I've been reading the message board and you've made it perfectly clear that you wanted me to share with you, so here's a long one...(smile). Now you know we need to keep our jobs so if this is too long, then read it when you get time and send it to some friends. Okay, here goes.
Every time I have a movie come out I do a press conference, and with MADEA GOES TO JAIL it was no different. I'm always asked a lot of questions. They're usually the same questions, but this time I was asked something a little different. I was asked how did I get to be homeless. I told the story but this part got left out of the article. When I talk about God people don't like to print that for some reason. Anyway, I ended up homeless following what I believe to be the voice of God. I know that may sound crazy, but hear me out. Here's what happened.
I wrote my first play at 22. After I wrote it I prayed and asked God to bless it and lead me in the right direction. No sooner than I said that, I was in Atlanta visiting for Freaknick...(LOL). On this visit I realized that there was a small theater called the 14th Street Playhouse that I could afford to rent and perform my play in. So feeling led, I moved to Atlanta, got a job and went to work on saving money to do my show. I just knew this would work. Anyway, there were 200 seats. I thought I would do 6 shows and 1,200 people would come and I would be set. There was one problem. I needed time off from my job to do it. I asked my boss and he said no. I went to my desk and prayed. I said, "God, if this is for me to do then lead me." I clearly heard the voice say, "Quit, it will be all right." So I did. I did the play and instead of 1,200 people showing up only 30 came over the entire weekend. I said, "Okay God, where are You?" I couldn't hear a word. Now mind you, I could always hear from God. You remember my parakeet story?
Anyway, of course I was broken-hearted, but I picked myself up and went and got another job. I got a phone call a few months later. Someone who had seen the show wanted to invest in another show. So I was faced with the same decision again. I had just gotten a job and they wouldn't give me the time off, so I had to quit to go and do the play. Same thing. I went to my desk and prayed and heard that same voice saying quit. So I did.
Now from 1992 until 1997 this happened over and over again. I was only doing one show a year, and every time the show failed. So, I would go get another job. But there was always someone new who wanted to invest. I got another opportunity to do a show, but I knew I would have to quit my "GOOD JOB" as my mother would say. I was making $350 a week. Anyway, I went to the boss and asked for time off so I could do the play. He said no. So I went back to my desk and prayed. I said, "God, what should I do?" I clearly heard the voice say quit. So I did.
I went out and did that show. I think it was in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Anyway, I rehearsed, loaded the U-Haul truck and drove down there. There was a little rain as I was going there. When I got there I found out that a hurricane was coming through. Nobody showed up. I was devastated! As I was driving the truck home through the rain, I was going as fast as I could. I was so hurt and angry. I prayed and prayed and said, "God, You told me to do this. Where are You?" I didn't hear a word. It's scary when you can't hear from God. Anyway, I got home and there was the eviction notice. I went out looking for a job and found one, but by the time I got my first check it was too late. I came home from work to find all of my things out in front of the apartment building. I didn't care about the stuff. Let me take that back. My stereo, that I had bought from one of those rent-to-own companies (where you pay five times more than it's worth), was ruined. I was mad about that...(LOL). Anyway, the thing that hurt me the most was that I had so many scripts and songs and things that were ruined from the rain. I sat there getting what I could together. I put them in my car (that was up for repossession) and drove around all night. Finally, I slept in the car. When I got my next check I started staying at this pay-by-the-week hotel. There were drug addicts, prostitutes, and any criminal element you could imagine there. During this time, I was still praying and I still hadn't heard from God.
I called home for a family member to send me some money and I was told that I should give up this dream and that I was never going to make it. I was told to stop doing this play bull$#@t. I think that was one of my lowest days. I cried like a baby because this was someone that I truly loved.
I was working at UPS. Now I was up to about $400 a week, but I couldn't seem to get ahead enough to get my first and last month's rent. This kind woman (who I have been looking for for years) named VIRGINIA HARDIMAN, in Atlanta, loaned me the money. She told me to hold on and that God would see me through. I didn't want to hear that. I felt like He was the reason I was in that situation.
Anyway, I got an apartment. The one I showed you the picture of. And was so happy to have a roof over my head. My thought was, "God, even though I can't hear from You, thank You! Thank You for this place!" I was grateful. Before I knew it 2 years had passed by and I was getting comfortable in my place. It had become safe. I stopped dreaming. I was taking the advice of the family member. I had settled in and didn't want to dream anymore. It hurt too much. I was 28 at the time (you have to be careful when you get comfortable in a place that's not your home).
Anyway, life was okay, but I was so unhappy. By then I had moved on to another "good job" and I walked into that place everyday miserable. I knew there was something more for me. I had gotten so depressed. All I would do was work, come home, eat and sleep. Thank God I have never done any drugs because I know I would have been strung out. You also have to be careful when you're not happy or you will find yourself in some situations that you never thought you could be in. And I did. I started drinking pretty heavily back then. Saturday night I would drink, but Sunday morning I was at church still trying to hear from God. I had given up. Some kind of way the rent got behind again. When I think about it, the rent was $425 and I was only making about $1,200 a month. I had a car and gas and food to buy, so I guess it was easy to get behind.
Around this time I got a call from someone else who wanted to invest, and she said we had an opportunity to do the show at the House of Blues in Atlanta. I said no. I SAID NO! Oh God when I think about this I get a chill. They had to beg me to do the show! It hurt too much to have that dream be revived in me and not make it. I just couldn't do it. I said no. With a lot of coaxing I finally gave in. Can you imagine if I wouldn't have?
Anyway, the night of the play I remember sitting in the dressing room getting ready for the show. I was playing old man 'Joe' at the time. I sat there complaining and talking to God saying, "You always get me out here and You leave me, and I'm 28. This is it! I'm not doing this anymore!" Can you imagine me talking to God like that? That's crazy! But I was so mad at Him then. So, I was saying what I wanted to say and in the middle of my rant I heard Him. IIIII HHEEAARRD HIIIMMM!!!!! Somebody knows what I'm talking about! He said to me, "I AM GOD. YOU DON'T TELL ME WHEN IT'S OVER. I TELL YOU WHEN IT'S OVER, AND THIS IS THE BEGINNING." I sat there crying like a baby. Then He said, "Get up and look out of the window." I got up and looked out and there was a line around the corner trying to get into the place! I still get a chill when I think about it. If I had given up on dreaming... If I had not tried one more time... I wouldn't be here in this place. I wouldn't have seen all that I'm seeing now. For that matter you wouldn't be reading this email.
So, sometimes following God will lead you into places that you don't want to go. It's uncomfortable. It's scary. It hurts. But if you can just hold on you will see there is another side to it. What you're going through is not in vain. Hold on! Keep the faith! And learn to be thankful for whatever situation you may be in. It's not over until God says it's over. And this is just your beginning. TRY AGAIN!!
There is so much more to this story, but I know you have other things to do. I'm writing all of this in my book so you'll be able to get the full story one day. I just wanted to share a little bit with you. Please share it with someone, okay?
Be strong and stay well. AND TRY AGAIN, AND THEN AGAIN, AND THEN AGAIN!