Monday, November 11, 2013


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.

Not 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.]

Tell Me a Story


Hazel Moon said...

WOW what a blessing those protectors were to you. That is so cool that you could be there for the celebration. Thank you for sharing at "Tell Me a Story."

Mia De Vries said...

Dear sweet Joanne
What a delightful story about your special "guardians". This has brought sunlight to my heart as well and Ican just imagine what a wonderful, blessed time this was together after all these years!
Blessings XX

Crystal Mary said...

How wonderful to meet again after all that time! And...he was as an angel. I wonder how many times you were protected from harm without ever knowing?? God is good and cares for us beyond that which we imagine. xx

Floyd said...

That is so cool! He was sent by our Father to add a hedge of protection around you… and you got to thank him proper. What a gift! Cool story.