March, 2000 - On Such A Day As This
By Billie Marie Zal
It was a warm, promise-of-spring day when I heard
God speak to me in l986.
I had been restless, with a vague unrest in my heart. This always happens when God has a change of course for my life, but I attributed my feelings to "spring fever."
The unrest had begun years earlier, when I read a story in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE about a seventeen year old youngster who had killed an elderly man whom he didn't even know. The public was furious, and wrote scathing letters to his mother. My heart went out to her, so I wrote her, telling her that this thing could happen to any of us, and I shared her sorrow.
This began a relationship that lasted for several years; her son was eventually released and when I heard that he had killed again, my heart was broken. I had visited him in the juvenile detention center and he was a bright young man, handsome and filled with seeming remorse. But I sensed that within his heart there was something left, yet unbroken. I did the best i could to share God's love with George, but he died a few years ago by execution.
Another time, I was driving to Baton Rouge and I lost my way. I found myself at a minimum security facility somewhere in Louisiana. Needing directions, I pulled into the parking lot and a young man, a prisoner, was washing the deputies' cars. I smiled at him and said, "Do you like your job?" He grinned and replied, "No, Ma'am, not especially. But I'll be out soon."
We talked for awhile, and then he gave me proper directions and I drove away. As I drove on down toward the Gulf, I was amazed that my heart was so strangely warmed by this encounter. Jesus Christ gives us that joy when He manifests Himself by His Spirit, and so I knew that my ministry to this young man was well pleasing to our God.
The vacation seemed bland, lifeless, compared with the joy of those few moments of ministry, and I began to believe that perhaps God had something for me to do concerning prisoners. I heard the Word, "Don't put new cloth into old material, or it will tear the old...." so I knew that whatever God intended to do, it would be a new thing.
That experience was in l985. We celebrated Christmas and were invited to visit old friends down at a lake near Huntsville, Texas.
I was so pressured by this knowledge that God would do a new thing in my life that my host asked me, "Billie Marie, are you all right?" Suddenly my eyes had filled with tears and I said, "I'm ok. It's just that the world is in such a mess." I was feeling the sorrows of our Lord Jesus, and I knew it.
I tried to shake off the feeling that something was missing in my life and I made plans to design my back patio garden and get ready for summer. I'd never felt really good physically, and I wondered if God asked something else of me, would I be able to do it? That in itself was a lack of faith in His love because He always equips us for whatever He asks of us. And He had given me the gift of Love for strangers--His prisoners, wherever they were.
Then, in February, l986, I went to bed one night, totally overcome by pain. I never knew what caused it, but it was the kind of pain that begins in the head and creeps down into the neck, shoulders, and middle of the spine. It was incapacitating, but I kept going simply because to give in to such pain makes us invalids. And I was not going to be an invalid, I had work to do.
I had been given pain pills, but I saved them for the nights, because I refused to become addicted to any kind of chemical. sometimes I would pray for the night, so that I might get some small relief. And the pain had been with me for years.
I cannot explain exactly what happened. It was a spiritual experience and very real. But I had fallen asleep praying that God would somehow take this pain and its cause away so that I might be strong enough to serve Him more fully.
As I lay sleeping, a figure of a nun appeared before me. She was about three feet above my bed, in front of me, and although I cannot say that I heard an audible voice, I knew what she was saying. She wore a heavenly blue nun's habit, and there was a golden woven cord about her waist. What puzzled me was that I could not see her face. She wore one of those gigantic white "bonnets" that some Catholic nuns wear in Chicago, and she kept her face turned away from me.
She said to me, "If you will reach out your right hand and take my right hand in yours, you will be perfectly healed." I was incredulous but overjoyed and I immediately took her hand. The dream ended, and when I awoke the next morning I prepared myself for the usual unbearable pain that met me each day. But suddenly I realized, "The pain is gone--all of it." Almost fearing to get up, because it might come back, I remembered the dream or vision.
And I knew beyond a doubt that this horrible pain would never again manifest itself in my body. And I was right. It never has.
All of this was a preparation for the new calling in my life. And now I had the strength to do whatever God asked of me. I remembered then a dream I'd had years before not too long after I began to minister to ladies in my neighborhood. I found myself, in the dream, beside a great sea. It appeared to be limitless, and there wasn't even a fish to break its surface.
I looked down and in my hands was a loaf of bread. Just bread, nothing else. I thought to myself, "I'll throw in some bread and maybe some fish will find it." And I began to break a piece of the bread off, one at a time, and cast it into the sea.
At once, a few fish broke the surface, grabbed the bread, and swam away. Then another school of fish came in; I was worried. How could I feed all of them with only one loaf of bread? But wonder of wonders, as I broke off each piece, and gave it to the hungry fish, the bread never diminished and then school after school of fish swam towards me, and there was always enough bread!
This, then, meant that whatever the new work would require, God would fulfill the needs and as I fed His people, there would always be enough. In the Bible, a sea represents humanity, and of course the bread was that precious Bread of Life, our Lord Jesus Christ, who came down to give us life everlasting.
On March 6, l986, I finally heard the Call: "I was in prison and you came unto me" (Matthew 26:39). For a moment, I didn't understand what this meant. What was God asking of me? Then I knew. If Jesus Christ identifies with each individual in prison (and He does), then if I ministered to prisoners, I would be coming to HIM, just like He said! With this word of knowledge in my heart, I set out to do His will, and receive His smile at that day.
God always, with an anointing for a special work, gives us the power to do it. And on the first visit to a county jail, the "walls literally fell down." I found myself, standing in the hall, with my Bible in my hand, having no idea of what I would say. But the anointing gave me the words, and I said to the man who sat in the bull pen, "I came here to tell you that God knows you, and He loves you, and He will save you." If I had done this in the flesh, of my own will, the man would have laughed me out of the building. Instead, his eyes filled with tears, and he began to tell me all of the things that had brought him to this place in his life. As I went on down the hall, the boys (most were so young) were already waiting to see the "lady preacher." I smile as I write because I am not a preacher. But they listened. And God saved. And the prayer I prayed that day for an inmate whose name was Johnny Eagle, eventually came to pass as he wrote to me from a prison in Oklahoma and said he had been saved.
I began to minister by letters, visits when they were possible, and a monthly publication and God began to send them, one by one, just like the fishes I had seen in my dream. I believe that many have been saved; why not? The living Christ within me reaches out and touches and cares. His Love is captivating. He never fails.
I have no records no "numbers" listed because the work has been done by God Himself. But I praise Him for that calling, fourteen years ago, on that sunny, spring-like day. And I praise Him that the Bread is still here, in my hands. God bless.
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