In 2002, I relocated from Upstate NY to New Jersey following the layoff of my nursing position. Unemployment barely provided enough money to pay my monthly expenses. The process for obtaining my NJ RN license was close to $400, which left me with no options other than to work in New York City. As I sent out resumes, I was excited because of the 90% response. Red Flag! Deciding on the right fit was based on the highest salary. Since I had worked for Division of Parole and in Behavioral Health, I decided to take a position in an all-male inpatient Rehab facility. The job was excellent, with one exception: the location required on-street parking.
Before the first day of orientation, I received a call with instructions to call the facility on arrival, give the exact location of where I parked, and an escort would be sent to accompany me to the locked facility. Red Flag! Although my orientation schedule was from 7 am-3:30 pm, my schedule would be from 2pm-10pm. At 6:40 am, I called, the escort arrived at my car, and I began to wonder why I required a male staff. When I questioned the security guard escort, he responded that it was the facility’s policy. At the end of the shift, I received instructions that I could not make eye contact or speak to any “individual hanging out” by my vehicle.
When we arrived at my car, 10 or 15 gang members were strapped with guns in full view . Yes, it was only 3:45 pm. “Remember what I told you.” As I started my car, I decided that I would not return the next day. At 5pm, I received a call from the Administrator, “How was your first day? I realize what you have seen may have surprised you, but we have never had an incident with our nurses. There is a level of respect on the streets when you are doing good for their community. Give us a chance and see you tomorrow.” All when well the first week. But on Wednesday of the following week, at 10 pm, I looked, and three men were sitting on the hood of my car. The guard immediately told me to let him handle the situation. I said a prayer and responded, “No, it is my car. I will handle this.”
The conversation: “You know what guys, I’m tired, I have a long ride home to Jersey and you are sitting on my car.” They started smiling, “We are sitting on her car.” So I asked, “Do you know who I am?” which brought laughter. “Okay, I will tell you. I am the nurse at the Odyssey House.” Immediately, I received apologies from men with guns, tatted with gang symbols. I said a quick thank you and drove off. From that day forward, I was told to park on that street, and they would always provide protection for me and my car. After a couple of paychecks, I obtained my NJ nursing license, and I resigned.
Fear was not something that I felt because I knew that God would answer my prayer and heavenly angels were protecting me, not men with guns. I have never been exposed to that level of danger again. But I would definitely count that as one of my worst “Red Sea” experiences.
And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. 11 Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” Exodus 14:10-12
Although many individuals have never experienced the compromise of their physical safety to that extreme, we have another level of fear: the uncertainties of life. Mental illnesses among believers [in the Most-High God] are at an all-time high. The sermons have changed from preparing for Jesus to come again and having faith and trust in God to steps for relieving your anxiety and worries. The hymns, “Tis So Sweet to Trust In Jesus” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness” are songs of the old-time believers. Now lyrics include, “God, its me, not feeling like getting out of my bed this morning” and “God, where are you? Not feeling near to you, at all.”
This morning during worship, God reminded me of this gang-related incident. Our feelings [including mine] are out-of-control. We are not living faith-based lives, nor do we trust in God. When adversity and hard times hit, our first response is self-reliance. Instead of immediately asking God for help, like the Israelites, we feel that God has left us alone to fight our battles–Red Sea experiences.
And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.” Exodus 14:12-13
“The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” Exodus 14:14
Jesus told us that our lives will be full of hardships: “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace. In the world you have tribulation and distress and suffering, but be courageous [be confident, be undaunted, be filled with joy]; I have overcome the world.” [My conquest is accomplished, My victory abiding.] John 16:33, Amplified Bible
God, is aware of every sorrow, trial, and hardship in our lives. We are not abandoned or left alone to figure out the answer. He is waiting for us to ask Him to fight our battles. If you do not memorize any other verse in the Bible, please remember this one: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too difficult for Me?” Jeremiah 32:27
Prayer: God, we need your help. We have forgotten how to pray, our faith is weak, and we trust in our own abilities. Please forgive our doubt and unbelief, and for neglecting you through prayer and study of the Bible. We desire a relationship with you built on faith, trust, and obedience. Thank you for hearing and answering our prayer that we ask in the mighty name of Jesus. Amen.
Please note: All of the life experiences that I share with you are truth. When I reflect on my nursing employment in the Criminal Justice system, Behavioral Health (locked units) and providing care to gang members, I know that there is a God because I am still alive with my right mind. © 2021 Sonya Johnson