
And now I walk in Freedom, I daily walk in Freedom, Rejoicing as I look upon His face. The Refuge I once cried for, The Refuge Jesus died for, Enfolded me within the walls of Grace.
I HAD READ SOME OF THE EXTRA INFO CONNECTED TO MOM AFTER SHE DIED, JANUARY, 2011. ONE PIECE I WAS HANDED IN APRIL, 2011, DURING A VISIT, I HAD READ THAT WHEN RUTH HAD DIED HER DAD WANTED
TO ADOPT ANOTHER GIRL.
[I HAD HEARD ABOUT RUTH SINCE I WAS A KID, BUT DIFFERENT INFO WAS GIVEN TO ME THEN. I THOUGHT SHE AND MOM HAD LIVED TOGETHER FOR A FEW YEARS UNTIL RUTH DIED AND THE DAD DIED IN 1928. NOW TOLD THAT WAS NOT TRUE.]
MY MOM, MIRACULOUSLY, WAS ADOPTED
AT HER BIRTH IN JULY, 1920. SADLY, HER DAD HAD DIED WHEN SHE WAS 8 YEARS OLD. HER REALLY, TRULY
LOVING PARENT WAS GONE THEN.
ONE OF MY HEART DESIRES IS TO MEET RUTH WHEN I'M IN HEAVEN. I WON'T BE A YOUNG 'UN WHEN I GET THERE, BECAUSE I'M AN OLD 'UN.
BUT SHE WENT TO HEAVEN WHEN SHE WAS
ONLY 5-2/3 YEARS OLD.
I'M TRULY LOOKING FORWARD TO MEETING
MY AUNT RUTH,
NOT THROUGH THE GENETIC WAY, BUT THROUGH THE FAMILY- CARING WAY THAT BROUGHT
MOM TO THEIR LIFE,
AND AS CRAZY AS SOME THINGS TOOK PLACE CONNECTED TO THAT FAMILY DURING MOM'S YEARS,
Here's a bit of information that many do not know about that city; I sure didn't back then before my arrival in Feb., '67. East St. Louis was considered one of the poorest towns in our country. I was told by a priest, when trying to decide where I could be in place to help, said that this town had more poverty issues than Chicago, obviously the largest town in Illinois. This town was MUCH smaller, and the poverty was much higher. The constant racial battles took place and continued. It was a highly dangerous town, also. The kids we were teaching and playing with at this House, connected to the wide neighborhood, were the ones we took with us on this Day event. ==================
The summer of '67 involved a pile of short-termers, connected to the Methodist churches, the main supporter of this "House" since it began. Most of the short-termers were from the mid-southern states and southeastern states. Most in the range of my age... 20-ish ... but a couple that were in their late 20s and were leaders for the rest of us. It was HOT!!! Being raised in the west of the Northwest, I had rarely experienced any kind of heat like this, and never experienced humidity like that. I was flowing with sweat, and, at night, when in a very small bedroom of my own, a fan was put right at the head of my twin bed and I kept it on for hours. Even though it was on all night and noisy, I SLEPT. One day, we were told that the next job was to take a bunch of the kids to a natural park area that would show them another part of the world. I don't remember where it was, but I do remember some of the occurrences. Some funny, some rather frightening, considering I'd never been in a place like that, either. The oldest of the short-termers, a very special friend of Miss Provence, from either North or South Carolina, was in charge of us. She probably had done this in previous summers, and had a real heart for it. We got a bunch of the kids on a bus and went. We were out of town, and we were able to see a great natural place. The kids had been told to wear shoes and socks and we made sure they could move around and about without being hurt. I took lots of handkerchiefs so they could clean their eyes and faces when the sweat was pouring. I had Bactine in my jeans back pocket, and any time a bug bit or we needed some pain released quickly, I could spray that around and about, on them or on me. We were taken to a stream. For the first time in my life, and theirs, we were shown various kinds of lizards and/or salamanders. Didn't scare me. Kind of enjoyed it. THEN we went to a building that had a variety of reptiles inside that we could see. Quite a few snakes were kept there. They were inside a window with a small door. Similar to what we see at zoos. Being terribly frightened of snakes, since I was about 5 when a rattlesnake was going for me in Klickitat, WA, it had never reduced. Our leader took those of us helpers aside and gave us a "job" to do. To her, it was important that if the kids would see snakes and be horribly frightened, we could show them the other side. The few of us needed to let her put a snake on our arm and, holding its head in our hand, have the snake circle our arm. Then we were to smile and let the kids touch the snake. I didn't know much about the Holy Spirit back then, since I'd only been with the Lord for about a year, but I am certain sure that the Holy Spirit leaned on me, lifting fear completely out of my heart. I DID IT!! The snake tail was at the top of my arm, twisted around all the way to my fingers. Was I excitedly happy? No. But was I jumping up and down and screaming, which would have been a normal reaction for me? NO! And why was I not fearful that day? Because I was being used to help and bless those kids.
