Our Elisha House: Janet’s Story

Even though this story happened thirty-three years ago, it is as fresh in my mind as if it had happened yesterday.  As I share it, it is my desire for the focus to be on the faithfulness of God and the power of His protective hand. It is a story worth sharing.

In the early spring of 1989, Tom, a customer who shopped at our business and I only knew on a name basis, approached me, and asked if we would consider taking a woman from a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Petersburg where he worked into our home. Immediately my brain said no.  I did not have to even think. As he began to list reasons our family farm would be the perfect place for this troubled 40-year-old woman, I was mentally composing a list of why it would not be a good idea to take her in. I had no experience with drugs or alcohol addictions and had no desire to take on someone with that kind of problems, plus we had two adolescent children.  Tom explained that this woman had twice tried to commit suicide by jumping into the James River and was recovering from a severe drug/alcohol addiction. But then he threw in the clincher. As her counselor, he wanted this special woman to have one more chance at life.  He knew we were Christians and hoped we could share our faith with her. That evening at supper I told Gene about the conversation and to my surprise he was open to the idea.  With Tom’s support and encouragement, Janet entered our home and lives about a week later.

Janet lived in our small upstairs apartment that we called our “Elisha House” based on the story in II Kings 4.  She helped with the outdoor farm chores, milking and in our retail farm supply store.  Because we would not allow her to smoke or have her large black poodle dog in the house, she got a small camper that was parked out back which became her smoking room.

For six weeks things went exceptionally well.  She seemed to blossom in the warm spring sunshine, took pride in her work and wormed her way into our hearts.  She even went to church with us once!  Occasionally we learned tidbits about her sordid past, but it was mostly a closed door.  It had been years since she had contact with her family and was deeply bitter and resentful about her upbringing in the Mormon faith.

One Sunday while we were at church, she stole our truck and fled. We were stunned.  We had guests that Sunday and we didn’t miss her or the truck until about 3 in the afternoon.  We called the sheriff. He put out an AP bulletin and within the hour she was stopped near Charlotte, NC for drunk driving.  She was arrested for driving without a license and possession of a stolen vehicle.  The next morning, she posted bond with the money she had stolen from us and became a “wanted” missing person.  Gene and one of the men from church, Bill Schaefer, drove to North Carolina and picked up the truck.  We were shocked at the load of stuff that she had stolen from us, and we had not even missed it.  Her intentions were to disappear into the wild west and return to a life of homelessness, drifting and self-indulgence.  I began to pray and ask God to literally stop her feet, turn them around and bring her back. I began to sort through her belongings she had left behind, looking for a clue to her family, past or where she may be headed.  I had no clue. Amazingly, I found her birth certificate, which gave me the names of her parents and the city in which she was born.  After a word of prayer, I called information for Pocatello, Idaho and asked if they had a listing for this family. They did.  With a pounding heart, I called the number, and a man answered the phone.  He affirmed he was Floyd and, yes, (his voice faltered) he had a daughter, Janet.  Yes, that was her birth date.  This sad father had not heard from his troubled daughter in years. We had a sad but wonderful talk.  He was so relieved to know something about his daughter and that she was still alive even though she was in trouble with the law. 

Two days later the phone rang, and it was Janet.  She didn’t know why she was calling but …..   Gene got on the phone and talked with her, and she agreed to not run and to let us come get her. She gave us the address of a street corner she would be at.  The next day, with the local sheriff’s permission, Gene and Tom drove back to North Carolina to pick her up.  The sheriff allowed her to stay with us that night before turning herself in the next morning.  It was a night of much talking, tears, and laughter.  I shared with Janet how I had contacted her parents and their deep concern and love for her.  For the first time in years, Janet picked up the phone and tearfully called her mom and dad.  It was a night of reconciliation I will never forget.  Janet ended up spending three months in jail and then because of our desire to forgive her and to give her another chance, the judge allowed her to come back to us on probation.

