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TITLE: Jesus in an Orange Grove
By Sharon Hillary

This article is giving me a fit. I've edited and re-edited. HELP!
Jesus in an Orange Grove
By: Sharon D. Tate

John 21:15-18.

In 2005 I became a divorcee after fourteen years of marriage. When my ex- husband left in November of 2004, I had no car, no money, and no home to speak of. The only thing I had was God. Of course, I had family members who wanted to help me but could not afford to. At the time, my faith in God had slipped (my ex-husband had been a drug user and alcoholic since before we were married) and I wasn’t sure that I had God much less the faith I needed to trust Him through the trial of being alone. I moved in with my closest and dearest friend, Patricia, and her family. It soon became clear to me that this was becoming a financial strain on them as well. A close family friend, Peggy, invited me to come and live with her. The doctor had placed her on oxygen and she needed someone to stay with her part time. I agreed to move in with her as long as I could obtain a part time job and get back on my feet. She didn’t see any problem with that. I moved in December of 2004. .
In March of 2005, I began working in a local high-end restaurant as an
assistant cook. I made enough to take care of necessities but not enough to begin paying off the debt my ex- husband had left behind. An attorney could have helped with that but I could not afford a good one and after fourteen years of fighting, I just wanted to move on with my life. We had no children and so I just let it go. In August, I was told that in the next month my hours would decrease due to the summer season ending. I only brought home $175 to $190 a week.
I went to see my mom the next day to tell her of my plans. She told me that my uncle living in Orlando, Florida had called her to see how she was doing and was telling her of the different job openings in his area that he thought I might be qualified for. She said they had been talking about my situation and all that had transpired in my life over the past year and they both agreed that it would be a welcome change for me. She was glad when I decided to go and gave me my uncle’s address and phone number. Considering that a friend of mine had family in Florida including a dad he had never seen, I invited him to go with me. His name is Brian and he is the oldest son of my friend, Patricia. So on December 2nd,2005 we headed down to the sunshine state.
We stopped in Georgia to call my mother to let her know we were ok. My sister, Mavin, answered my mother’s phone. “ Mom’s in the hospital!”, she screamed. She was hysterical. I calmed her down as best I could and told her I would call back. My mother had been on oxygen for over a year and somehow had unplugged her machine and didn’t know it She had passed out infront of my stepfather and he had called the ambulance. I, wasn’t sure what to do. Strangely enough, I remained calm. I went back to the car and told Brian the news. We had just enough money for him to put me on a bus back to Virginia and he could still make it to Florida. I would meet back up with them after mom was taken care of. I went to a nearby curb, sat down and for the first time in a long time, poured my heart out to God. What was I supposed to do? I felt that He had led me to go to Florida. I prayed for my mom and as I was praying I saw in my mind my mom’s bottle of anointing oil sitting by her bible on the table where she usually kept it I called Mavin back. I explained to her that this was a test. We had to stand in faith. I told her to take the oil and the bible and place them in mom’s hands. She would know what to do. I went back and told Brian I would continue our trip to Florida. We reached Orlando at around 4:00 PM on Sunday, December 4th. I called my uncle to let him know we were in town. He told me my mom was back at home cooking dinner for everyone and playing with her grandchildren. He had spoken with her that morning and she sounded great! Hallelujah!!! Obedience is a wonderful thing. God truly blesses it! I wrote down the directions to his house and told him we were looking for Winter Garden. He couldn’t tell me how to get there but pointed me in the right direction. I thanked him and told him we would see him a little later. We headed in the direction my uncle suggested and looked for signs but still couldn’t find Winter Garden. We stopped to get something to drink at a convenience store a few miles west of Orlando. Brian asked a store attendant if they knew where Winter Garden was. “You’re in it.”, he said. He gave us directions to the center of town. It was getting dark and, not knowing the area, we decided to look for a motel once we reached our destination. You couldn’t miss it! The town square had been decorated for Christmas and was spectacular. It was like a winter wonderland. The entire square was all brick roadway and sidewalks and the center displayed a huge, elaborately decorated tree. From the moment you entered the brick roadways there were white lights everywhere all the way to the end of town. Brian and I got out of the car and walked through the center of town. We fell in love with Winter Garden. This was where his father grew up. While we were checking out the different stores and shops, we noticed an historical Inn. I wish I could remember the name of it but I was so tired by then I just wanted to sleep. It was beautiful. The rooms and sitting areas were full of antique furniture and local memorabilia. Not a bad price either. The two of us shared adjoining rooms and one bathroom in between for $75. the next morning, we went to breakfast at a nearby McDonalds. Our dirty clothes from the past three days were piling up so we pooled our money and went to a laundromat. While we were waiting we discussed what to do about jobs. Looking for Winter Garden, we had passed through a little town called Ocoee. We noticed two or three temporary agencies in the area. We decided to check those out after seeing my uncle. My uncle Kenneth lives on the south end of Orange Blossom Trail, in Orlando. We had planned on staying with him but I wasn’t aware that he still had Tony and Jason, my two younger cousins living with him. Not wanting to be a burden, we decided that we would visit and catch up and then find a motel for the night. After seeing my family for awhile, we went exploring the city of Orlando and found the library. Awesome!!! That is one BIG library. I could have stayed in there for days and still not wanted to leave. Brian had to drag me out as it was. It was getting close to suppertime when we left Orlando so we stopped at Hardee’s. We got a motel room at the Sleep Inn near the Hardee’s and then Brian and I went back to Winter Garden to do some more exploring. While signing up for work at the temporary agencies we had found, we met several homeless people. What interested us about these people was that they came right up to you and