For years I had heard the stories of Liberty…beautiful in high school; soon pregnant, married, divorced; into drugs, overdose of bad meth and at death’s door.
Stories were told of this young woman-just a year or two older than one of my daughters-walking naked down the middle of the street or just wandering like a lost and wounded bird flapping her wings and squawking–her brain fried from the drugs. I had never seen her, but I taught her son several years earlier in pre-school at my church. His paternal grandparents moved him out of town when he started school so he wouldn’t have to hear the label that would be cast on him…
”That’s crazy Liberty’s son”.
Liberty suffers from schizophrenia and has been incarcerated, institutionalized and homeless for much of her adult life.
Almost 4 years ago, I was at the desk at First Baptist Church where I work as a ministry assistant, when I noticed a young woman getting coffee. Her hair was matted, and she wore shorts that were much too short and high heels. I introduced myself to her, and she told me her name was Liberty. I finally had a face to go with the infamous name!
As I visited with her and gave her something to eat, I knew God had given me “another daughter” to love and care for. I asked her if she knew Jesus and what He had done for her. She said “Yes, He died on the cross for me”. That’s about all she can tell you, and she certainly isn’t a Bible scholar, but her child-like faith is enough to promise her a mansion someday! As I spoke with her each day, little did I know that was the beginning of a ministry that would bless me and help her–even at the cost of criticism from well-meaning Christians—including my family, friends and some of the staff at my church.
Most people are afraid of Liberty because of her multiple personalities-which include a young boy, a baby, the “laugher”, and a very crude woman named Camaro–her persona can change in a second, but when she is “Liberty”, she is compliant and is no longer on drugs.
She began to hang out at our Total Life Center using the showers, keeping some clothes in the lockers—she stayed in a run-down trailer at the other end of town at night. She began to rely on “Miss Lindsey” for meals, clothing, change for cokes and cigarettes and rides. Once I took her shopping at a local discount store where she spent half of her monthly SSI payment on clothes—many of which were not the right size or multiples of what she had in her basket. It wasn’t long before we noticed a change in her appearance—Liberty was pregnant (no known father in sight)! Her mother allowed Liberty to come live with her even though she had been “to hell and back” with her through the years. On November 23, 2010, she gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl, and after being in a foster home for a time, the baby was adopted by Liberty’s mother and step-dad.
Unfortunately Liberty couldn’t return to her mother’s home because of the baby so she went back to the streets. I literally drove up and down alleys looking for a shed…anything that Liberty could camp in and call “home”. Every time she found a place to stay, the police would tell her she had to move…so we would pack up all her belongings again. I was concerned about her protection from the cold and others who would take advantage of her.
When she got arrested for breaking and entering and theft, I was actually relieved when she went to jail; at least she would be warm and have food to eat! When she was released from jail in January 2012, she spent some time in an institution. They offered her a place to stay, but she wanted to come back to Artesia and was once again homeless in her hometown. (It isn’t possible to commit someone in New Mexico without their permission.) She decided to settle under a carport on the highway; it was not a safe place since she was in plain sight of passersby.
Several times her things were taken when she was wandering around town, and the wind and rain played havoc with her belongings. The day I took her to the Motor Vehicle Department in an attempt to get her an ID was not a pleasant one. After waiting a long period of time, she became agitated and slipped from “Liberty” to “Camaro” in a split second. She was verbally abusive and angry, grabbed her birth certificate from my hands and ran. I had to enlist the local police in order to get it back because we knew she would misplace it.
A day later she was back to Liberty again! I took her to my house a couple of times a week to do her laundry and let her shower since she could no longer use the showers at the church. She was always polite and gave me a hug when I returned her to town. She told me once, “Miss Lindsey, you are the best old lady baby sitter I’ve ever had”. I took that as a supreme compliment!
Almost a year ago, Liberty became friends with a man, Laurence, who lives with his elderly mother and is also on disability. Even with his limited income and slower personality, he wanted to help and protect Liberty. He bought a small trailer which he parked in his backyard and spent many hours fixing it so it would be comfortable and warm for her. She wasn’t sure she wanted to stay there, but as Laurence added a T.V. and a fenced area, she decided it would be good.
A few months ago friends helped me load all her things and take them to the trailer. It is amazing how she feels at home there—safe and warm and away from harm. It is her home now. She is not wandering the streets as much—though she still sings, dances, and talks to herself when she does. I don’t see her often, but she and Laurence know to come to me if they need anything. I am so thankful that Laurence came along with as much desire as I to help Liberty!
God has worked mightily in my life and in the life of my sweet friend, Liberty. I pray that I will be aware when someone else needs my care.
Question for Reader: How do you respond in situations like this? Are you fearful to help? Or jump in with both feet?