An empty seat at the lunch table~

This past Saturday I had the joy to attend another Beth Moore Simulcast. If you aren’t up to date on this blessing, a simulcast is a live streaming video of an event that is happening somewhere in the world. One of THE best uses of the electronic world that has ever happened, in my opinion. I am in SW FL, Beth broadcast from an arena in Indiana. On board together; all viewing, all praising, all worshiping…. AT THE SAME TIME, were 190 thousand of us. In unison. 11 countries included. All 50 states represented. It’s just amazing to even attempt to wrap my finite mind around. What a beautiful thought it places into our souls when we experience days together like Saturday. Snapshots of tribes & nations & tongues, praising/worshiping, knee deep in the word, as heaven calls us to do. If that doesn’t just take up depth & residency in your core & bring your heart to its knees, well then I am not sure what gets your spirit cranking. This joy absolutely smothers me beyond words.

Before this event, as I do in my daily prayer & study time, I asked God how He would reveal Himself to me. How would He give me the spiritual ears to hear Him discerningly & unscaled spiritual eyes to see Him front & center? It seems after all of the years of His arrival in my life, that I would stop expecting these grandiose entrances & remember He comes in the simplistic moments. And He came Saturday, as He did so many times in the Bible…..over a meal.

Let me set the table for you mentally: we broke for lunch, all of us high on Jesus. We filed one by one into the Fellowship Hall of the host church to choose our table. My women’s group came in a cluster of around 17 of us, regular attendees & guests. So we piled into the room & did that deer in the headlights room scan to decide where the bulk of us would congregate to eat. (not sure why picking a table is such a big deal but boy was it) As nothing in God’s time table is ironic or by chance, neither was the table we sat down to enjoy our meal.

After a few minutes of unwrapping our food & chatting, checking up on our families on our cells, a very nice & attractive young women was seated at the only vacant place at our table, which was directly in front of me. We all continued to talk & included her in our conversation until I realized I had not even personally introduced myself. I noticed my friend had engaged her in chat & before I had a chance to stick out my hand, she looked at me & said, “Jada she is homeless, you need to hear her story” And that’s where the day pivoted & God’s spirit in me went into combat mode & I almost choked on my turkey sandwich.

I have a huge heart for the homeless. I’ve served in homeless ministry & developed friendships over the years, with those still homeless & many who have phased into housing. Their hand ups allow many to serve back into the homeless communities they were released from. I will tell you something right now, there is an incorrect stigma in 2014 that attaches itself to people who are homeless. When you meet them on their ground, you meet their stories & their stories will change your life & your view over the things you take for granted each day. I understand there are many on the streets that are riddled with drug & alcohol abuse…..but many are NOT & this was a story, that only a snapshot of my day encountered, was still a moment that has forever affected me & those involved, with how mighty God moved on & through us all last Saturday.

Lisa & her TWO little girls, ages 7 & 3, are without a home. She was evicted from her home in FT Lauderdale. The FT Lauderdale which is 3+ hrs & 218 miles away from the event we were attending. She spoke about moving forward & how she knew that God brought her to this event for a reason. And when Beth had said, someone is here today & didn’t know they’d be attending, someone just found out last night that they’d be in attendance…. she said with tears in her eyes, “That’s me. I am her.” She explained that even her very best friend hadn’t offered she & her girls a place to stay. She did have a chance to put her whole life in storage before she had no where to go. She contacted shelters, but because she was not in danger of abuse, she & the girls were turned away….one agency even told her to take the girls to an underpass or sleep under a bridge for the night, which she obviously refused to do. She said she was just about to helplessly show up at a police station & beg them to give her & the girls a place to sleep & the offer to come here arrived.

