Susie Jennings’ Story – Tragedy To Triumph
The Birth of Operation Care
It was Tuesday, March 9, 1993, a bright and beautiful spring-like day. Although an array of flowers were blooming and the trees were leafing out, my heart was heavy with concern. There was a sense of loneliness and deepening apprehension. My beloved husband of nine years, David, had not returned home.
On that day, he became a missing person nationwide. I remember how difficult those days were for me, and they have left an indelible imprint in my heart. David had been suffering from a chemical imbalance called “Serotonin Deficiency,” causing him to be severely depressed. It worsened when he lost a close family member, his job, and when his psychiatrist moved to another state.
“A tried Christian, afterwards…grows rich by his losses, he rises by his falls, he lives by dying, and becomes full by being emptied.” Charles Spurgeon
On the night of his disappearance, I paced the floor and looked out the front window and the window at the back garage again and again. I went to bed, but sleep evaded me. I sang hymns and read a story about a woman who had lost her daughter. I found comfort only in the Lord and in His promises, but most of all in prayer. That night the Lord gave me this verse, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) It helped me to know that the Lord would take away my fears, anxieties, and uncertainties.The first four days I was alone, I felt immensely concerned yet still hopeful. I went to work and every time I went home, I would pray that David’s white car would be parked in the garage and that he would be waiting for me. Yet there was no David, only an empty house.
I praise the Lord for bringing my mother to California from the Philippines just a few days before David disappeared. The Lord knew I would need her; however, it was good that I was at home by myself initially because I was completely dependent on the Lord.
On Saturday, March 13, my mom arrived in Dallas. It was a bittersweet reunion. I was so grateful to see her but saddened that David was not with me to welcome her. That day, the Lord gave me this verse to claim, “For His anger is but for a moment. His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) This gave me hope, because it made me think that David was alive and probably trying to find a job somewhere; there could once again be joy in our home. Every night my mother and I knelt down and prayed together, hoping.
In my heart, I knew that God was telling me that David was gone, but another part of me did not want to believe it.
The second week, the Lord gave me another verse, “I will preserve his life, I will keep him alive and he will be blessed upon the earth, and he will not be given to the will of his enemies.” (Psalm 41:2) The Lord continued to give me hope that David was alive. I was virtually clinging to the part of the verse that said, “I will keep him alive.” God is so kind. He gave me hope to keep me functioning.
The third week, the Lord gave me another verse, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116:15) When I read this verse, I thought it was just a coincidence, because I had been reading the Psalms chapter by chapter since David’s disappearance. At first, I did not like the verse, so I closed my Bible and reached for my hymnal. I asked the Lord to give me a joyful and reassuring hymn. I randomly opened the hymnal, and the Lord gave me the hymn, “It is Well with My Soul.” It says, “When sorrow like sea billows roll….” I did not think that it was the right song either, so I turned to another page. Then He gave me this song, “He Hideth My Soul.” When I came to the last stanza I sang, “When clothed in His brightness transported I rise to meet Him in clouds of the sky….” I thought to myself, this is not a coincidence any longer. It was talking about death.
The next day, I opened my Bible hoping I would come upon a verse that would assure me that David was still alive. Within moments my eyes fell on these words, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” I prayed earnestly and without ceasing. I had never felt so near to the Lord as during those agonizing days.
In my heart, I knew that God was telling me that David was gone, but another part of me did not want to believe it. As the week unfolded, my mom started praying that someone would lead us to David’ body. At first I was upset, but the Lord was actually using my mother to prepare me for the truth.
On Wednesday, April 7, an unexpected visitor knocked on my front door. It was the detective assigned to David’s case. He told me that David’s car was found in Atoka, Oklahoma on March 13. However, I was not informed because the report sent to the local police was misplaced. I remembered the angry feelings I had toward the local police department. I wanted to sue them, but immediately the Holy Spirit reminded me that God was still in control. Peace enveloped my heart. I desired to place everything into God’s hands.
Thursday, April 8, I got out of bed with a sense of dread and heaviness in my heart. Together with my three pastors, my father-in-law, and our detective, we drove to Atoka, Oklahoma to look for David. A part of me was still hoping and the other part knew something was terribly wrong. Along the way, I kept looking for David’s car, still hoping to see him alive. There was no David until we reached the place where the car was found. The sheriff and four deputies went with us to a secluded part of Atoka. I asked the Lord for two things: that we would find David that day and that I would find him first.
