Good Samaritan Gives Family a Blessed Homecoming
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“I could tell that this is someone who’d been on the streets for many months,” Jodie Lee Patterson said. “He’d obviously had an injury. I thought, ’What is he doing out here? He’s so young. There must be more to his story.’”
Jodie Lee was in her car when she noticed a young man who she thought was homeless, limping down the sidewalk wearing a thin coat and no shoes. East Los Angeles was in the middle of a harsh winter, and she was concerned for him.
“I just looked at him and my heart broke," Jodie Lee said. "Then the Lord said, ‘Help him.’ In my head, I was thinking, ‘Oh, this could be dangerous.’ But I couldn't leave him there. I just couldn't. So, I drove over and rolled my window down and I said, ‘Can I help you? Are you hungry? Let me take you to get something to eat.’ He said to me, ‘What? You're helping me? I can't believe this.’”
While he ate, she asked him about his situation, but his responses were muddled, and it became clear that he had a mental disorder. He did not have an I.D., and the only thing she could get from him was his name – Richard.
“There was sort of a childlike expression there,” Jodie Lee said about interacting Richard. "I felt the Lord telling me, ‘Help, help him.’ And so, I just went with that.”
Jodie Lee took Richard to a motel after buying him some warm clothes and shoes. The next day, she returned to drive him to the hospital. After thirteen hours of waiting, Richard was admitted and found to be suffering from exhaustion, a strained leg muscle, and cracked feet from walking the streets barefoot. The doctor who examined him had some pointed questions for Jodie Lee.
“The doctor said to me, ‘Well, who are you? Why are you with this young man?’ And I said, ‘Well, I'm just a friend trying to help.’ I think they couldn't believe that somebody would help somebody to that extent. I could see that they were just passing him off as another crazy drug addict, which he wasn't, of course. That emboldened me more to help him. And I have this feeling, ‘I don't know, is he really homeless?’ So, that sent me on a quest to go home and find out more about this person.”
Before Jodie Lee left, Richard gave her a last name, Salvatera. She spent the next two days researching the name until finally she found something – a Facebook post from someone looking for their brother who had gone missing several months before. Jodie Lee called the local police station to verify the information. It was then that she realized it would actually be up to her and God to get Richard back to his family.
“A woman answered,” Jodie Lee recalled of the conversation. “She said, ‘Why are you interested in this? What is this? This is not your business.’ And she wouldn't help me. I was angry. How is this system so broken that when you try to help someone that everything is against you? I felt discouraged and I thought, ‘I'm going to push forward. God's going to do it. He's going to help me.’”
Jodie Lee called the station again the next day and spoke with a different officer. This time she got an answer. He confirmed that there was a missing person by that name and gave her the phone number of Richard’s sister, Erica. Jodie Lee made the call.
“I said, ‘I found your brother. I found Richard.’ She said, ‘I can’t believe that.’ I said, ‘Don't worry, he's doing really well, but can I ask you something before I tell you more? Were you praying for him?’ And she said, ‘Yes, we were all praying for him for four months.’ And I was like, ‘I know. I just felt that.’”
“I was just like in tears and excited,” Erica said. “It just was so emotional because you think the worst, but then you just so want to be so thankful, you know, to be able to see him again.”
Richard and Erica were reunited at the hospital.
I was standing outside the room,” Jodie Lee said about the reunion. “I didn't want to interrupt that process. I just watched and it was beautiful. It was an incredible moment.”
Jodie Lee learned from Erica that Richard is twenty-six years old and has a disability due to brain trauma from his youth, which causes schizophrenia. He had wandered out of the apartment complex where he was staying with his uncle and they had been searching for him ever since. Both Erica and Richard are grateful to Jodie Lee for her generous heart.
“She was the answer to a lot of our prayers,” Erica said. “She's a blessing and Richard's real life guardian angel.”
“It made me happy,” Richard said. "Made my day because I didn't have anything. I left here on accident. I was like, ‘What do I do?’ I want to say, 'Thanks a lot, Jodie, for helping me.'"
Jodie Lee has maintained her friendship with Richard and his family, even sharing the love of Jesus with him. She gives God all the glory for Richard’s safe return and inspiring her to reach out.
“All it took was one person to believe in Richard and realize, you know, that he wasn't what everyone thought, that he was actually somebody very special,” Jodie Lee said. "I feel really honored that God would use me. I'm just a very regular person. And if God can use me, God can use anybody.”
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