Marsha J. Wright has had her nose in a book since second grade. A speaker and author of short stories, articles, and the biography Maggie Ray, World War II Air Force Pilot, she has degrees from Fort Wayne Bible College and Ball State University and has studied at Jerusalem University College and Taylor University Fort Wayne. She taught junior high school music and is employed in worship and music ministries at Grabill Missionary Church. She and her husband, Stephen, have five children and five grandchildren. They live in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she volunteers in a ministry to immigrants.
“Yes, I know it’s important.” Joanne ran her fingers through her salt-and-pepper hair. “I need to check my calendar. I’ll get back to you.”
She sighed as she hung up the phone. Lord, I’ve served You in this ministry to immigrants for two years. I need a break.
In the kitchen, Joanne picked up a towel. “Because I don’t have a job, I get called to help all the time,” she explained to the casserole dish she was drying. “Do other widows get calls like this?”
God, I love to serve, but this broken wrist hasn’t been easy. I don’t want to help with the tea party. Not this time.
Joanne moved restlessly through her apartment, absently rubbing at the cast on her wrist. She checked her e-mail, brightening at a message from CalmHope, a friend from college days. Her three longtime friends lived near one another and met for breakfast the first Friday of every month at the Plainfield Avenue Denny’s in Grand Rapids.
She looked at her calendar. “The first Friday of the month is next week.”
If she drove to Grand Rapids on Thursday afternoon, she could get a hotel room and enjoy a leisurely evening reading. Friday morning she could surprise her friends. “And I’ll have a good excuse not to help with the tea party.” She grinned as she picked up the phone to decline the request to help.
Thursday dawned a beautiful spring day: blue skies, puffy white clouds, eighty degrees with low humidity. Joanne hummed as she gingerly placed her bag in the trunk, careful not to bump her healing wrist. She pulled onto the interstate, leaving her burdens behind.
Though the sky stayed bright and sunny, with each passing mile her inner horizon clouded. God, I know you don’t expect me to do every task put before me. I’m certain it’s all right to go to Grand Rapids. She clicked on the radio to drown out the inner conflict.
Three hours later Joanne clutched a full ice bucket and a Pepsi as she entered her motel room. Her bed was turned down with her new book on the nightstand. Clothes for the next day lay on the extra bed. The alarm was set. She picked up a bottle of milk bath and headed for the bathroom.
Immersed in an aromatic tub, her wrist carefully protected in a plastic bag secured with rubber bands, she was deeply content. Then the faces of the immigrant women she had talked with in past months began to fill her mind.
She couldn’t imagine the horrors they had faced. One had to flee the country before finding her child who had gone out to play. Another had an advanced degree in chemistry but was starting her education again, this time in English. She thought of the shy, quiet women who were so fearful of American culture they seldom left their apartments. Sadness washed over her like the sudsy tub water.
“Enough of that,” she said, enticed by the cool drink and book waiting by her bed. She toggled the lever with her toes to drain the cooling water and turned to pull herself out of the tub. With a gasp of pain she grabbed at her lower back.
Repeatedly, she tried to pull herself up. Each time her weak wrist and the sharp catch in her back prevented her from getting out.
“What in the world have I done?” she murmured. No one knows I’m here. Oh, God. Help me!
She fought panic. When will someone come? The maid tomorrow morning?
She forced herself to lie back. Struggling, she grasped one towel to place over her shoulders. It provided little warmth, and tears slipped down her cheeks.
Her teeth chattering, she looked around in desperation. The pain in her back prevented her from leaning forward to run warm water. She eyed the shower curtain. One ring at a time, she tore it down and spread it over her clammy body. “It doesn’t offer much warmth, but at least I’m covered.”
The alarm clock startled Joanne awake. She was cold, hungry, and achy. When her travel alarm ran finally ran down, she nodded off again.
She was awakened a second time by a sound at the door. A cleaning lady stepped into the bathroom. With a startled “Perdoname,” she backed out.
“Wait! Please don’t go,” Joanne cried. “I need your help.”
The slim young woman returned. Her badge read, ROSITA.
“Can you help me? I can’t get up.”
Rosita moved toward the door. “I find for you manager.”
“Oh, please, no. Can’t you help me?” A moment later it only took a few tugs for both of them to realize that Rosita could nothelp.
“I find help.” She vanished out the door.
Joanne groaned. Who would come? The manager? The fire department rescue squad? Her face burned just thinking about it. Tears flowed again.
Rosita returned. Following Rosita was a large, powerful-looking woman in a cleaning uniform.
“Maria is good to help.” Rosita patted Joanne’s curtain-clad shoulder.
Surveying the situation, Rosita and Maria discussed the problem in Spanish too rapidly for Joanne’s conversational Spanish to follow.
They slipped a large towel under Joanne’s arms, pulling the ends to the front. They did the same with a second towel but pulled the ends to the back. Maria put one foot into the tub behind Joanne and grasped the ends of one towel. Rosita put one foot into the opposite end of the tub and grasped the other towel ends.
Maria counted: “Uno, dos, tres!” Both women pulled. Within seconds, Joanne had her feet under her. Her rescuers covered her with a robe and helped her from the tub.
“Thank you,” Joanne said with sincerity. “You’re an answer to my prayer.”
“Doctor? You need doctor?” asked Rosita.
“I’ll be okay now.”
Satisfied, the two women left. Joanne looked at the clock. She had missed her friends by several hours. Of course, they hadn’t missed her, since they hadn’t known she was coming.
She knelt stiffly at the side of the unused bed. God, it took Jonah three nights in the belly of a whale to obey your call. It only took me one night in the belly of a bath tub. You called me to the international ministry, and I ran away. Please forgive me.
Once again the faces of the ladies she had come to know through the ministry entered her mind. She spent the next few minutes praying for them as well as for her two rescuers, Rosita and Maria.
As she dressed, she wondered if she would have the courage to share this adventure with her Bible study group. Though humbling, it might help another to know the importance of God’s call to serve. Besides, it would be a whale of a tale.