When you walk into the Valley of Love, the first thing you see is a large table filled with delicious loaves of bread of all shapes and sizes. The only sound in the room comes from the large screen tv sitting front and center of the room with the powerful voice of TD Jakes’ impassioned message booming encouragement and hope to the few disheveled looking people sitting in rows facing him.
“I try to be out in the open. I have tried to commit suicide and Marie has brought me back so many times. When I’m in trouble, I call Marie. She answers on the fist ring.”
The Valley of Love ministry isn’t about feeding the hungry, which it does. It isn’t about housing the homeless, which it can’t, but does. It isn’t about finding people jobs and getting them back on their feet, although they do that as well.
The Valley of Love ministry doesn’t have a staff of employees and volunteers. The entire program is run by one dedicated and fiercely determined woman, Marie Antoinette whose mission is loving people, not while they are on the mountaintop of success, but when no one else wants to love them; while they are in the valley of pain and desperation. Mama Marie, a buxom lady with a cheerful smile and eyes that have seen more misery than one person should have to see in a lifetime, meets people where they are and gives them everything she has to give.
Beyond the bread and the big screen tv in the main room, is a large window through which you can see the office where Marie works. Fundraising to keep them afloat is a constant burden Marie must battle every day.
Seated in the office is Bishop Willy Jones, who remarked on their most recent financial crisis, the $1500 deficit in rent due, “It’s a faith walk. It’s been like this for five or six years. You see where the rubber meets the road here. That’s how you know that God is in the midst of this. God always sees us through.”
Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18
That God is in the midst of what they are doing can be seen in the lives that have been restored. John Hamilton, who is now running a ministry of his own, wasn’t looking for God when he came, hungry, homeless, and in need of help, to the Valley of Love.
Marie remembers well, the nice looking young man with the full head of light blonde hair. “This building was just one room. I got permission from Home Depot. They gave us a bunch of 4 x 4 wood and then John came and was sitting right here and he just wanted to do his food stamps. And then in the middle, he saw someone was working there and he said, ‘Can I help?’ Then we said, sure, sure, you can help.”
It was later that Marie learned, in addition to being hungry, John was also homeless. “He came to us and from there we started doing Bible study with him. We sent him to missionary school. This man right now, he’s out there preaching to everybody. He used to do drugs. He was selling drugs.”
As Marie told the story, a tall, dark man named Dauvantey Wright, or “DW” as he is known by his friends, filled the door frame. Embracing him, she let DW tell his own story.
They didn’t have any place to live. I said, you know what, I’m going to feed you guys. I didn’t know where I was going to get the food from. I just said, I’m going to help you.
“One day…I was just a drifter…one day I wandered in. I don’t know what told me to come in. I guess God did. I met Marie. She became like a mother figure to me. She gave me food. She made sure I had everything I needed. She never asked me for anything in return. She’s helped me in more ways than one. I even go to church with her. She’s been a blessing to me since I first walked in.”
DW shared that Marie changed his life in many ways. He speaks of the time when he no longer wanted to be in this world. “I try to be out in the open. I have tried to commit suicide and Marie has brought me back so many times. When I’m in trouble, I call Marie. She answers on the fist ring.”
Through thick and thin, with super human patience, Marie has been available to do whatever she can for the people in need on her little corner in the Valley of Love.
Of Haitian descent, Marie Antoinette didn’t come to the United States to transform a city or a neighborhood. She didn’t even come to change one life here. Her mission work was back in Haiti, providing homes to children who were wandering in the streets, without food, clothing, shelter