Monica’s Story, But God’s Glory
Our God works in wonderful and mysterious ways, ways in which we may not even recognize that He is working through us. He instills virtues in us and it is our responsibility to adhere to and share the virtues of faith, hope and charity (which is naught but the capacity to love). Charity emphasizes radiating your love more upon others than on yourself and in this day and age we see much of the latter and little of the former. There are many beneficent people in the world who are more than willing to share their resources for notable causes, sometimes sacrificing their own comforts so that others may have that which they might not otherwise be able to obtain. Not only do they share their resources but they share their time and effort. This is the story of one young girl who saw a need, planted a seed and reaped a harvest exceeding what many thought would be an impossibility. Not impossible if undertaken by an adult organizational specialist or someone with an abundance of sway over a community. But this endeavor was successfully accomplished by a young lady noticeably challenged in many ways. This is the story of Monica Garrett and the how our Blessed Savior made His way into her loving and caring heart. May the reader learn from the heart, soul and actions of one of God‘s meekest yet most steadfast disciples.
On a September morning in 2012, Robin Garrett, a mother of three children, was busying herself with household chores while her eldest daughter, Monica was watching one of her favorite television shows, a Christian program called “Life Today” broadcast by Life Outreach International out of Fort Worth, Texas. On this day the program featured the television ministry of James and Betty Robinson and their outreach mission project called Christmas Shoe Project. Monica thoroughly enjoys watching this program but this particular episode was especially meaningful to Monica. Her mother heard Monica crying and she immediately sought to discern the cause of Monica’s distress. Monica came to her and, with these simple words she said, “My church help me get shoes for children, ask Pastor David for microphone.” The featured mission project involved procurement of shoes for children in third world countries. Shoes that would protect their feet from cuts and infections that, if left untreated, could have serious consequences, even death in some instances. Monica was so moved by this project she insisted that she take up the cause herself and raise money to buy shoes for children.
Robin and Sherwin Garrett and their three children; Justin, Monica and Samantha live in the small town of Broadway, Virginia located in the center of the Shenandoah Valley. Sherwin is often away from home for short periods of time during the week and is able to return home for extended weekends to spend quality time with Robin and the children. They are an extremely close-knit and loving family and Christian values abound in their home. Robin and Sherwin are supportive of their children and not only do they encourage them to pursue their dreams but they go out of their way to provide the support necessary for the children to succeed. So for Robin to see the plight of Monica on that September day it wasn’t a matter of disregarding the fantasy of the child but a matter of what she and Sherwin could do to facilitate Monica’s wishes. It is of vital importance that we understand the dynamics of this situation.
Monica is now sixteen years old but when this project first came to light in 2012 she was fifteen years old. Monica, shortly out of infancy, was discovered to being intellectually impaired. Her speech and childhood development was noticeably different for her age and this concerned her parents to the point where they sought medical evaluations on Monica’s condition. It was ultimately determined that she had a deleted chromosome (medical report stated “del(7)(g32g34)”. As of this writing there is no name or label given for this condition and it is so rare that only a few children have been so diagnosed. Those who have been diagnosed have many of the same traits as Monica and the most significant traits are impairment of speech and intellectual development. It is the purview of medical specialists to officially name or label this condition and is only important, at this time, to introduce Monica and to recognize what she was able to accomplish considering her intellectual capacity. Suffice it to say that she might be considered mild to moderately retarded. When interviewing Monica one has to listen intently to her speech and with occasional interpretation by her mother, Robin, appreciate the gist of what she is saying. Monica has other mannerisms that define her, a sense of shyness and keeping her head often held at a downward angle. She has an infectious laugh and a smile that is warm but cautious in manner. If she is comfortable with you she is warm and affectionate but is somewhat withdrawn when encountering people with whom she is not familiar. Physically she is normally developed for a sixteen year old girl. Monica attends classes for intellectually impaired children at the Turner Ashby High School in Bridgewater, Virginia and much of her learning consists of living skills for when she will transition out of the public school setting. She is making progress with her speech when you consider just a few years ago her speech was mostly unintelligible. In essence, then, you can now see a young lady with sufficient handicaps as would cause one to think her incapable of any significant achievements. One of the most cogent and profound admissions or confessions that can describe the parental and sibling support that helps to understand Monica is her mother’s statement,
“…I’ve spent too many years looking at all the things my daughter can’t do … shame on me. I look at her future in a different light now. She can do anything God is leading her to do. She has a very bright future.”