Someone purchased bus tickets & off to our event & town they came. She told us that when we had our afternoon break, a lady was transporting her & the kids to a church based shelter located an hour away. She was very grateful for this chance & so positive & faithful about what was ahead. I asked her if over her life course, she’d ever had a chance to know & accept Christ? She said yes & accredited that belief in being why God had placed her there that day. She shared the momma worry over her girls well being. How the oldest missed school & was an honor student & the child feared this situation would cause her to lose that giftedness. It was such a tender moment. Our group decided we’d take a love offering between us, like the widow with coins, whatever we had, all in. We told her not to leave because we wanted to surround her in prayer before she went to the shelter.

As we were released for the break, we were called by Beth Moore to use our sanctuary’s or wherever in the world our groups were simulcasting, as a place for prayer & ministry if needed. That couldn’t have been more of a perfect, divine appt for us. We circled her chair, one of the women with us anointed her head with oil & we laid hands on her, praying & believing for her with prayers through God & tears. It was one of the most emotional & lovely things I have ever experienced. I think more so because of the surprise & divinity of the whole thing. We met her precious daughters as they were leaving & their little faces are so imprinted in my mind & on my heart. They’d had a great day playing with the other kids on site & were enjoying snacks. They had no idea what their momma was facing. No idea they were headed to a homeless shelter & how momma’s heart felt. I will be honest, mine felt like it was being ripped out piece by piece.

If you pray, I ask that you lift up Lisa & her daughters & their future. I never would’ve dreamed she was a homeless woman; which is why we never need to judge someone’s outward appearance as having it “all together”. When we’re obedient to communication & words of kindness, God opens doors for us to be used to love & support one another. Ways where we direct others back to Him through the love we have been so blessed to share. Like I have said before, we are all one crisis & one checking acct away from the situation she is experiencing. Not everyone has an army of family & friends to throw their doors open, but the church assembled through Jesus Christ does. We are all called & commissioned for these moments. You ask, He’ll deliver.

I thanked God so much for placing her at my table & even though we may never see her again, we are promised that one day in His kingdom we will be seated together for a mighty banquet. It is definitely true that some of the greatest moments God uses occur over meals, breaking bread & thanking.

I encourage you as well, to always leave an empty seat for someone at your table or in your own life….. God will be faithful to always fill it.



3 thoughts on “An empty seat at the lunch table~

  1. Jada, just wanted to report to you that Lisa is doing great and her 9 yr old (not 7) got registered for school in Wauchula yesterday and attending all day today. She was very excited this morning about going. Lisa got to meet her teacher and said she is really nice. Lisa said to let you know they don’t just have a bed under a roof, they have a room in a home. Hannah’s House is not just a shelter, it is a faith based home for ladies, and their children, going through abuse and/or homelessness for whatever reason. With the counseling and classes this ministry provides they will get emotional and spiritual help along with the financial and physical support they need. She is very grateful for what ya’ll did for her Saturday. She had never been prayed over like that. She knows that God placed her in Sarasota, at that event and at that table for a reason.

    She feels she is at home now. Its a new life for her and the girls. Her experiences she will use to help others going through similar situations. She is very happy and safe. Hannah’s House, Hannah’s Complex (transitional living apartments) and Hannah’s Hope Chest (Thrift Store owned and operated by the ministry) are all under Gillespie Ministries (Lorraine Gillespie is the founder and director and also my mother). They survive off of donations and grants (when they can get them). It is always a struggle but God keeps them going so they can help ladies like Lisa and their children to not only survive but to make a better life for them through Christ. It is a great ministry to support. It would be great to have Lisa and my mom speak at your church sometime or for some of you to go see the facility in Wauchula and see how she is doing.

    Thank you all for listening to God as He presented her story to you and thank you for not just listening but for “responding” like Beth Moore said. i know He is blessing you all for that. In His name. Love, Karen Tibbs


    • Oh what great news!! I will share with the ladies in class tomorrow night. Sorry for the age typo. I knew 9 but typed 7yrs old.
      So grateful that she found a great place for a hand up. And thankful she’s in a home environment vs the shelter idea in our minds. Thank you for carrying her over there & updating us. Please keep me posted as you hear from her. Will be in touch!!


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