Janice Jones
Evangelist Janice Jones, center, gave out money to strangers Tuesday at stores and homes because she said she was called by God to do so. She helped a stranger at Sam’s Club by buying her a TV. She helped Doretha Crawford, left, and Brian Parks pay their bills. (Photo: Andy Burriss)

ROCK HILL — Lacy Hoover was just minding her own business, pushing her cart at Sam’s Club in Rock Hill on Tuesday, when a stranger approached. The little lady asked for nothing.

In fact, she did just the opposite.

“She told me she wanted to bless people, and she picked me,” Hoover said. “I was buying gift cards for my kids’ teachers, and she just came up and asked me if I had been blessed today. She looked like somebody’s grandma.”

Hoover told the stranger that her family of five was fine, and, sure, they wanted a new television, but it was not in the budget. The stranger pulled out cash and paid for a new flat-screen TV. She paid for everything in Hoover’s cart, then gave Hoover $10 in the change.

“The TV was huge,” said Hoover’s shocked 7-year-old daughter, Isabel.

The astonished Sam’s workers watched this random act of kindness and grace and love, and some were shocked. People hugged each other and cried at seeing what they had just seen.

“She asked me to find someone else, someone who needed food, something, and give it to the next person,” Hoover said. “It was just amazing.”

The stranger who helped Hoover and others was evangelist Janice Jones, a 65-year-old Duke Energy retiree who lives in Rock Hill, where she leads Breakthrough Deliverance Ministries. Her mission is simple: Help people.

On Tuesday at Sam’s Club, Jones said, God told her to seek people out and try to help them as Christmas approaches.

“The Lord leads me to all people, including other races,” Jones said. “I wanted to be a blessing to people. The Bible says, ‘Give, and it shall be given to you.’ ”

Jones helped people who asked for nothing, just giving away money from her savings and checking accounts and asking those people to help others in return. She said her faith prompted her to give, despite being on a fixed income.

Jones didn’t stop at Sam’s. She went to see Doretha Crawford, a 72-year-old woman also living on a fixed income, to help her pay her bills.

Crawford told Jones about a neighbor living without heat or electricity, so Jones marched right over to meet Brian Parks, 37, and helped him, too.

“I met an angel,” said Parks, who had been living without power for two months. He hugged Jones and he thanked her, and Jones moved on to help the next stranger.

The grace shown by Janice Jones did not end with her gifts.

The Hoover family gathered together Tuesday night and decided that what happened to them meant far more than a TV. They had to act.

The family decided to take 50 paper lunch bags, go back to Sam’s Club on Wednesday and buy stuff – cans of tuna, soap, other things that people who have nothing need – and pack those 50 bags full.

The cost did not matter.

“The lady we met said she wanted to be a blessing,” Hoover said, “and that’s what we want to be for others: a blessing.”

Giving is what Christmas is about, said little Isabel, “helping people.”

The Hoovers are going to give the bags away, at random, to homeless people and others in need whom they find in their travels around their city. Their smiles filled the store on Wednesday. Their hearts barely fit through the sliding double doors.

Giving to strangers, just as happened to them the day before. A chain of giving, with no end in sight, started with a single, random gift.

The road to the joy of giving ends in a place does not exist on any map, but in the hearts of Janice Jones and Lacy Hoover.

Two women who started Tuesday as strangers and ended Wednesday by changing their world together.