Chelesa attends Spelman College, and Chelsea is at the University of West Georgia. Both are on scholarships. Their story has since traveled around the world.
“I was just blown away by the girls’ determination to excel despite their circumstances,” said Jonnie Johnston, a retired educator who attends Tucker First United Methodist.
Johnston, one of four people who helped write the script for Sunday’s play, brought the girls’ story to the attention of church music and arts director Tom Moore. He was looking for a way to tie the traditional biblical story of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, to more modern-day issues.
Both girls, their mother and siblings along with friends and school officials are expected to attend the performances of the musical drama, titled “My Heart, Your Home,” the fourth production of the annual “Christmas at Tucker” event, which draws about 1,300 people each year. This is the first year that the play is set in contemporary times.
Sunday’s production features 150 musicians and actors. It is the story of a modern middle-class family’s encounter with a homeless teenage girl who at first keeps her situation a secret. But she eventually tells the daughter in the family as their friendship grows. The traditional biblical story of Jesus’ birth also is interwoven throughout the play, Moore said.
One scene in the play shows the homeless girl and her mother in a shelter. The woman who plays the homeless mother revealed, during the reading for the part, her own experience with homelessness years ago, Moore said.
That experience further illustrated for Moore how often people don’t realize the prevalence of homelessness in our society.
“It reminded me that there’s many others in our community we don’t know about that have similar challenges …,” Moore said. “We’re hoping, through this program, some real efforts will be initiated in the Tucker community to help end homelessness.”