To Biopage contest THE PURPLE BIKE By Penny Robichaux-Koontz As told to H L Ford I had just taken over a condemned property in Texas, a homeless shelter in a rural area, pitch-black at night except for the light from a lonely, passing train. I had 42 youngsters and 30 adults staying with me in our shelter and no money. The only ornaments for the tree were those I had collected for my own children over the years until this year, 1991. As we were putting the tree up, the children were grumbling. “Miss Penny, how is Santa ever gonna find us out here in the dark?” I encouraged them to sing carols loudly when we heard a knock at the door. There stood the jolly old elf himself, Santa, in full red velvet and white fur trim. The children's eyes widened. I could have heard a snowflake drop. Santa leaned over to whisper, “I'm on my way to a Christmas party and heard you may need a Santa tonight.” “Thanks,” I answered in grateful amazement. He took a seat and talked with the children. Then, laying a finger aside of his nose, up the chimney he did not go but left through the door leaving big smiles behind him. I was delighted; however, as they shared the excitement of Santa's visit, to my dismay, I learned each child had asked Santa for a bike. Suddenly, the magic was gone and the reality of needing 42 bicycles settled on me. “How Lord, will I ever get that many bikes when just getting enough food is stretching my faith?” Articles appeared in the local paper, and people began to visit our shelter. They brought sweatshirts, warm clothing, blankets, and supplies. The word about our needs spread throughout the community. And yes! The bikes also started coming. We stored them in the secret workshop, where we assembled the new bikes at night while the children slept. Christmas morning came and the paper and ribbon flew amid laughter, singing, and a few tears of joy. And oh, the bikes…bikes everywhere! Emotionally spent and tired from playing Santa's helper all night, I headed outdoors to go to my room when I heard a child running behind me, calling “Miss Penny, Miss Penny!" Cedric, a precious little five-year-old boy caught up, his cheeks streaked with tears. I got down on my knees. “Why are you crying, honey?” “Miss Penny, I didn't git me no bike!” Dismayed, I thought, how could we have been off by one bike?! Thinking quickly, I said, “Cedric, did you ask Jesus for a bike?” “No, Miss Penny. I asked Santa Claus.” “Well, that explains it,” I said. “Santa is only a one- Day-a-year wonder. But Jesus, He is our Gift from heaven and He is also our gift-giver, not just one time a year, but today and every day. He loves you and hears you when you pray. You know He is the reason we celebrate this day, so let's talk to Him." With that, Cedric made quite a noisy plea to Jesus for a purple bike someday soon. “Amen!” Struggling to get up off my knees, I saw a pickup truck coming up the dirt drive toward us. The driver pulled to a halt, throwing Texas dust all around. “Are you Miss Penny?” he asked, stepping out of the cab. “That's me,” I said, “Can I help you?” “I'm sorry to be so late. My wife and I planned to be here yesterday,” he said while lifting a bike out of the truck bed. He placed a purple two-wheeler on the drive right in front of Cedric, whose eyes widened with amazement. “Hope you can use a bike like this. Sorry, I was late,” he grinned. I never got the name of that man. A great woman of faith that I am, I stood there speechless as I watched God make Himself absolutely real to a very excited little boy. That moment is as fresh in my heart and mind today as it was that 1991 Christmas. I had only been out of the wheelchair a short time then and had wanted to say "thank you, Lord" for healing my body from the paralysis of childhood polio. From that moment I was on my way to faith adventures with thousands more children over the years who came and went from Jacob's House a home for children in need of rescue. Like little Cedric, I was also on my way to many more miracles as I watched these children grow. Penny Roubichaus-Koontz has now retired from ministering at Jacob's House, but she never tires of sharing her faith, her joy, and her stories of God's children.