Monday, February 11, 2019 was a low point for Marcie. Overwhelmed and exhausted by a situation that seemed way too big for her, she called Tanya and, in her desperation, confessed, “I just want to run away; I can’t handle it. I don’t know what to do.”
Marcie’s call was not merely the product of a bad day. It was the culmination of a life spent fighting against a series of setbacks, difficulties, and challenges. Marcie grew up in the foster system and had known nothing but disappointment and struggle since her childhood. Throughout her life, she experienced the painful reality that every time something good happened, it was only a temporary illusion to be followed immediately by something terrible. Trusting that something good can come out of bad situations simply was not part of her reality.
And her situation on February 11 was desperate. She and her three children (15, 16, and 19 years old) had been living day-to-day in a hotel since July. Having to come up with the hotel’s $70-a-day rate was not sustainable. Marcie had been working as a hairdresser in a salon, but because she was not able to keep up with her rent at the salon, she had been locked out and had lost her means of making any income. Her two oldest children were working at a Sonic restaurant after school and were contributing their paychecks to the family. Between school, transportation, food, and their other everyday expenses, Marcie was not able to make ends meet, even with the help from her kids. Marcie’s family had nothing but a few clothes to wear. They had put things in storage, but couldn’t afford the rent and ended up losing everything, including their pictures, documents, furniture, and other pieces of their life.
This was not where she had imagined her life going. After growing up in the foster care system, she wanted to provide her own children with a solid home. She wanted stability for them. She needed help and was at the end of herself. But because Tanya Farmer was on the other end of the phone on that desperate Monday morning, Marcie’s story was about to take a different turn. Marcie had never had someone quite like Tanya in her corner before. And that made all the difference.
This is a story about Marcie and her three children, and the generosity of Cross Timbers Church and many other people and ministries in and around Denton, Texas. But more than that, it is a story about the overwhelming grace and faithfulness of God, and how He loves us and works in our lives, often in ways that we don’t comprehend. In Marcie and Tanya’s story, we glimpse His love and grace and discover a beautiful example of the many ways in which we can participate with Him in serving and loving others.
From the outset, this story was unlikely. It did not fit the “pattern” and by all rights should not have happened. Tanya, who is the Benevolence Manager at Cross Timbers Church, first became aware of Marcie’s situation on November 30, 2018 when Marcie filled out a benevolence application at the suggestion of a Cross Timbers church member. The application indicated that a “family of 4, living in a hotel, needs help paying rent.”
As a policy, the church didn’t allocate funds for hotel stays, but something about this application tugged on Tanya’s heart. Despite the usual protocols, Tanya felt a supernatural urge to help this woman and her children. Tanya contacted Marcie, listened to her, and told her they would give her some financial help to pay for the hotel rent. She also felt that Marcie’s family would be a perfect candidate for assistance from Grace Like Rain, a local ministry. At the end of their conversation, Tanya prayed with Marcie.
Grace Like Rain (GLR) is a partner ministry of Cross Timbers Church, and works to provide help, resources, and homes for parents and their children in the North Texas area. GLR works primarily with single-parent households who are homeless or classified as homeless – living in a hotel, with a family member, in their car, or whatever else it may look like.
GLR is unique. Instead of offering only isolated instances of “spot help,” they partner with their families and walk them through a two-year program, guiding them, supporting them, loving them with the love of Christ, and quite literally showing them grace like rain. They take people in all different stages of need, loving and supporting them regardless of their circumstances or previous choices. Some of the ways that they help change peoples’ lives are:
- Providing families with access to affordable homes
- Providing financial assistance, child care, budgeting help, contingency plans, etc.
- Empowering families to get back on their feet
- Helping GLR families grow in community with others
- Leading them towards Christ and the power of His love
- Working to make lasting change together
Tanya explained that choosing to move forward with the GLR program would dramatically transform Marcie’s life and the lives of her children, but with that help came some hard things as well. The family would potentially have to move to another part of town. This would mean the kids might have to change schools, upsetting the small amount of stability they did enjoy. Marcie agreed to a referral to GLR, albeit with some reluctance. While realizing the significant benefits of the program, she was fearful of causing her children any additional strife.
What Marcie did not know at that time was that God had been orchestrating several meetings, circumstances, and blessings, all of which were custom-designed to meet her at her tough place of darkness and hopelessness.
On Tuesday, January 15, 2019, Marcie received word that Grace Like Rain had accepted her into the program and that she would need to come to Denton the next day to meet with GLR. This request posed a big problem for Marcie. She did not have enough gas to get to Denton or the money to buy enough to get there. She called Tanya and explained her situation. They arranged to meet at Cross Timbers later that day so that Marcie could pick up a gas card from Tanya that would enable her to drive to her meeting with GLR on the 16th.
Tuesday evening, Marcie and her family visited Cross Timbers for the first time. While Marcie and her family were grateful for all that was happening for them with GLR, they were nervous and fearful about the coming changes. Marcie wanted some help from Tanya in telling her kids about the move, the possibility of changing schools, and all of the upcoming unknowns. That night at Cross Timbers, it happened to be a “10K Tuesday,” a special weekday service held at the church for the entire community (not just church members), offering a message about leadership and “being a difference maker.” Since they were already at the church to meet Tanya, Marcie and her children ended up attending the service.
