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This week's Reflections is late. Read on and you will understand why we have been so busy.

She Got Stuck

The police showed up on a Thursday and took Sherry to jail. She was booked and placed in a cell with other criminals. She would eventually spend a week there for her crime. Sherry is guilty of having too many cats.

Sherry's soft heart ultimately got her in trouble. She could not turn away from an animal in need. People would come to her house and drop off unwanted animals. One thing let to another, cats started to breed and she ended up with many more than she anticipated.

No one sets out to fail, but sometimes things get out of control and you need some help.

We received a phone call shortly after Sherry was arrested. Animal Control would soon be on the way to catch the cats and "put them to sleep". We went to meet a neighbor and friend to help catch the cats before Animal Control arrived. We smelled a putrid odor emminating from the house, halfway down the block. It was nauseating. When we arrived, Megan handed out little white face masks. She said we would need them when we entered the house. I started for the door and was almost physically pushed back into the yard by the stench. I couldn't do it. Megan, Cricket and Joy dutifully put on their masks and entered as I stood outside with two other husbands. We felt like absolute sissies. One by one, the women emerged from the house with armloads of cats that were systematically put into animal carriers that we brought with us. When these carriers were full, we carried them to cages at a house around the corner and came back for more. We removed 42 cats from the 3-story house that evening. They were divided up transported to safety. We planned to return, but time was running out.

During the swell of passion and emotion over the cat rescue, I kept thinking about Sherry. Everyone seemed to be more interested in saving the cats, when this woman was sitting in jail. What is worse is that she had been living in the house that I couldn't even enter! We had to do something. It was time to rescue Sherry.

I began calling people. This was a job that we surely could not handle on our own. I called Father Thom, from a Catholic church down the street. Sherry worked in their Senior Center. He promised to get others involved. My son said he would talk to the youth group to round up volunteers to go in and clean the house. Chuck said he could get some respirators for the people who would be working. My attorney offered to "jump into the fire" with us.

The plan is to cut the carpets up and haul them away. We would then power-wash the interior, let it dry and repaint everything. Meanwhile, there was a move to raise money to bail Sherry out of jail. The city began piling more charges on her and raising the amount of money needed for bail. Robbers and murderer are scary. It is important to make an example out of Sherry. That way, robbers and murderers will know not to collect so many cats. (Yet, I digress). I called a friend I work with and told him the story. He is contacting his church to assist in the cleaning effort. Others will be called. They, in turn, will call others. We hope to contact radio stations to raise the awareness of the rescue effort on Sherry's behalf. They will not know our names, but others need to know that people still love each other.

We returned to the house on Saturday to remove more cats. I donned a mask and went in to assess the damage in order to properly coordinate the cleaning effort. I also wanted to open some windows to get some fresh air flowing in there. The stench was overwhelming. I made my way to the third floor to open windows. I thought that having the exit point higher would lessen the effect on the neighborhood. The floors were black with feces. The windows were clouded. There was nothing usable inside the house. Sherry has one broken recliner that she sits in and sleeps in. Her sofa looks as though it were hit by a truck. She has a television set, two plastic chairs, a formica table in the kitchen and nothing else. She had a boarder who was supposed to help her keep the house up, but they neglected their duties and ultimately moved out. They left behind more trash and carnage.

After we opened some windows, I began to make my way back downstairs. When I got to the second floor, I was so overcome by the odor that I got disoriented and couldn't find my way out. Finding the stairs, I ran down to the first floor and out the back door. Tears filled my eyes as I got ill in the yard. This poor, elderly woman. How could the city and press be so harsh on someone who desparately needs help?

We were financial unsuccessful in getting Sherry out of jail before her initial hearing. More charges were filed and she was returned to her cell. The neighbor that turned her in, called the press. He wanted them to come out and see the house. They interviewed him and soon, he was on the local news. He is a pastor of a nearby church. I wondered how this man could press so hard to keep Sherry in jail instead of offering assistance. She was his neighbor in every sense of the word. Everything seemed out of whack. The people who you would expect to help, were throwing stones. The people who you would expect to turn away, were coming to Sherry's aid. I wondered how the people in this pastor's church felt about his behavior. I guess if he was their spiritual leader, they wouldn't know any better, but someone in that church surely knew what they should do as a Christian.

Sherry had another court hearing one week after her arrest and is now out of jail. The press has irresponsibly made a spectacle of the incident. They could spin the story several ways, but chose to focus on sensationalism. Sherry is now a reluctant celebrity. Her house has been condemned. More charges have been filed against her. Word about the cat rescue has gotten out and people are driving in across the state to adopt them. A large corporation has called and asked how they can help. Church youth are joining together from different denominations and stand committed to helping clean the house.

I finally met Sherry face to face after she got out of jail. We sat and talked for quite some time. She wept when she heard about all that people were doing to help. She is the sweetest lady! She reminds me of my mother.

Sherry had no intention of allowing things to get this bad. Sherry is not senile. Sherry is not mentally deranged. She is not a menace to society. She just got stuck in a hole and could not get out without help. She does not want a hand out, but she does need a hand up. The press has not been helpful. The pastor who lives next door failed miserably in his calling. A large part of the community is coming together to help Sherry. It is too bad his church is missing out on a blessing.

Sometimes people get stuck even when they have good intentions. What begins as a charitable act can turn into a nightmare if left unchecked. It is imperitive to have a plan. You simply cannot walk in to a situation without knowing what to do today and tomorrow. A missionary cannot simply board a plane and move to a foreign country. Failure will surely follow. He has to be prepared. Even beginning a mission to feed the poor can lead to disaster if you do not have preset parameters. Churches that do not effectively manage their growth will ultimately close their doors. Businesses go bankrupt every day because they did not have an effective plan.

If you become overwhelmed, you lose your effectiveness. You cannot help others because you need help first. Are you effective in your calling, or are you so swamped that you have reached the point of paralysis?

Take some time to reflect on your current situation. Sometimes all you need to do is step back for a moment and things will become easier to see. You may need to reprioritize your activities. You may need to ask for help. You may need time to regroup.

Generals do not always have their troups attack. Sometimes they take time to regroup before heading into battle again. They always have a plan.

Luke 14:28 For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?

It will take a small army of volunteers and alot of supplies to help Sherry get back to a normal life. We all think she's worth it. I doubt many people in the the press will agree, but I think it is much more exciting to hear how people help each other than how badly someone has failed.

The saga continues. We have less than 30 days to restore the house and Sherry's belongings. We could sure use your prayers. Sherry would be greatful to know you are praying for her.

- Rod

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