It happened then... and it never happened again. My fear of snakes has never left. Garters in my house yard, cobras and pythons and mambas in Uganda, still bring forth lots of fear. I was talking with a spiritual sister today and told her that even when I'm in heaven, I don't want snakes in my house, even though they might love me. We laughed. Overall, the kids had a great time that day. They were so excited when they saw the stream, could walk into it and look for the salamanders, or similar lizardy things, had a great sack lunch while we were hanging out at the park, and laughed and laughed as we were heading home. I was enjoying them, enjoying the other short-termers, and was amazed that I had not freaked out with the snake on my arm. Did it then; never again.
I honestly can't remember exactly when this happened during my time living there at the LBDNH. I entered the House to live in it about May or June, '67 and left mid-March, '68. Think this "Sorrowful" event occurred during the Fall of '67. But it's never left my heart. When I was allowed to walk through the House this past Saturday, one of the former main entry rooms ain't the same any more. One reason: it was originally connected to the Daycare service. And they don't have that there any longer. The Daycare main room has other stuff and its side office is used for other things. I used to help occasionally with the Daycare. They needed me, because something occurred that they hadn't planned on or someone hadn't come to do their job. It wasn't my favorite thing to do, for certain sure. I had been a babysitter of my 2 younger sisters when I was 7 years old and 3 more girls arrived over time, the last when I was 13. Since I was abused significantly, by my parents, I sometimes was an abuser to my sisters. For instance, as they grew older and picked on me too often, and got me in more trouble with my folks, I beat them -- on the side, so my folks wouldn't see it and the girls didn't tell mom and dad. SO helping at the Daycare could cause me to be frustrated when I saw things that just drove me nuts. I saw too much of the "bad" stuff, and they, the helpers, were very nice. Very kind. My thoughts, however, was they did not deal with reality. BUT the lady who was the main organizer was a lovely person. I really, really liked her. Then the story hit us on a Saturday, and broke our hearts for her. Her daughter, son-in-law and 2 young granddaughters were at her house for dinner on Friday night. When her husband prayed for dinner, afterwards the little girls said that they saw an angel and they were jumping up and down and filled with joy. Later, the family left and headed for their home. It was a bit outside of town, away from normal streets and paved streets. While on a gravel road, a teenaged boy, speeding the opposite direction, hit them head on. All 5 of them, including the boy, were killed, immediately. All I remember about the girls is that they were thrown from where they sat on the back seat to being crushed on the floor below and under the front seats. All of us were heartbroken. All of us had so much love for this lady... whose name I obviously can't remember. She returned to the House about a week later, and we showed our sorrow for her, and she did her job, but many, many tears flowed from her. Miss Provence, when there was a place to go to show appreciation and concern for the lady and her husband, which event was at their church, and prior to the service, took me in her car. We were alone. She let me know what to do, what I'd be seeing. Knowing me, she was pretty sure I could freak out, and she prepped me. When we walked into the church, I was truly horrified. It was the first time I had seen more than one casket. [It's been that way my whole life.] To see the caskets of the parents and the small ones of the little girls truly entered my heart. On the way back to the House, Miss Provence very kindly told some of what she felt and how I could adjust to this sorrowful situation, how I could encourage others. I tried. I never stopped loving the Daycare lady. I have no idea what ever happened, since I left a few months later, and my usual job wasn't connected directly to her. Often when I was at SIU for class, I didn't arrive back to the House before the Daycare was closed for the day. In all these years, I have never forgotten what happened. And one of the main things the lady focused on was that since her young grandgirls had seen an angel before they finished dinner and headed for home, it was a spiritually-oriented prayer gift time. The girls were happy. Maybe the angel, who obviously knew what was on their "plate", would be carrying their spirit and soul immediately to heaven. Bodies left behind, which happens to all of us. So, yes, it was sorrowful. For days and days.
