by Chris Meehan
Two sisters spoke to their father for the first time in 27 years last week, thanks to an assist from Jim Cahill (Servant Branch) and help from the Holy Spirit.
The father’s name is Jim Carter. He’s part of an informal men’s group that meets at Cerenity Humboldt, an assisted living facility a couple of blocks from the apartment house where Jim Cahill and John Ostby (Servant Branch) live on the West Side of St. Paul.
In general, “the men in Cerenity have very few family ties,” John says, “so the group is important to them.”
Almost three decades ago, Jim Carter lost custody of his two young daughters in a divorce proceeding. It wasn't what he wanted to happen. An ex-offender, he had struggled with alcohol and drugs.
He asked Jim Cahill three months ago if he would help locate his now grown daughters, Mary Jo and Gayle. They were raised by foster parents in Ohio. After the children were taken away from him, he lost track of them.
Jim Cahill tried to locate them but couldn’t. Then Thursday, June 4, he ran into Jim Carter on the patio in front of Cerenity. “We talked for half an hour,” says Jim Cahill, “and as I was leaving, he asked me once again if I had located his daughters. I told him I had tried but given up and asked him to forgive me. He did and, chastened, I started searching again later that day.”
He went to the online white pages for the two towns the daughters were known to have lived in. He found three listings which he had missed the first time he had searched. Only one of those listings included a name and phone number. There was no Mary Jo or Gayle listed, but in desperation he called the number and it turned out to be Jean, the girls’ foster mother. Surprised, she asked how Jim had found her unlisted, unpublished phone number. Jim told her it was right there, in the white pages for her town.
Jim recalls, “She said, ‘That can’t be,’ and I started thinking, God put it there. Jean gave me both girls’ phone numbers. She said Mary Jo had asked just the day before how she could get in touch with her dad. What timing!”
Jean immediately told the girls, and after several calls back and forth with Jim Cahill they decided to talk with their father via Zoom on Thursday, using Jim Cahill's smartphone. Only two hours later, however, Mary Jo called Jim Cahill and wanted to know all she could about her daddy. Gayle likewise called on Sunday and said she couldn’t wait until Thursday to talk to him.
Jim Cahill says, “I hurried over to Cerenity and found Jim on the front patio. I asked him, ‘Do you want to visit with Gayle now--because she really wants to talk to you.’ He said, ‘Sure.’ I called her back, and they talked and gushed for half an hour."
The following Thursday, Jim Cahill set up a joint Zoom call for Jim Carter with both daughters. Before the call, the two prayed together for trust, forgiveness, restoration and love founded on Christ.
Jim Cahill says, “Now we have pictures of Jim, Gayle, Mary Jo and their children going back and forth on my phone. It’s just thrilling and humbling to watch. Never before have I seen God’s timing be lovingly born in the hearts of such broken relationships. I saw 27 years of doubt, anger and fear be immediately removed and replaced by hope and the need to be together. The two girls want to come and visit, and Jim now knows he has two grandsons from Gayle, and he can hardly wait to know them better.”
Jim Carter says, “I’m overwhelmed. I loved every minute of getting back together with my daughters. I never expected to hear from them, but I’m very glad I did. I was determined to never give up.”