How did you (Jason Coker) Get Here?
It was me (a pastor in Connecticut but originally from Shaw, MS), a retired math teacher from Connecticut, a president of the largest exposition company in the world, a graduate student in social work, and the youth minister from a sister church in Connecticut. We were in Shaw to meet with local leaders about developing a partnership in Shaw, Mississippi, that would benefit school-aged children. It was my hometown, so I was personally invested, but we didn’t know what to expect. We had already developed a good relationship with a church in town and the mayor was very open, but no one knew what might happen.
We were driving around town before our meeting with the mayor when I saw something unusual in Shaw—a little lady, who was a little older, opening the front door to the old drug store on Main Street in Shaw. What made this unusual was the fact that the drug store had been closed for decades AND I didn’t recognize the woman opening the door! In a town the size of Shaw, everybody knows everybody, and I didn’t know who this was. Beyond that, Shaw, like most of the smaller towns in the Mississippi Delta, had experienced a mass exodus of white people over the past thirty years. According to the 2000 Census, only 7.3% of the population of Shaw was Caucasian. So, the most striking mystery to me was: Who was this little white lady and what was she doing in the old drug store?
I parked the car on Main Street and went into the old drug store to investigate. When I entered, there were actually three women—white, senior citizens—who were organizing papers in what looked like a classroom—the old drug store was not a drug store anymore! I introduced myself as a former resident of Shaw and then simply (but awkwardly) asked, who are you and what are you doing? One woman kindly responded, “We are running a tutoring center for the children of Shaw.” AND, she said this with a thick Irish brogue! After confirming that all three of the women were from Ireland, I asked with amazement, “How did you get here?” Sister Una responded, “The Holy Spirit brought us here!”
That’s how we met the Presentation Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are our ministry partners in Shaw now. When we met, they had only been open for seven months and had seven students. They said that had been praying for over a year for others who would like to partner with them. We told them we were in town to find partners who may be interested in working with school-aged children! I told the Sisters that I had been praying for them all my life… Today, the Sisters own their own building in Shaw and have 32 children in their tutoring program. How they came to Shaw is nothing short of a miracle of God and I am deeply inspired by their commitment to the town. If God can call three Irish Catholic nuns to Shaw, Mississippi, then God must have a big plan. God is at work in Shaw and we are so thankful and humbled to be a part of it.