But it also was filled with knowledge of the Lord. Things happen in our lives, on earth, both good or evil, but reaching heaven is the most important event we can ever walk through, fly through, rejoice through. That's all I can ever hope for. In the last 45 years and 8 months since I left, I've grown to understand more and more about heaven and earth. Relying on the Lord.
I was blessed on Saturday, because Vera, who I had not personally met then, just verbally, sent the janitor of the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House to meet me there. I had pulled in from my stretch of drive, west of St. Louis, and walked about for a few minutes, pounded on the door, and waited. A couple minutes later I heard the metallic portion of the door being unkeyed, and I whipped over there.
Lee welcomed me in. I couldn't NOT tell him some of the stories connected to each bit and piece of the building as I saw them. This was the first story I told him, though. And it's a portion of funny and crazy. To walk in the door, there's a reasonable area between the steps that head down to the lower portion and the steps that go to the main level. Not a pile of steps, but only a few to go each direction. I had to grin when I looked, especially looking downstairs. Not long after I began helping on Friday evening, April, 1967, an event kicked in. A fellow and I were supposed to check the names of the teens who were coming and make sure they were on the list, or, if not on the list, make sure they would be approved. We were really in charge. This was a fun time for the teens -- skating in a large gym area, eating in a kitchen next to the gym, and a nice dance room on the opposite end of the House.
My co-worker, Jay, had recently come from the Marines and was quiet, and, I assumed that, because this House job was very important, he would be firm. Very firm, if need be. Suddenly, a man came in the front door. He wasn't tall, wasn't strong. However, he was pretty drunk and he was obviously in his early twenties. We let him know he wasn't welcome and that he needed to step out. He refused. He pushed Jay aside towards a side wall, pushed me towards the door, and headed down the stairs. Jay STAYED aside. I. DID. NOT!! My anger jumped in quickly, and I ran down the stairs behind him, and I tackled him as he was walking to the place where he could turn left to the gym or right to the dance room and have some fun. When I tackled him, he hit the floor. I quickly stood up. He quickly stood up. I was frantic, and believed I'd be headed for real trouble. Andhe laughed. Immediately, Jess [whose name I learned later] climbed back up the stairs and went out the front door, still laughing. What I discovered, a short time later, was that he had just been freed from jail after stabbing someone. Occasionally, after that night, during the next weeks and months, I would see him with people inside or outside the House. If he happened to see me walking or working outside around and about, he'd always point at me and talk to them, and they'd look at me with big eyes, opening their mouths, and, eventually, they'd all be shaking their heads and laughing.
When I had been teaching a Bible class, I had a very bad situation with his youngest brother, who, in the class, had been cussing significantly, over and over again. I disciplined him, and heard him complain to Jess. I heard him tell Jessie to beat me. And I heard Jessie say to his young brother, basically, "No. Never will." How could I walk in that front door this past weekend and not immediately "see" Jessie and hear him laughing, even though it was 46 years ago? I protected everyone else and, as usual in those days, I overreacted. Jumping down the stairs and tackling someone, especially a drunk guy, wasn't the brightest thing I could have done. I could have easily been beaten or stabbed. But GOD broke through so often with His kindness and His protection and His love during my year at the House. As far as I'm concerned, Jessie and I could have become true friends. What a blessing to "see" him again. Hope he eventually came to the Lord. Hope I will meet him and see him. If God had broken into my horrific life a year earlier, and protected me my whole life in the Northwest and now in E. St. L, He could easily protect Jess and plant seed in his heart, soul, spirit, and prep him for heaven.
THIS SATURDAY WAS ONE OF THE MOST AMAZING DAYS I'VE HAD IN AGES. VERA INVITED TO BE AT THIS VERY SPECIAL EVENT. EVEN THOUGH IT'S ABOUT 500 MILES FROM MY HOME, BECAUSE OF MY BACKGROUND CONNECTED TO VERA'S WORK AND MINISTRY, AND BECAUSE SHE HAD HEARD ABOUT ME MORE THAN A YEAR AGO, AND NO ONE HAD FOR YEARS AND YEARS, SHE ENTERED MY LIFE.
SO, I WENT.
IT IS CONNECTED TO A "HOUSE" IN EAST ST. LOUIS, AND I WAS A WORKER THERE INVOLVED WITH PROTECTING AND CARING FOR VIOLENTLY ENDANGERED AND
POVERTY STRICKEN FAMILIES.
IT WAS 47 YEARS AGO WHEN I WAS 21-TO-22 YEARS OLD.
[AND I HAD PROTECTORS, TOO.]
