A few weeks ago, one of the women in our jail ministry team brought SEVERAL winter coats and heavy jackets with her to our Monday night meeting. She wanted me to take them to Hamilton County Community Corrections for those in need of a coat. In all honesty, I’ve been so busy lately that I could only see taking them to the facility as one more thing I had to do — a chore.
The only time I can go during their office hours is on my way to work in the morning and lately, I’ve needed to get to the office as early as I can. So I drove around town with those coats in my trunk for several days — even let them slip my mind briefly.
Then, one night, I was talking to one of the women whom I met in jail and recently transitioned to Community Corrections (Work Release). She has been doing great — seldom asks for anything and when she does, it’s only with great humility. When I talked to her, she had just started a new job, working 3rd shift, and had saved enough money to purchase a scooter to get back and forth.
With the cold nights we have been having, I asked her, “do you have a coat?”
She did not.
If you know me at all, you know I’m always cold. And I HATE to be cold. I can’t imagine riding a scooter back and forth to work in the middle of the night when it’s in the 40’s. We’ve had a lot of rain lately, too. Cold + wet = MISERY.
So, I arranged to meet her in the parking lot at Community Corrections on my way to work the next day. I opened the trunk and she tried several on, settling on one that was warm and water-resistant.
While she had just come from work, several other people were walking out of the facility going to work. I noticed a woman wearing a McDonalds uniform but no coat. I realized she was going to be walking to the McDonalds just under a mile away with no coat on that cold morning. I said, “Hi, there! Do you have a coat?”
She didn’t have one, but she got one and put it on immediately. She had been in the facility for nearly a year and went all last winter without a coat. And several other people got a coat that morning, and even after distributing several, I still had a few left in my trunk.
Yesterday, I got a text from an unknown number.
“My name is _____. I heard you have helped people get a coat and I wondered if you could help me?”
So, I met her tonight after her AA meeting and even though the stock of coats had been diminished, she found one that fit her perfectly. Just like the widow’s flour and oil in 1 Kings 17:14 that never ran out, everyone who needed a coat found one that fit.
For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.”
So, for the time being, I’m a coat dealer — one who peddles my product in correctional facility and AA meeting parking lots.
I wasn’t sure at the time what prompted my ministry team partner to bring the coats that night and I confess, I was even mildly perturbed at what I perceived as an inconvenience.
But I realize now why she did it when she did — because people God loves very much needed coats. So He sent them coats. What I viewed as an inconvenience was in fact a faith-building blessing — the privilege to work with God to provide for His people. Why He chose to give me the joy of another person’s gift, I can’t explain, but I’m very grateful.
I have several coats in my closet. I have dress coats, rain coats, long coats, short coats. I have more coats than I need and more than I wear. I wear the same coat every day all winter long. Those coats aren’t keeping anyone warm hanging in my closet, so I think I’m gonna move them to the trunk of my car.
If you or someone you know needs a coat, just name the parking lot and I’ll be there with my trunk — and my arms — wide open.