Johnny comes Home.

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Miss Minnie is a dear older woman at our church. "Dear" seems like such an understatement. She is such a central part of our family. Adoptive grandmother, lipstick print leaver, perfumed hug giver- she is the one who always puts her hand on my shoulder (after leaving a big red print on my face), and says to whoever will listen, "This is MY girl. This is MY Becka." She makes me feel special, and then she turns around and does the same to every single church family member that is present.

We belong together- Miss Minnie and Garden Heights Church. More than Peanut butter and Chocolate. More than Paul and Barnabas. She belongs to us, and she has made it very clear that we do, indeed belong to her.

Therefore, when Miss Minnie hurts, we all hurt. And that hurt has been great over the years. Her pain is written on her face, despite the deep smile wrinkles, despite the tinkling laughs. You can feel it as she holds tightly to your hand, or leans heavily on you when she hugs you. Miss Minnie's burden has been great in this life. She has lost two children- one as a young child in a car accident. Her husband strayed from her and eventually disappeared from her life, leaving her with a struggling business and sullen teenagers.

Tragedy would strike more than her fair share, and Miss Minnie held on to Jesus. But, she had one pain that was just to deep to bare. The pain of a child who would have nothing to do with the Christ she loved so much. Johnny, who is old enough to be my father, has been in mine and Dustan's prayers for over five years now. He was not simply apathetic to God. He was full of hate and bitterness. He took that hate and bitterness out on his mother- and on himself.

Miss Minnie would call me on the phone, tears in her voice, and tell me of her struggles. I would pray with her. Dustan visited with Johnny. He shared his faith, was condescended to and mocked. For Minnie's sake, we kept praying.

Then Johnny became ill with cancer. His disease pulled him further from God and further into a life of self-destruction.

Minnie's hand-holds became tighter and more desperate.

It was an accidental oversight that had Johnny's name removed from our weekly prayer list, and Minnie's hurt was palpable. "Please don't ever stop praying for my son." she said. "Please don't give up on him."

And it made me wonder- the prayer list omission was accidental- but HAD we given up? Had we been praying with faith that God could still change this hard-hearted man?

Garden Heights began to pray, that night, with passion and commitment. We owed it to the to woman who loved us so much.

And, God heard our prayers.

Johnny hit bottom, and came up for air, holding his life out to the only one who could heal his soul. A man bent towards hate and destruction turned it all over.

Our church is leaping for joy for the woman named Minnie who never stopped believing. We are joyous for ourselves- to witness again the miracle that we preach, but sometimes forget. We are filled with joy unbelievable for Johnny. We owe him a lot of deep hugs and lipstick kisses. I hope he is ready.

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Thank you Jesus for answers to prayer and for the Minnies in our lives