The Lord answered my prayers in His own way. His ways are higher than our ways. While we searched, a single gunshot rang out from a deputy’s gun as a signal. The deputy came to us and said, “I found a body, and I think it is him.” David had killed himself with a gun. The sheriff found his body intact but decomposing. The Lord had graciously kept me from discovering him first because part of his neck was already badly decomposed. Thirty days under the elements, sunshine and rain, but because of the cooler spring weather, the rest of David’s body was much preserved during that time. I remembered Psalm 41:2.
Then I heard God’s reply, “It was you who asked what can you do for Me.”
At this point, I did not ask the Lord why this had happened because I knew He was in control. However, I was filled with anger towards David. My legs went limp. I lost all my strength. I knelt down facing a very tall tree, asking, “Why? David, why?” We promised to grow old together. Now he had left me all alone. After my pastor assisted me to my feet, my body was in shock. After walking into an open field, I cried at the top of my lungs, wanting God to hear me. I screamed, “God, give me strength. God, give me strength!” I immediately felt a bolt, like electricity, coming from my left and right big toes, traveling up my legs, and going out of my mouth. I felt an immediate peace as my heavy burden of sorrow was lifted. I walked on the gravel feeling as if my feet were not touching the ground. I had been given an indescribable peace.
Now, the Lord has become my husband as Isaiah 54:5 says, “The Lord, your Maker will be your husband.” He has faithfully provided me a wonderful mother, parents-in-law, grandparents-in-law, and friends who love and have prayed for me.
David was buried the day before Easter Sunday. He was scheduled to sing the song “Heaven” in our church on Easter. He was actually already in heaven singing his song before the Lord!
Three months after we buried David, I had a car accident, which injured my right foot and kept me from working for two months. Two months later, my next door neighbor killed himself near my fence. I was actually baking a cake in my kitchen when he was just a few feet away. The Lord was so gracious in shielding me from neither seeing him nor hearing the gunshot. This time I asked the Lord, “Why?” He answered me by giving me a vision through a dream. In my dream, I was knocking at people’s doors, sharing the gospel. Out of my sorrow and pain, I organized “The Lord’s Bride Fellowship,” a ministry for widows and single mothers was born.After that, I asked God what I could do for Him and the community. One Sunday in October 1993, as I drove home after teaching a preschool class in Sunday school, the Lord began talking to me. I was driving in downtown Dallas passing a bridge when I heard a voice so loud I could hear Him speaking. God directed me to look to my left side. I saw more than 100 homeless men and women living under the Canton Street bridge with cardboard boxes as their homes and trash bags as their windows. I had driven in that area for 10 years but had not noticed this.
Then I heard a voice saying, “You go under that bridge in person!” I was shocked and my initial response was, “No, not me. Those people are violent and crazy. They are bums and they might hurt me.” Then I heard God’s reply, “It was you who asked what can you do for Me.” Immediately the Holy Spirit convicted me. I asked God to forgive me. I asked what I could give to these needy people. God replied in one word, “Blankets!” The conversation started from the beginning and ended at the end of that bridge. The Lord changed my hardened heart towards the homeless.
We brought an evangelist who preached on top of a pickup truck. More people accepted Jesus as Lord. We named the project “Operation Care.” Romans 8:28 was the verse I claimed, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
The next day, I went to work in the hospital and collected money for blankets from doctors and nurses. We went under that bridge in November, the Sunday before Thanksgiving. We distributed 100 blankets and did one-on-one evangelism together. Many homeless people found hope in Jesus. The next month we returned, the Sunday before Christmas. We brought an evangelist who preached on top of a pickup truck. More people accepted Jesus as Lord. We named the project “Operation Care.”Romans 8:28 was the verse I claimed, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Although Satan meant David’s death for evil, the Lord used it for good. David’s death brought life to many.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Tried Christians, afterwards…grows rich by his losses, he rises by his falls, he lives by dying, and becomes full by being emptied.”
Would I trade my experience with anyone? Never, because this is a uniquely packaged experience that the Lord placed in this journey called “life”. Without exception, each step has been a growing experience that strengthens me and teaches me the powerful role of prayer in my daily walk with my beloved Savior. God feels our pains, shares our sorrows and places our tears in His bottle. (Psalm 56:8)