And then, as I got into my car, I felt the strongest word from God I'd ever felt. It was just short of audible, and just shy of ominous. "This is the last night my children will spend in a shelter! Find them a home by tomorrow evening!" This was not a suggestion! I knew I had no choice."
In January of 2003, Greg Boyd of St. Paul Minnesota was at a church service when a distraught Nigerian lady named Toke Olatoye approached him and told him that she and her three children (two girls and a boy) had been staying in homeless shelters for the past six months. She also surprised Greg by claiming that God had told her that Greg would be able to work with others to help her family out of their desperate situation.
Greg recalls, "I honestly didn't know what to make of her claim, but after church I took her family out to eat and then back to this small day shelter in St. Paul where the family would stay until a bus would pick them up in the evening to go to an over-night shelter, which was a church gym where they slept on cots without any privacy whatsoever."
"Tears welled up the moment I walked into the shelter where they spent each day. It was no bigger than the size of a small bedroom. It contained two worn out couches, one that was occupied by a sleeping homeless man, and one table with four old chairs. There was no TV, no magazines, no games."
The Olatoye family's difficulties started 8 months earlier in Nigeria, when Toke's husband died, and Toke's family came under the rule of her husband's tribe. The tribe wanted to perform "female circumcision" on Toke and her daughters Ronke, who was 12, and Tobi, who was 8. They fled. They chose Minnesota, because they had a distant relative living there, and were able to get a traveling Visa.
While in St. Paul, despite the disruption, instability, lack of a car, and cold weather, Toke toiled to get the kids to school every day, and they excelled in their studies.
Greg continues: "As I left the shelter that day, I told the family I would do all I could do, but in my mind I honestly didn't see how I could do much. And then, as I got into my car, I felt the strongest word from God I'd ever felt. It was just short of audible, and just shy of ominous. "This is the last night my children will spend in a shelter! Find them a home by tomorrow evening!" This was not a suggestion! I knew I had no choice."
Greg made dozens of calls over the next 24 hours, but no solutions were opening up. Then, about 10 minutes before the Olatoye family was to get on the bus that would take them to a shelter for the night (remember the Lord's instruction – "by tomorrow evening"!), he received a call from a family who owned a three bedroom rental apartment that was fully furnished and very spacious. It had recently become vacant. They offered it to Greg for a greatly reduced price and said they'd give him as much time as he needed to raise the funds.
Greg recalls, "Toke cried and praised God all the way to the apartment, and when we all saw how nice it was, the rest of us joined her. It was one of those precious moments in life you'll never forget."
More helped flowed in from all sides over the next two years, mostly from Christus Victor Ministries (now ReKnew), which is led by Greg Boyd and others. At that point, Toke was able to get a work Visa, and the family was able to pay for their own apartment. Reporting as of June, 2014, all three children were attending or had graduated college. Son Dare received his MD from Johns Hopkins.
More remarkable is the amazing faith of the Olatoye family. Says Greg, "I honestly have never known any person of faith and prayer like Toke. This faith and commitment is shared by her three children. The entire family exudes the character of Jesus, and they all aspire to somehow be a blessing to others."
Senior Pastor, Woodland Hills Church, St. Paul Minnesota
Founder of ReKnew Ministries (ReKnew.org)
Editor's comments: 1. Greg is unashamed to state that he believes God spoke to him to tell him to help this homeless family. (John 10:27) 2. Greg is not the only one to report hearing instructions from God that are completely in line with the personality of the God of the Bible. (Isaiah 58:10) He did not hear words that told him to do something cuckoo. No, a person claiming to hear from God should not always be considered insane. : ) 3. Of all the stories on this site from people who claim to have heard from God [See the category "Sound of God's Voice"], this one is the most strict. In all other cases reported here, God's voice is more gentle. But because Greg is a Senior Pastor, this is consistent with James 3:1 (see below).
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me." - John 10:27
"...And if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. -Isaiah 58:10
"Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly." - James 3:1
How Wtness.org discovered this story: Managing Editor Bill Griffin was reading Christian Piatt’s article, “25 Christian Blogs You Should Be Reading (Readers’ Choice, 2013)”. Of the Christian blogs listed there, Greg Boyd's ReKnew.org interested Bill the most. It was Greg's way of talking about Jesus as if he needed to be understood much more completely for us to see Him correctly… that He asks us to be totally dedicated to Him. To Him, not just His teachings.
Bill contacted Greg and received permission from editor Scott Boren to reprint an abbreviated version of the story of the Olatoye family. The full story can be found here.