Several months later, Janet decided to fly home and spend the Christmas holiday reuniting with her family.  But flying back to Virginia, she yielded to the lure of alcoholic beverages being served on the airline.  Her breath reeked with a sweet sourness when I picked her up from the airport. That began a tailspin that she could not pull out of.  We learned that the bondage of alcohol is an evil taskmaster, even stronger than drugs and caring friends become the enemy.  I remember one particular night when Janet was severely depressed, drinking heavily and had totally closed us out. She was breaking all our guidelines, refused to eat supper with us or allow me to enter to camper to talk. Things were not going well, and we did not know what to do.  I awoke in the wee hours of the night with a heavy sense of evil foreboding that I was unable to shake.  I got up and checked on the children, prayed for them, laid hands on the doors of our house, and asked for protection over our family and home.  Janet was still in her camper, so I knelt in prayer, lifting Janet to our Heavenly Father before returning to bed.  The next day Janet was much improved, smiling and talking; it seemed that life was returning to a sense of normalcy. With counseling, she seemed to be getting her drinking under control.  One evening, several weeks later, while we were playing a game, Janet suddenly paused, looked at me and said, “Do you remember that night when …….  I was going to take your gun, go the back pasture and shoot my dog and then myself.  But something would not let me do it.”  Stunned I said, “Yes, I remember.”  I was then able to share with her my side of the story and how God had protected her because I had prayed!  It was a powerful God moment.

Several weeks later on Super Bowl Sunday, the lure of alcohol again ensnared her. We awoke early Monday morning to the sound of our pickup speeding out the driveway.  Gene leaped out of bed and called the sheriff.  When we contacted our insurance company, we discovered-much to our horror- that the insurance company had accidentally removed the truck from our policy almost a year prior when we added another vehicle. We again began to pray that Janet would stop and call home. After three days, she contacted Tom, who told her to give up the truck immediately.   She stopped at an AA Group in Amarillo, Texas and they turned the truck in to authorities while she disappeared into the big wild west.  This time Gene flew to Texas and drove the truck home.

Numerous times through the years Janet has called or emailed, but she is always very careful to not reveal her location.  She is living the life of a fugitive, hiding from the law, scared she will get caught, and ensnared to the evil taskmaster she has chosen to serve.  A year or so after fleeing, she had a powerful, short-lived, conversion at a street church she was drawn into from the street. She called and asked for our forgiveness.

In 2004, Gene and I decided to fly west and drive to Alberta, Canada.  After debating between flying into Seattle or Salt Lake City, we chose Salt Lake. It was almost a straight shot north through Utah, Idaho and Montana to Canada.  When we were plotting our route on the map, we realized we were going directly through Pocatello, Idaho, Janet’s hometown.  We wondered, what would be the chances of connecting with her!  It was a week before we were to leave, but I decided to try and make email contact and see if by chance she was in her home area. Each time she had emailed through the years she had a different email address. I decided to use her last contact info from a year previous.  I wrote expressing our love for her and our desire to see her again.  I assured her this was not a setup but a desire to see “our” Janet.  As I sat at the computer I prayed, asking God to miraculously send the email to her.  I pushed the send button.  I left the internet on as I worked at the computer to see if the email would balance back to me.  I was stunned when about 30 minutes later I had a response from Janet!!!!  I didn’t expect God to work that fast!!! She sent a newsy letter about herself and a man she was living with from Uganda, but her answer was no, she could not run the risk of seeing us– she was afraid we would betray her.  As I continued working at my computer and debating about how to respond, I got the second letter.  It very simply said, “My friend says if you are the people, I say you are, I should not be afraid.”  And she named the city she was in.  I could hardly believe it. It was the other city we had chosen not to fly into.  It was too late to change our plans and we did not get to see Janet.  Apparently, it was not God’s timing.  We did stop along the road at the Pocatello sign and took a picture of the sign and the narrow valley of houses along beside the mountain ridge. I figure probably one of the houses we were looking at was her home. I know that God desires to draw Janet to himself.  My email caused her to reflect on and remember her time spent with us.  It caused her once again to have to deal with her past and verbally process it with another person. 

I have often wondered what has happened to Janet. Is she still alive? She would now be in her mid 70’s. Is she still living as a fugitive, hiding in fear of the law? Was she ever able to make something of her life and have a purpose for living? Was she ever able to overcome the demons of alcohol and drugs? I do know for a while she went back to her home but that did not go well and she again hit the road, living as a tramp.

Janet stretched us, and we had to put our faith into action in a way we had never experienced before.  We experienced God’s supernatural protection, faithfulness, and divine intervention.  We learned about forgiveness- not once but many times over. God wrapped his arms of peace around us and gave us the opportunity and the grace to continue to open our Elisha house through the years to numerous other persons. Gene would always state that he had just one request, “Just don’t steal my truck!”

2 Comments »

  1. Martha Said:

    A fantastoc story

  2. Kendra L Said:

    I never heard that story before! I also had an experience with an addict in my home. I’ve often wondered what the point of that was–was God needing to teach and stretch me? He surely did. Were there seeds planted in her heart that will someday bear fruit that I may never know about? I hope and pray.


{ RSS feed for comments on this post} · { TrackBack URI }

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: