Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

Tammy’s Story: A Home called Grace (p2)

This is the second part of a four part story. I suggest you read part one before continuing.

An Unexpected Adventure

Tammy never read the Bible before her sophomore year of college. She never went to church before giving her life to God. She didn’t know what she was supposed to do.

All she knew was to read the Bible and do what it said.  So began an unexpected adventure that continues today.

photo credit Denise Krebs (Creative Commons)

photo credit Denise Krebs (Creative Commons)

Change came quickly for Tammy. The party scene was no longer attractive. It only left her empty. Her vocabulary transformed—she no longer spoke like an angry sailor. Some friends quit hanging out with her; they said she was no fun anymore. Tammy just used the extra time to read.

One of the statements that caught her attention early on was when Jesus told his followers to ask God for anything they needed. God is a good Father, Jesus said, so he will give you whatever you need.

Tammy had every reason to question this idea. For starters, her earthly father was not a very good representative of fatherhood. She should have had issues with the idea of God as her Father. But, for some reason, she didn’t. She believed what it said.

Not having grown up in church, she never heard a sermon about limitations on this verse. For example, “God won’t give you a Ferrari.” So, she started asking God for whatever she needed.

As an unsupported college student, she had a lot to ask for.

Tammy was studying early childhood education and didn’t have time to work a full-time job while student teaching. She needed a job where she could work a little but make a lot of money. (Isn’t that everyone’s dream?)

Sitting in the armchair in her dorm room, feet propped up on the ottoman, she decided to ask God for just that. “God, I need a job, but I don’t have time to work.” As she was sitting there, the phone rang. It was Tom’s wife. Their church needed someone to work with the children on Wednesday’s and Sunday’s. The job wouldn’t take much time, but it paid well.

She got the position.

Another time, Tammy read the story of a man who felt like God wanted him to go on a trip to another city but did not have enough money for the ticket. The man decided to stand in line at the station and wait to see what God would do. Before he reached the ticket counter, the person in front of him turned around and gave him the money he needed for the fare.

Tammy was in a similar situation. She was almost $1000 short on her tuition for school and the day had come for her to pay. Because she knew God wanted her to stay in school, she decided to stand in line at the Bursar’s office and wait for God to do something. She waited. The line grew shorter. She waited some more. It was her turn. Nothing happened.

Despondent, she pulled out her checkbook and wrote a check knowing that she had no money in the bank.

All the way home, she questioned God. “Why didn’t you show up?” That night she told her roommates about the bad check.

“Well, how much was it for? Maybe we can help?”

“It was for $1000.”

“What? Well, who was the check written to, maybe they can give you some time.”

Tammy dropped her head. “I wrote the check to the University.”

“Aw man. That’s bad.”

“Yes. I think I am going to jail.”

The next day, Tammy tried not to worry, but she was certain that the police were coming for her soon. The next night, a family from church called and invited her and a friend over for dinner. She thought, “Well, I will have one more good meal before heading to prison.”

After dinner, the couple asked Tammy how things were going at school.  She deflected the question. Then they asked if she had any outstanding needs. Tammy’s friend, who knew about the bad check, kicked her under the table and gestured as if to say, “Tell them!” Tammy stayed quiet. The husband explained that he felt God wanted them to give her some money—a certain amount—and he wanted to know if he had heard from God correctly. The check was already written.

Tammy opened up and told him the whole story: the prayer, the line, the blank check, the forthcoming handcuffs.

The man unfolded the check from his pocket and handed it to Tammy. It was for $1000.

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Tammy (on the right) with a friend

Six months into her life with God, Tammy started feeling a desire to use her education degree to help less fortunate children somewhere in South America. She asked Tom about it.

“Tom, I like the idea of the Peace Corp, you know, helping other people. I want to do something like that when I graduate but I want to do it for God. Is there anything out there like the Peace Corp but for Christians?”

“You mean like a missionary?” Tom replied with a smile.

“What’s a missionary?”

“Well, a missionary is someone who helps other people out of a love for God. “

Tammy was ecstatic. “I want to do that.”

She was ready to go that day. Tom, however, convinced her to take a little more time to prepare. He suggested Asbury Seminary.

After graduating from the University of Georgia, Tammy moved to Kentucky to attend Asbury. It was during those three years that God turned her eyes from the south to the east.

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Tammy first visited South Asia with a group from seminary in 1997. She discovered overwhelming suffering and despair. The team visited a slum that covered three square miles—a patchwork of recycled metal shanties and garbage. The streets ran with filthy water and refuse. Children ran in and out of makeshift homes without a parent in sight. For Tammy, it was overpowering.

What could one woman do to help in this never-ending sea of poverty?

The slum she visited was only one of thousands. The children she saw were a few of the millions living in poverty. She returned to America heart-broken and weak (she was sick for the majority of the trip). The experience brought up emotional and spiritual issues from her past that she thought were already resolved. Like a rose bush pruned for winter, God cut her deeply so she could grow back stronger.

Six months later, Tammy landed in South Asia a second time with a pack on her back, $80 in her pocket, and a dream to start a center for street kids.

[Find out what happens next in part three]


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