As a police officer in North Charleston, South Carolina, Martha Ruth Lohnes meets her fair share of people on the streets. Some leave more of an impression than others—one being a woman named Priscilla.
In a post Martha shared to Facebook this week, she introduces Priscilla as a “well-known member” of the North Charleston community.
“She chooses to sit in an old rotting chair under a bridge every day. Her legs are swollen three times their normal size. She’s mentally ill. She will curse you up and down if she doesn’t like you but she is the sweetestttt human ever if you get on her good side. Believe me I spent many of our initial encounters asking her not to call me the B word.”
The officer admits she was hesitant to share the photo and details at first, because there’s not a lot of love for our men and women in blue these days. But she hoped her story would shed light on some of the GOOD in police work that many don’t get to see.
Martha explains that she regularly visits Priscilla to check on her, because she has an infection on her foot.
“The flesh is rotting away, it seeps liquid, and the bugs are constantly inside of it. She refuses to go to the hospital although I have called an ambulance for her several times. I have begged her to let me take her to the hospital but she’s so stubborn and I can’t force her.”
In an effort to get Priscilla just an ounce of the help she needs, Martha brought her friend under the bridge a bottle of bactine spray, hoping it would stop the infection and keep the bugs away.
“She was almost crying because she was so scared it would sting, so I had to spray it for her. I brought her hot cheetos and beef sticks, but she proceeded to yell at me for not getting her pizza lol I absolutely adore this woman, y’all. She’s one of the most amazing souls I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.”
Martha kneeled down to clean Priscilla’s foot, and she says she couldn’t help but think of the song “Who Will Be Jesus to Her.”
The beautiful moment projects a scene straight out of John 13:1, when Jesus washes the feet of his disciples.
The last supper had begun, and the devil had already prompted Judas to betray Jesus.
Verse 3 says, “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.”
So in the middle of the meal, Jesus rose from his seat, wrapped a towel around his waist and began washing the feet of each disciple. They didn’t understand what he was doing, but Jesus later said to them:
“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”
Martha washed Priscilla’s feet that day—both literally and figuratively. I can’t help but be in awe of the powerful representation it boasts of the way Jesus calls us to love one another.
As a police officer, Martha says sometimes it feels as though the whole world is against her “blue family.”
“We are hated and wished to be dead. We are called racist murderers, robots and pigs. Yet, out of the public’s eye…we get on our knees in the dirt to show love by washing the feet of those others would reject. Moments like these are the reason I am so passionate about what I do. I have never felt closer to Jesus than when I don my uniform and serve those who just need to be loved on.”
Despite the difficulties it brings, Martha says there is not a doubt in her mind that God wired and created her to be a police officer.
“Though we are despised and rejected, my heart remains at peace because I know I’m doing God’s work. As is every man and woman I proudly serve beside. This is the side of police work you don’t see. This is our everyday shift. Don’t forget that we are human, and we are called to serve as well as protect.”
In the days since Martha first shared Priscilla’s story, the cop has learned that unbeknownst to her, Charleston County EMS has been making daily checks on the woman under the bridge for the past month. They wrap her wound in bandages, but she removes them later on because they “get dirty.”
“They provide her with more medical care and attention than I am able to. They also feed and clothe her (today she told me “don’t I look sexy in my new dress?”). I don’t know exactly who responds to her, but they are the ones who deserve the recognition. They are the real representations of Jesus and should be thanked a hundred times more than I.”
Martha says she’s been encouraged by the support of her post, but merely hopes it spreads a much-needed positive message about first responders. She says Priscilla is doing well, and her foot is now healing after being treated at the hospital on Wednesday.
Thank God for people like Martha, and all of her brothers and sisters in blue who selflessly care for others when no one is watching. Priscilla is blessed to have the community of officers and EMS teams around her, and I think they’d agree to feel blessed knowing her.
It’s a beautiful reminder that in the midst of so much darkness, there is still light.