Is this not a problem with many people who have children with conditions similar to or worse than Monica’s? Perhaps we all focus on these children with an eye as to what they can’t do rather than what they can do.
After Monica informed her mother that she was going to help provide funding so that children could have shoes and after days of crying and stating her need to help the children, her mother and her family didn’t question what she wanted to do, they simply asked how she was going to do it and how they could assist her in the project. Monica laid out a plan wherein she would stand in front of the congregation of the Vision of Hope United Methodist Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia and she would make her plea for contributions to the cause. This was a remarkable endeavor for her because of her speech problems and because she is so shy. After her mother wrote to Life Outreach International outlining what Monica was going to attempt, they sent Monica an information packet with detailed instructions on the project and how to coordinate with Life Outreach International. Monica was ecstatic to receive the packet and she was now ready to begin her journey.
Monica watched the videos she received and selected the one that she best thought would convey what she was attempting to do with her fundraising. They approached the pastor, Reverend David M. Burch and he immediately recognized the passion that Monica had for this project. He also realized that this was a prime example of how God, who works in so many mysterious ways, uses ALL of his children according to their gifts and their talents. On October 7th of 2012 Reverend Burch wholeheartedly gave Monica a green light for her program and on October 14th Monica happily walked up to the altar of the church, she was handed the microphone and, with the Pastor at her side to assist in interpreting Monica’s description of her project and the need for contributions from the congregation, she did what so many believed a child of her bearing could not do. That was the spark that ignited the flame that eventually became a roaring fire. To help Monica emphasize the gravity of this project, the video that Monica had previously selected from the packet sent to her from Life Outreach International was shown to the congregation. Every Sunday thereafter, until November 18th Monica silently stood by the exit from the sanctuary with the collection basket and thanked people for their donations. On October 30th the local newspaper, The Daily News Record of Harrisonburg, Virginia wrote a wonderful article featuring Monica and her Christmas Shoe mission and contributions started to pour in via the U.S. Mail. Additionally, Monica solicited contributions from her siblings (who willingly gave) and her grandmother took the project to her Women’s Group in her church and they gave their support to Monica. The Vision of Hope United Methodist Church handled the flow of money coming in for the mission project and gave Monica weekly updates on the totals. Money came in from distant locations, apparently through word of mouth and people were so very generous with the contributions. Each update, Monica would have her mother compute how many shoes would be provided to this mission project as a result of her efforts.
The Final Tally
We know that the project was a screaming success and Monica’s passion resulted in more than $6,000.00 being collected. This resulted in the purchase of 1,666 pairs of shoes for the Christmas shoe project. What is not known is the total amount of money, as a result of Monica’s efforts, was sent directly to Life Outreach Ministry but it is felt that a significant amount was added to the total. On Monica’s birthday, November 27th, a check for $6,000.00 was sent to James and Betty Robinson.
A filming crew from Life Outreach International subsequently traveled from Texas to the Shenandoah Valley to videotape interviews with Monica, the Garretts and with Pastor David Burch and the Vision of Hope United Methodist Church congregation. This program is due to be aired in the fall or early winter of 2013.
A humble, shy and retiring intellectually challenged young lady, God worked through her and used her as a living example, of the goodness and love that He would have in all of His people. His spirit, like an arrow, pierced the heart of Monica and she responded in the most exemplary manner. She indeed responded with the virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. May we all learn from Monica’s example. May we all learn from this simply beautiful child. And what did Monica do at the conclusion of her project? With the assistance of her mother with spelling, Monica printed out the following note of thanks:
“Thank you helping children money for shoes. Monica love.”
And what is next in Monica’s life? Wells and clean water for these children who now have shoes to wear when they go to the well. Clean water for them to drink, cook and bathe in.
Monica is one of two recipients of the 2013 Youth in Philanthropy for the Shenandoah Chapter. She will be recognized the week of her birthday on November 25th. Monica and her mother will visit James Madison University and speak with their chapter of National Student Speech-Language Hearing Association. That chapter will partner with Monica this fall and spring semester to raise money to help relieve human suffering and the “Christmas Shoes” will be one of their fall projects.