After the service, Marcie came up to Tanya, and tearfully said: “I feel like that service was specifically for my family and me.” Tanya was able to use what they had all just heard in the service to encourage Marcie’s children, and speak into the fear and apprehension they felt regarding their future. She told them, “Your mom is acting as a difference maker right now; she is leading your family in these hard decisions to make a positive change in all of your lives!”
The next day, on January 16, at her meeting with GLR, Marcie found out that her family had been approved for housing and that they would move into their new home in about a month! The rent for the home would be only $450 per month, much less than the $70 per day she had to pay to stay in the hotel. And better still, GLR explained how they would walk with her for the next two years, as she got back on her feet. Marcie had taken a friend to the GLR meeting who was a Cross Timbers member, and the friend invited Marcie and her kids to stay with her until the house was ready. That same day, however, was the day that Marcie learned that the hair salon owner had locked her out of the salon for non-payment of her rent. The very day that she found out she would not be able to make any money to pay for the hotel she was staying in, a friend had invited her to move into her home!
Although the GLR opportunity was a life-changing blessing for her family, and even though Cross Timbers had helped her in several ways, Marcie still faced the fact that she did not have a job and was unable to return to the salon. Even with reduced rent, the two part-time Sonic incomes from her children would not be enough to make ends meet. The enormity of her situation engulfed her, and Marcie began to feel that old familiar feeling that good things are illusory and are always followed immediately by bad things.
It was on this morning, February 11, that Marcie made the phone call to Tanya mentioned at the beginning of this story. Tanya assured Marcie on that call that she and GLR would not have pulled her into something just to let her sink. What she heard, maybe for the first time was someone saying to her, “I’ve got you, and I won’t let you go.” This support and commitment made all the difference for Marcie. A week later, on February 18, 2019, Marcie and her family moved in to their new home.
After being locked out of her salon, Marcie worked very hard to find any type of job that would pay, including waitressing jobs. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to find anything, and her GLR coach and Tanya sat down with her and encouraged her to go back to resume her search for a hairdressing job. Shortly thereafter, she got permission from her landlord to start an in-home salon and do hair in her home! Around the same time, a woman who heard about Marcie’s story bought her a styling chair and mirror to outfit her “salon.”
As of April 2019, Marcie’s situation has changed very much for the better. She was able to pay her April rent, and should be self-sufficient by May. GLR continues to walk alongside her closely. GLR does a monthly home walkthrough, Tanya meets with her twice a month as her Case Manager, and she also has a “Coach” for ongoing support, training, and accountability. Marcie’s son graduated from highschool, and her daughters, a junior and freshman respectively, were able to stay in their existing school even though they moved to a new home.
Throughout Marcie and Tanya’s story, the Church has responded the way that anyone would hope it would. It reached out to, accepted, and helped someone who needed it. One whom Christ loves and for whom He died. One who was not a “member” and had not “earned it;” rather, just one who desperately needed help and needed to see the love of Christ in action. Tanya was able to gain the support of Cross Timbers and some of its various ministries (Benevolence and Financial Hope), while also partnering with an outside organization (Grace Like Rain) to accomplish for Marcie and her family what was needed. This story is a picture of the Body operating with one heart and one mind in service to another.
But that is not the whole story. To recognize a few, select people and a couple of caring organizations as the ones who were responsible for the blessings in Marcie’s story would be to miss a remarkable, powerful element. Tanya describes all that has happened with Marcie this way: “Everything that has happened throughout this story – God is in the middle of it, no doubt.” There were so many reasons for Tanya to pass on Marcie’s benevolence request – Marcie had older kids, a complicated hotel living situation, an untenable job and financial situation. But Tanya felt convicted to help her. So, she listened to those convictions and accepted the Lord’s invitation to enter a story of redemption and hope a long time in the making…
Twenty-five years ago, before either Cross Timbers Church or Grace Like Rain existed, a family bought a home. This family had a heart for children and served as a sponsor family for Christ’s Haven, a local children’s ministry in the Denton, TX area. They sponsored a 15-year-old girl at the time. Before they moved into the house, they asked a young pastor named Toby Slough to come and pray over their new home and their sponsored child, who they were throwing a birthday party for at the new house later that week. That same man, Toby Slough, is now the lead pastor at Cross Timbers Church. Twenty-five years ago, when he agreed to come and bless that new home and pray for a young girl named Marcie, he had no idea that he would one day become the pastor of a church who would connect her with a ministry that would give her family a new home and new hope. And Marcie certainly did not know that God was watching out for her in unique ways, even then. God is good, indeed!
Enable’s purpose is “Changing Lives by Serving Those Who Serve.” Marcie’s story illustrates perfectly why we are privileged to do what we do. As we are blessed to serve churches and ministries like Cross Timbers and Grace Like Rain, we enable them to reach out and more effectively support families like Marcie’s. Getting a front row seat to witness that kind of life change is not only the best part of what we get to do; it is the whole point.