by Jess Cloud, Trinity Church Member
A few weeks ago, my dear friend Aaronetta Clausell Frison reached out to me about needing clothing, shoes, beds, bedding, towels—anything we had to spare for a young mother with four children who needed our help. Aaronetta is the daughter of the late Rev. Dr. Bernyce Clausell, who spent her lifetime reaching out to people in need in her community and beyond—and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. A longtime civil rights activist, Rev. Dr. Clausell participated in the 1956 Tallahassee bus boycott. She was renowned for her work with the poor, spearheading food and clothing drives in the Big Bend for decades. She conducted prison ministries at Florida State Prison and worked on behalf of homeless issues in Leon and Gadsden counties. Clausell, a thin woman who stood barely five feet tall, earned the tag of the “Black Mother Teresa” in 1984. Her daughter Aaronetta carries out many of the same missions here in Tallahassee, following in the footsteps of her late mother.
So I made a social media post on my personal Facebook account, asking moms in the area to gather any extra items that they could donate to this family in need. Although I had many people reach out to me and I had several generous moms help me fill the back of my van with items for Aaronetta to take to the young mother in need, we could not seem to find any beds for the family. So I reached out to Sleep in Heavenly Peace.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace (SHP) is an American nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that builds and delivers beds to children who don’t have beds to sleep in. Luke and Heidi Mickelson founded SHP in 2012 in Twin Falls, Idaho. As of February 2022, the organization has 200 chapters around the United States and has built over 100,000 beds. There is a chapter here in Tallahassee who has worked with numerous organizations around town to host “builds” where the organizations meet with supervision from members of the local chapter to build the beds for delivery to folks in our community who have a need. Their motto is “No kid sleeps on the floor in our town.”
The young mother had been living in a housing project here in town that was not really a safe place for small children. Because she did not have any family in Tallahassee, she relocated to Troy, Alabama, to be closer to the father of her children and his family. She reached out to the Sleep in Heavenly Peace in Montgomery, and they replied to her that they could not help her because she was not in the counties they served. So I reached out to Melanie Quinton because she is a very resourceful person with local community outreach programs. She contacted someone within the Sleep in Heavenly Peace chapter here in Tallahassee, and that person said we could take beds to the young mother on behalf of Trinity United Methodist Church. So that’s just what we did! On Monday, October 10, 2022, Dr. Nick drove the van, and Aaronetta and I met with volunteers from Sleep in Heavenly Peace to obtain beds and bedding and we took it to the young mother in Troy.
The beds are made up of a matching headboard and footboard, two rails and slats for the mattress, and if the beds will be stacked, there is also a safety guardrail that goes on the top bunk. Made of solid wood, the beds are assembled at scheduled gatherings where volunteers use templates to make the various components of the beds. The chapter sends the people volunteering to deliver beds with a bag of lag screws with washers, round pegs to bunk the beds, a brand new mattress for each bed needed, bedding, and pillows. In total, our church delivered four beds to the mother in need.
Jesus obviously had a mission guided by love in His time on earth. He was on earth precisely because “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Time and time again, He shows love through action. He also says things like “as the Father loved me, I also have loved you; abide in My love” (John 15:9). He humbled Himself and loved through action. He didn’t stand off from afar and tell people, “Hey, I love you.” He got close and personal with people in His time on earth. He broke bread with sinners. He stayed in their homes, washed their feet, and ate meals with the people He loved.
Everything we have is from the Lord, and our resources are not ours to hoard for our own personal benefit, but they’re from the Lord and for the Lord’s use. We should use the resources we have to actively love people and provide for our brothers and sisters in Christ. This means giving our time to others as well. This means serving with the hands and feet God has given us. This means loving people hands on, rolling up our sleeves, and getting our hands dirty. This means spending time with the broken, the outcast, and the rejected. This means humbling ourselves to the point of servitude. Christ humbled himself to the point of death on a cross, and yet we are so comfortable never even getting close to that level of humility.
I am so thankful that my friend reached out to me—to us—to be the hands and feet of Jesus. With gratitude I extend thanks to the many hands that not only reached out to this young mom in a time of need but also showed her love in a world where it can seem like there is so little love. I pray that perhaps some of you reading this may feel called to reach out to our local chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace to make a charitable financial donation, help with a bed build, or help deliver and assemble a bed to those in need here in town.