• Valena Spradley

Church on the side of the road...

Updated: Mar 4, 2021


I met two very different ladies one special week. The first was a Grammy award-winning jazz singer and the other was a near-homeless older woman who possibly could have been an angel.

I had the incredible privilege of VIP backstage access to meet and have a photo taken with multiple Grammy award winner India Arie. Her music and talent are both new to me and I am so glad to have found her. We had a group of 8 friends that were able to attend The Worthy Tour in Austin. She is one of the calmest souls I have ever met. She is beautiful to look at, but she radiated beauty and love from the inside. I held her hand and she patted mine and told me thank you for coming. Then she came out on stage and the time she shared with us was magical. She did not “put on a show” she connected with us. She calls it Songversation. We connected with her and she fed off of our energy.

India Arie - Back stage

She didn’t finish until 11:30 p.m. and we all floated out into the empty streets feeling like we had been to church. She sang of love... she sang of One.. she sang of being Worthy– we are all one people and need to love each other.

At the end of the week, my husband and I drove to Dallas to purchase a new car, so I was driving back alone. I was singing loud in the car enjoying the beautiful drive when I passed an elderly woman walking down the road.

She was many miles from the nearest store and this area only has a few scattered houses. It was a Sunday afternoon in June and the temperature was rising. She was dressed in Sunday clothes – a skirt, jacket, black flat shoes, and hat and was carrying a plastic grocery bag and the top of plastic tub that said, “Repent the End is Near”. I couldn’t read the sign as I went by but after about a minute I turned around and caught back up to her. She smiled as I pulled over into an abandoned gas station, rolled down my window, and asked if she would like a ride. She said she lived just a little bit down the road – I encouraged her to get in. I asked her name and she said, Grace. She was a tiny woman -strong but frail. We drove a short distance and she said turn here. I looked and saw a driveway that led to a burned-out shell of a brick home. In front of the home was a small shed. “This is it,” she said. I asked her what happened to the house and she said a bad fire but luckily, she was not hurt. I asked if she had relatives and she said no. I asked where she attended church – trying to find out if she has people to help her. She said she visits different churches. Her stories wandered a bit..she would forget her line of thought and I could see her trying to reach up and grab that thread. I sat quietly as she continued.

Her face was beautiful – she didn’t have any teeth, but she smiled with her eyes and her whole face lit up as she talked about God taking care of her. I wanted to take her photo to remember every detail, but I did not want to break her gentle rhythmic speaking. She talked about visiting women in prison and showing them love, not judgment. There were so many questions I wanted to ask about her life, but I quietly listened as she talked. She told me that she sometimes sits under the canopy of that abandoned gas station and just waits for folks to come by so that she can pray with them. When she talked about specific prayers her language changed – I wasn’t sure if she was speaking in tongues or speaking an ancient dialect, but the sound was beautiful and calm.

She told me she has prayer cloths – handkerchiefs that she has anointed and prayed over and asked if I would like one. Yes, please was the immediate answer. She went inside her tiny home and came back a few minutes later. I took a quick photo just to prove she was real.

She handed me a white cloth and told me to smell it – the oil and fragrance had left a slight tint on the white. It smelled like roses. She told me I could cut the cloth up and put one in my husband and daughter’s car. And then she took my hand and prayed for my family. As she prayed, she would flow from English to her other language – I couldn’t understand it, but the intention and love were felt. Her spirit of peace, calm, and love flowed thru my car on that special Sunday afternoon. I asked if I could stop by next time I headed to Dallas and she said “Of course, if I am here”. We are headed back to Dallas in two weeks and I can hardly wait to see if she is there. My mind is racing trying to think of what gift I can take this precious soul but when I stop, I realize she already has everything she needs..

Church in the theatre and church on the side of the road. God was very present in both of these spaces. We just have to be still.


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