Holding all her worldly possessions in a half-full
garbage bag, Dorothy Ray got off the bus from Nebraska with her
She had lost everything – her home, her car, her
pride. But her oldest son was living in Nashville, Tenn., at the time
and had invited his mother and siblings to come live with him and his
wife and three children – eight people in a three-bedroom apartment.
“For 10 months, I slept on the couch at my son’s and
tried to figure out what I was going to do,” Ray says. “I was in the
deepest depression. I had hit rock bottom, and to cope, I was drinking.”
Ray, now 51, had been a single parent since she was
15. The ninth-grade dropout got her first apartment in the projects at
age 16. For all those years, everybody had been looking to her for
support and help.
“I did everything for everybody for so long, I lost sight of Dorothy,” Ray admits.
However, Ray slowly started developing a
relationship with God while she was at her son’s home alone and reading
“I had always believed in Jesus,” she says. “One of
my earliest memories is my grandmother taking me to church. But I
didn’t really have a relationship with him.”
Because of the time spent in the Bible and the
spiritual relationship Ray started developing, she stopped drinking.
She began praying that God would give her direction and an opportunity
to go back to school. Doors started opening.
“I think I had to go down to come up,” Ray says. “I
stopped asking God why – Why was I taken away from my parents at age 9?
Why did my mother die when I was young? Why had I lost everything? I
realized it didn’t matter. He was there for me all along.”
Ray had been sending applications in for housing
during the time she was living with her son. She got accepted in one
and soon met a social worker who pointed her to the Christian Women’s
Job Corps in Nashville as a resource for getting her general education
diploma – or GED.
Almost two years ago, Ray set as her top goal the
receipt of her GED. Earlier this spring, she took the test but came up
“It’s a privilege for me to take it,” Ray says. “I
look at all the younger women around me taking it who haven’t been out
of school as long as I have and they’re flunking and getting
discouraged and quitting. But not me. I’m going to continue. If I want
my GED, I’ve got to go out and get it!”
And though she did not get it on the first attempt,
Ray is working toward her next attempt. She readily admits math has
been her toughest subject. “I’m going to keep studying and keep taking
it until I pass it,” she says with determination.
Meanwhile, Ray continues to work on the computer
given to her by Christian Women’s Job Corps, a Southern Baptist Woman’s
Missionary Union ministry designed to help equip needy women and men
for life and employment. “I was one of about five or six who got
computers from Christian Women’s Job Corps last year,” Ray says. “My
daughter-in-law got it hooked up for me and showed me the basics. She
got me online, and I was able to learn to use e-mail.”
As a result, Ray was able to communicate with her
son Anthony while he was serving in the armed forces in Iraq. “That was
a real blessing,” she says.
When women become a part of the Christian Women’s
Job Corps program, they are paired with a mentor. “Our mentors are
vital to the success of our women,” says Rebekah Sumrall, executive
director of the Nashville chapter of the ministry. “They meet at least
one hour a week with the women they are mentoring and provide
encouragement, guidance, hope, and friendship. They help our women stay
on track in working toward and meeting their goals.”
Barbara Oldham is a receptionist and switchboard
operator in Nashville and serves as Ray’s mentor. “We’ve been
together a little less than two years, and it’s been inspirational to
see the woman Dorothy is and is becoming,” she says. “There’s no
holding her back. Whatever she wants to do, she plans on getting there,
even when she’s confronted with hard situations.
“Dorothy is a survivor,” Oldham adds. “She has
taught me a lot. In fact, I feel like I’m the one who’s received a
blessing in our relationship. She totally relies on her faith. She’s in
God’s Word daily, and her dependency on the Lord is very inspiring to
After she achieves her GED goal, Ray says she plans
to get into the computer lab program at Christian Women’s Jobs Corps.
“Afterwards, I want to help someone else – women
like me, young or old, who think their life is over,” she says. “I want
to show them it’s not.
“I failed so much in so many different ways in my
life,” Ray continues. “If you don’t fail, you won’t learn. You’ve got
to get out of the box. I believe God is taking me even further.
“I would like to go to college and get my degree in counseling so I really could help others.” (ABP)