Cairo, NY, c.1991. “Pastor, I was 5 miles below the limit, but the cop gave me a speeding ticket anyway.”
My dad was NYPD, so I tend to sympathize with the police in most cases. But I knew she was telling the truth. Martha’s beat-up old van screamed “drug mule,” especially in that part of upstate where the problem was so pervasive. Then her face, toothless and scarred by a terrible motorcycle wreck, betrayed a past filled with gang-related activity. When she opened her mouth, her vocabulary revealed a weak education, common among the poor. To top it off, she made no effort to hide her disdain for the police. This wasn’t her first encounter with law enforcement. It was probably a “perfect storm.”
I told her what she already knew. “God loves you, and it will be alright.” She related to that. She was enthralled with the love of Jesus, who had recently snatched her from the jaws of death and eternity in hell, and given her a new life of hope in Christ.
I also told her what I knew. Go to court, enter a plea of “not guilty,” and explain your case on the date of the hearing, in about a month. That’s how the system works.
Meanwhile, I had my own problems. Finances had been super tight, but I had helped the owner of a commercial printing company, and saved him a small fortune. In return, he allowed me to contract some work that made his operation more versatile, and earned me some badly needed extra cash.
It was just enough to pay all our bills, with $100 left over. That was a lot of money for us in those days. I planned to visit a nice restaurant with my wife, who had stood strong with me through the hard times.
But in a way that I can’t explain, the Holy Ghost gave me an order. It was the most terse communication I’ve ever known. (I still remember the exact spot where I stood.) I must have that $100 in the courtroom when Martha stood before the judge. It didn’t make sense to me, but I knew it was God.
As it worked out, I had another commitment on the evening in question. So I related my God-given directive to Rosa, who lived near the court. I also gave her a one-hundred-dollar bill. She later told me what transpired in the courtroom.
At first, it was business as usual for the court, until Martha’s case was called. She answered politely with a not-guilty plea, as I had told her, and as others had done before her that evening.
Suddenly, the judge’s countenance changed! “Not guilty? Fine. We’ll set the case for trial in one month, and you can post a $100 bond until then.” For Martha, he might as well have demanded a million.
Martha was horrified at being treated differently from everyone else. “Your honor, I don’t have a hundred dollars.”
“Alright, we’ll hold you in jail until your trial.”
Jail didn’t scare Martha. She’d been there before, but she had another problem right now.
“But I have my baby with me…!”
“There’s a social worker in the back who will take your baby to foster care.”
By now, she was hysterical. All this over a traffic ticket!
“What if I plead guilty?”
“Alright, pay a $95 fine, or 30 days in jail.”
The wheels of justice grind slowly, but injustice is quick!
“Please, sir,” she pleaded frantically, “Don’t take my baby from me.”
Somehow, in the commotion, the judge perceived that Rosa knew Martha. He asked her to calm her down, and restore order to his court. Rosa approached the bench, and presented the hundred-dollar bill. “This isn’t from me,” she said. “A friend sent it to help.” (When you need a friendly face, Ben Franklin is always welcome!)
The court accepted the money. Trial was set for one month, and when Martha appeared, all charges were dropped. No explanation was given. The hundred dollars were refunded to Martha, who tried to return it to Rosa. She refused to accept it. It was a huge blessing to Martha!
By that time, God had blessed my family with many thousands of dollars of income. “He that giveth to the poor, lendeth to the Lord…”
Jesus had shown himself strong, answering a young mother’s cry, before she ever knew to pray!
“Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Heb.7:25)