MY HEART HAS BEEN FILLED EVER SINCE FOR THAT CITY AND THAT "HOUSE", BUT VERY RARELY EVER BEEN IN THAT WHOLE ST. LOUIS AREA, AND USUALLY JUST DRIVING THROUGH.
ANOTHER AMAZEMENT WAS THAT WHEN SHE MET ME, A SHORT WHILE LATER SHE SAID I WOULD BE A 2-MINUTE SPEAKER. WHAT??? DO IT? TWO MINUTES??? ME???
THE BOARD LEADER OF THIS FAMOUS HELPING HOUSE SPOKE, OTHER MAIN LEADERS SPOKE, THE MAYOR SPOKE... AND SOMEWHERE BETWEEN 500 AND 600 PEOPLE WERE THERE FOR THE EVENT, INCLUDING WONDERFUL DINNER.
AND I DID MY 2-MINUTES.
[NOT2-HOURS, WHICH I COULD HAVE DONE, KNOWING WHAT I KNOW. BUT IT WAS A BLESSING TO SHARE A BIT, AND, HOPEFULLY, OPEN MORE DOORS THERE.]
I'LL BE POSTING ABOUT THIS FOR SEVERAL DAYS. IT WAS AN OVERWHELMING GLORIOUS REJOICING DAY.
A year and a half ago, I saw this building for the first time since March, 1967, when I had had to hit the bus to get to Tacoma, WA. In April, 2012, I had taken a Bhutanese family to St. Louis for the weekend, so I had alone time, and I decided to go to that area and see what it was like. I was overwhelmed when I saw the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House in East St. Louis. And, after reaching home, I posted about it on my blog, and they, at the "House" found it and found me. We've talked and it's been a blessing.
She began this ministry 104 years ago.
Built in 1939
When I was working there, age of 21 to 22, back in April, '67 to March, '68, I learned much about the challenging situation... mostly connected to poverty, serious fighting, rioting, working things out for them, and planting the seed of God in them as often as possible. I was still a Tough Cookie, based on my background, and worked helpfully sometimes and "fightfully" other times, out of anger or to protect kids. I wasn't perfect. BUT I truly grew more and more in the Lord during that year. Something else that's very important. I lived in the building and was sometimes out and about at night, only because I wanted to. I was supposed to stay in the building after dark. Period. WELL, I
often broke the rule. I would go down the fire escape on the back wall
and hit the street. When I first started doing it, kids going past in
cars would lean out the window and holler, "Miss Jo, Whacha doin'?"
They were concerned about my safety. I was 21, and looked younger, so really put myself in some less-than-bright situations, and
all my fault, of course.
long after, I'd gained a reputation for being out after dark. When I
began walking, a couple minutes later a tough-looking 20-ish guy would
step out from under a tree or out of a local doorway. "Hey, Miss Jo.
Where're ya goin'?" I'd just smile and say hi and he'd keep walking
with me. These guys were friends of mine. Arzell, John, and James, and 2 others, whose names I don't remember. Four were Black; one was White. What finally dawned on me, a week or so later, was
that these good buddies had set themselves up as my Protection Guards.
They always stayed near the House, during certain hours, and watched in
case I would hit the street. OK. One of the blessing that just hit my heart was being invited to attend the Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House event, for the 104th time of rejoicing. That is about 500 miles from my home, but I couldn't NOT go! The event occurred several miles east from East St. Louis at a gorgeous building in Collinsville. About 500 to 600 people were there. Many from churches, many connected to the "House" in one way or another.
Saturday evening I had several amazing events. Met many wonderful people, and a lot of them had already heard of me. WOW! Early in my arrival, a man was brought up to me, and introduced. I read his name, I stared at his face, and I said, "John, you were my protector." He looked at me, kinda funny. But we talked for a few minutes of the different people and situations and he knew! He is about 1-1/2 years younger than I am. Well, we had photos taken of and for us. And we spent several times together during that 4 hours. Meeting in the middle, going aside a bit, talking and sharing, really hit my heart. I'll be blogging about many of the evening events there... and other events in other places that were miraculous, but not connected to the "House".
Through him and the other guys, it is one of the main reasons I am still alive. Murder was not an unusual event. John and the others protected me, because God laid me on their hearts. They are still on mine after all these years. So here's John and I this past Saturday. What a blessing. [And now we won't lose each other, because we shared emails, phone numbers, and addresses. I want John and my dear husband to meet someday.]