by Paula Lent
In Shreveport’s Allendale neighborhood, there’s a mysterious woman driving around with an old tan minivan. She’s got a surprising knack for answering prayers.
One neighbor, Miss Fannie, told missionary Evan Lent that she was making a shrimp dish when she realized that she didn’t have any milk for the batter. She called the store, but it was also out of milk, so she went across the street to borrow some from a neighbor.
No sooner was Miss Fannie out her front door, when two vehicles pulled up: her daughter’s and an old tan van. The woman in the van asked the daughter if she needed any food and then gave her some. The daughter then turned to her mother and called out, asking if she needed any milk. Stunned, the mother told her she did need milk. Miss Fannie concluded, “My God is so good.”
One day, near the beginning of the pandemic, when Evan was making his weekly trip for groceries, the store had very few items on his list, such as two loaves of bread. He came home with about one-third of the items he was looking for. On the way home, Evan mentioned his discouragement to the Lord. When he arrived, he found that the lady with the van had dropped off two loaves of bread while he was gone.
Another time, Evan got a call from Jaylen, an 11-year-old former Praise Academy student. He and seven of his siblings, from toddler to teenager, live with their single mom who’s in her early 30s.
“Do you have any leftovers?,” Jaylen asked. Evan knew it wasn’t an idle question. The family used to rely on free and reduced-cost meals from school, but because their mother doesn’t have a car, and schools are closed because of the coronavirus, they haven’t had much food lately. Evan told Jaylen he’d see what he could do, and immediately took over some food.
In the days that followed Jaylen’s call, Christians in Mission team leader David Zimmel and Evan were continuing to discuss Jaylen’s situation. Then the neighbor with the tan van called David and asked if he needed some milk. He didn’t, but he said he’d take it anyway and give it to someone who needed it.
Later, she dropped off more than five bags of food, including fruit snacks, individual cartons of milk, and microwavable meals--all items David says are “really the perfect thing” for Jaylen and his siblings.
When Evan went to deliver the food at Jaylen’s house, he asked some of the kids to help him unload the groceries. They were excited about the food. One child picked up a piece of fruit, smiled and ran off with it.
As Evan followed the kids back to the house, Jaylen’s brother D’Adrian ran up to him, meeting him part way to the door, and asking if there were more bags he could help carry. Evan paused to talk to him, telling him about the woman with the tan van who had dropped off the food, and explaining how it seemed like God had wanted the family to have this food.
D’Adrian asked Evan to thank the woman for the food, and Evan suggested that D’Adrian could say thank you to God, because it seemed clear that God was giving them the food.
“Say thank you to God? How?,” D’Adrian asked. Evan said, “Just like that: ‘Thank you, God.”
“Thank you, God,” D’Adrian repeated, with an inquisitive face, looking to Evan to make sure he had got the phrase right. Then he said it again, this time clearly talking to the Lord: “Thank you, God.”
During the next weeks, D’Adrian had two more encounters with Evan, with two more short lessons about God. He told Evan that he’d had a prayer time on his own, as Evan had taught him, and had also started helping some of his neighbors. They walked around the neighborhood, and D’Adrian pointed out people he’d helped, such as the older woman whose trash he’d taken out. He said that after helping people, he’d thanked God.
Thanking God is one thing, but thanking the woman with the minivan is harder. David has seen or heard of at least a dozen families who have received surprise food drop offs, and there are other good things happening besides the drop offs. He says he can’t be 100 percent sure that it’s the same woman in all the stories, but he’s pretty sure who she is--a single mom, a bit on the shy side, who’s been getting the food from local churches and other donation places outside the neighborhood and giving it to people who can’t travel. She seems humble and intent on helping the next person in need.
After her donation helped out Jaylen’s family in such a big way, David did manage to thank her in person. “It was a beautiful story. I wanted to make sure she heard it.” She responded by asking him to let her know if he knew anyone who needed another donation. David did just that a few days later when another Praise Academy family was in need of food.
Perhaps she likes it this way, being the mysterious woman serving her neighbors with her van and her resourcefulness. Perhaps she sees that by her being hidden, neighbors are turning their thanks to someone else. The neighbor who told Evan about receiving the milk for her shrimp began her story with, “You know what God did for me?”