wanted to get to know you. They didn’t ask you for money or food or anything. That night, we were getting short on money so we slept in our car in a local shopping center. Not much different than the people we had spoken with at the temps, eh? We went back to Ocoee and ran into a few of our homeless friends hanging out at the local Kangaroo Mart. We went in and grabbed something to drink and then sat outside talking to them. During the course of our conversations with them, we learned that they lived close by. Their little community consisted of tents set up in an abandoned orange grove. “ Most people know we’re there and don’t say anything as long as we’re quiet and don’t cause any trouble” one of them said. We talked a little more and they introduced themselves. The tall stocky man was Big Ron, the shorter man was much older and liked to drink a little too much. His name was Bill, from ”West-by God- Virginia”, as we were soon to learn, he was constantly informing everyone. They told us if we needed a place to stay, come and visit them in the orange grove and bring a tent. They headed off toward the grove and Brian and I went into the Kangaroo to get coffee. Brian asked if I wanted to try it for a few nights. “Try what?”, I asked. “Staying in the orange grove,” he said. He still had some money left and would get the tent and air mattresses if I would buy the food and camp equipment. We picked up the camping gear and a few groceries from Kmart in Ocoee, then headed back to the Kangaroo. Brian went to check out the orange grove and I stayed at the Kangaroo. I decided to call my mom while I was there and let her know how we were doing. Leaving out the part about the orange grove, I told her we were ok but it was tough. I wanted to know how she was doing. She told me she was 100% better. We talked a few more minutes and then Brian came back and he talked to her for a few minutes. We hung up from mom, and Brian went to get coffee. I was getting “antsy”. I was curious about what he had seen in the orange grove. He said it was just like they told us. A bunch of tents set up like a little community in the middle of an abandoned orange grove. So we took everything back and started setting up “house”, so to speak. Actually I enjoyed our first night there. We all sat around a huge fire and had dinner and got to know one another. There were three more people living in the grove at the time. Andy was a self-proclaimed evangelist who was not quite certain where he belonged. Steve was the resident atheist. And then there was “little” Bill, who was young and confused and running from responsibility. Over the next few weeks of our stay in the grove we learned a lot about each person. Andy’s father was a Baptist minister in Kentucky. He wanted his father’s approval very much, but he had been through a lot while in the army. He had so many scars that he had turned to alcohol and this had succeeded in driving a wedge between them. Steve, was Lebanese-American. He had been braught up a Catholic. When his parents were both killed in a boating accident, he was only eight years old. It was then that he began to question the existence of God. Life is hard enough without having to go through it without our parents to love and protect us. To go through the remainder of it without God’s love and protection is a truly cold existence. And yet, Steve was not a cold person. He was a very jovial, loving person. He did stand firm about his atheism but, the more time we spent in his company, the more he would open up about why he was an atheist. Sadly, it is a story I have heard so many times before. When he was in his early twenties, his first child was born. The local parish priest visited his home to bless the child and Steve told him he did not want the child blessed. When the priest asked why, Steve asked him a very hard question. This question has been asked for many years and still there are many in positions of spiritual authority who fail to answer it correctly.” Why”, Steve asked, “would a loving God, who is all powerful, take not one but both of my parents from me when I was only eight years old?” The priest simply answered, “Because it was his will for your life and it was their time to go.” “Not good enough!”, Steve exclaimed. “I don’t believe in this so-called God of yours and I don’t want anything to do with him!’ And Steve asked the priest to leave and not come back. Not long after that, Steve received notification that he had been ex-communicated. This is a word that makes me extremely angry every time I hear it! To a catholic, being ex-communicated means that you have been cut off from God. God’s very word in Romans 8:38,39 says that no created being can separate you from his love. While a man who knows the rules can’t break one and say “he didn’t know”, is it not wrong to eternally condemn a man who, wanting to know the rules, merely asks a question and became angry because it was answered so vaguely. I learned a valuable lesson here that all believer’s should be aware of, especially when witnessing to the lost. Always be aware of the vulnerability of one without Christ. Know what you believe and why you believe it. A vague answer will not get Christ to the door, much less into the heart. After many talks with Steve, I realized why I was to stay in this orange grove. Peter denied Christ three times. In John 21:!5 -18, Jesus gives John a redeeming task. Three to be exact. He asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Peter replied yes each time and each time Jesus said in return, “ If you love me, feed my sheep.”, and “feed my lambs (the children).” God gives us His best. He gave us His word and He gave us His Son. Why then, would we give anyone a vague answer to any question concerning Him. The priest, while being truthful, showed no concern to the underlying note of pain in Steve’s voice. When someone asks about the God you serve, whether it is a hard or easy question, always listen not only to the question but to the one asking it. His or her eternal life may depend on it. James 2:15, 16 tells us that if any person is destitute and in need, and we offer them words of encouragement and nothing else, it will profit nothing. I learned a lot in that orange grove. I had strayed and not thaught of God in a long time. He took me out of my comfort zone to show me that He still needed me and that my life belonged to Him. Just like Peter, by not witnessing, I had denied Christ. Just like He had with Peter, Christ reminded me that as one who belonged to Him, I had a responsibility to be there for others as He was for me. My mom passed away in January of 2006. We had been in the orange grove for about three weeks. Everyone gave their heartfelt condolences and we loaded up, said goodbye and headed back to Virginia. We still keep in touch with everyone. Brian and I hope to go back soon. Stand strong in faith and may God bless you abundantly!
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