Dedication: Raymond Joseph Vasaya Jr.
Dedication – Raymond Joseph Vasaya Jr.
By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Rev 7:17
There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance Eccl 3:1-2, 4 NIV
Today, July 26, 2009, would have been Raymond Joseph Vasaya Jr.’s 46th birthday. Raymond went home to be with God on October 23, 2008. Anyone who has lost a child knows that the first birthday without him or her is a difficult day. Raymond’s mother, Kathleen Tolbert, chose to honor him by donating a day of ministry in his memory.
Kathleen and I developed a strong bond because we share a common heartbreak. Both of our sons had good hearts, wonderful intentions, and potential to lead spectacular lives. The powerful debilitating grip of addiction stole their happiness and eventually their lives. My son David’s 41st birthday would have been in just two days, on July 28. Kathleen and I have complete Biblically based assurance that our beautiful sons are with God in heaven. We know they have found the peace in eternity that they did not find while here on earth.
I chose to spend a day in Raymond’s honor, working with the homeless because at one time, both Kathleen and my sons lived on the streets. I’ve found that before we can minister spiritually to the homeless, we must first minister physically so this day began at the dollar store buying items to place inside goody bags.
I was so excited when I found individual zippered travel kits that included a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a cover for the toothbrush. I bought juice bottles, cheese and crackers, and peanuts. I also had ministry cards and spiritual tracts to put inside. I’ve discovered that many of the homeless enjoy having the plastic grocery bags that most of us just toss out so I went to the local grocery store, Publix, and asked if they would donate the bags. They were happy to oblige and seemed appreciative of the work that was about to happen.
Bob and the Missionary Dog Belle agreed to help. Belle loves working with the homeless and Bob is a good sport. Bob and I made up the bags, put them in our little red-wheeled grocery cart, and went to the outdoor theater at Jacksonville Beach. I’ve done this before and have come to know many of the homeless in our small community and where they hang out. The first time Bob, Belle, and I went out, we couldn’t find many of the familiar faces.
I spotted a large woman, sitting under a lopsided umbrella on a park bench next to the ocean. I immediately recognized her as a regular. She was wearing several layers of clothing and had a large cart overflowing with her treasures.
“You look hot,” I said.
“I’m used to it,” she smiled through rotted teeth.
“May I give you a gift?” I asked.
“Yes,” she said, gratefully taking the grocery bag.
“Where is everyone?” I asked.
“They’re over at the soup kitchen,” she said. I knew the mission was several blocks away. This mission had recently given the homeless bicycles in the hopes the bicycles would help them get to jobs.
“Why didn’t you go?” I asked, knowing the answer.
“My stuff,” she said. “They won’t let me take my stuff in. I need my stuff. It is what I sleep on.”
Bob and I drove by the mission and sure enough, bicycles filled the parking lot. We decided to go home and come back later that afternoon.
Sure enough, later that day, many of our homeless population had returned to their makeshift homes on the lawn of our downtown beach area. One woman was sound asleep on a blanket in the hot sun. She was wearing white pants and a shirt that was too small and revealed a swollen belly that could have indicated pregnancy or malnutrition. I laid a bag on her blanket but didn’t wake her up.
Next, I met Luther and Stacy. Luther’s hands twitched and his dazed eyes showed the confusion from whatever drug he was taking. Stacy’s sad eyes were clear. They both said they were Christians but were struggling.
“May I pray with you?” I asked.
“Yes,” they said eagerly sticking out their hands for us to hold. I’ve noticed that most of the homeless are eager to pray with people and usually offer hands. They seem to enjoy being touched.
“What can I pray for?” I asked.
Stacy said, “I need a job. Ask God to help me find a job. I work construction but there are no jobs. It will get better.”
“I understand,” I said. “Times are tough. My husband here doesn’t have a paying job either.” We formed a circle, held hands, and prayed for jobs, our country, the economy, and release from things that keep us in bondage.
As Bob and I walked around giving out bags, I thought about the categories of homeless who live at the beach. Believe it or not, some are there by choice. They like the beach and the freedom of living outside. Many are mentally ill and would be eligible for government assistance if they had someone to help with the confusing paperwork necessary to receive these benefits. A few are like Stacy, down on their “luck” and confused about how they ended up on the streets.
Most are like our sons. Addiction had destroyed their lives. Many have broken hearted families who longed to help but didn’t know how. Some of the people wandering our streets have distraught mothers wondering what they did wrong. Others have mothers who simply don’t care and never did. The thing that I’ve noticed about addiction is that it is not a respecter of the quality of family life. It occurs in the best and worst of families.
Our homeless are people. They are someone’s son or daughter, and maybe someone’s sibling or parent. Most of the homeless I have met claim to be Christians and have no clue how to get their lives back on track. They have lost sight of the future God longs for them to have. Perhaps the only thing anyone can do for them is to love them with the perfect grace of Christ, minister to their physical needs, and continue to have hope for them until they can have hope for themselves.
Raymond was 12 when he made his confirmation. He received the sacraments of Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation in the Catholic Church when he was a child. Later, he was an avid Bible reader and knew God had “saved him.”
Raymond was a good friend. When his friends needed help, he was always there to do the “heavy lifting.” If he was able, he gave financial assistance to friends in need. He was a good cook and could fill in for the drummer in his favorite band. He cared deeply about his closest friends, a mother and daughter who were responsible for leading him back to Jesus.
In spite of his problems, Raymond was always a loving and respectful son to his mother, Kathleen. Kathleen never lost hope for Raymond and never quit trying to help him. In the end, she helped him the best way anyone could. She pointed him to the loving forgiving God that embraces Raymond today.
Kathleen is in a season of grief. It is her turn to mourn. It was Raymond’s turn to die and Kathleen lost a son. Today, Kathleen will grieve her loss but she will also rejoice that her son is in a place with no more tears. When it is Kathleen’s turn to pass into a season of laughter, her steadfast faith will allow her to dance her way into a new season of her life.
Cheryle M. Touchton is the Director of Pocket Full of Change Ministries. For more information or to schedule a speaker for an event, go to www.pocketfullofchange.org or call Gail Golden at 904 316-5462.
This ministry exists because people like you are called to help fund the work of the kingdom. To help keep the Pocket Full of Quarters Lady on the road as a traveling missionary, send your tax deductible contribution to Pocket Full of Change Ministries, POB 51205, Jacksonville Beach, Florida 32240 or go to the donate button on the home page of this website.