Not Bob but Blake
Posted on April 5th, 2017 at 7:54AM
"Mr. Johnson. You have a choice - pay the fine or go to prison."
Except he didn't have a choice because he didn't have any money and couldn't pay the fine.
19 year old Paul faced a clear crisis-moment as he stood before the judge. Prison and an ongoing dalliance with crime beckoned, yet thanks to practical, loving support from local advocate Sally, and financial support from Acts 435 donors, the Paul I met had been given a second chance.
Sally shared with me how verbally aggressive Paul had been when she first met him; how angry at the courts and at everyone. I met a polite, friendly young man who spoke freely about his situation and how things were improving for him.
Acts 435 donors paid that court fine and with it, gave Paul a fresh start and helped him realise he needed to take hold of this gift from strangers as an opportunity to change.
When Sally first met him, his house was dark and cold as both gas and electricity were off with no money to put on the meters. He had no carpets and barely any furniture. His home was still sparse when I visited but there were carpets and some Christmas lights. Crucially, it felt like a home and I met his girlfriend and two street cats he had recently taken in.
Having read 'A Street Cat Named Bob' a year or so ago, I couldn't help but make the comparison with Paul and his ginger tom called Blake. Just as James in London found hope and support through owning a cat, Paul spoke of a similar sentiment - he wanted to make sure he didn't lose his flat because of the cats.
I felt privileged to have met Paul and heard his story and delighted to see donors respond once more, to a second request for Paul. This time it was something more positive - he had seen an advert for shop assistant that he wanted to go for but he didn't have any shoes and clothes suitable for interview. Now he is all kitted out and we wish him every success in his job hunt.
"That money to pay the fine was unreal" he told me. "With someone like that to help you, another door was opened to me."
Let's pray that Paul continues to see those opened doors and walk into a brighter future.