Bible reading led one Oklahoma City metro bus driver to do something many would find extraordinary: On a winter night three years ago, Anthony Thomas invited a complete stranger to stay at his house.
Before that night, Thomas had major changes in his life, studied the Bible daily and wondered how to translate what he was reading to understanding the real meaning of laboring.
Then, one cold night three years ago, he overheard a conversation involving one of the passengers on his Metro Transit bus. The passenger was Cyrus, a man with swastikas tattooed on his arm. Cyrus needed a place to stay for the night. Thomas, recalling his readings, told Cyrus, “You can stay at my house.”
Shocked by the invitation, Cyrus accepted as tears streamed down his face, Thomas recalled.
Thomas looked at his own journey, his place in God's kingdom and remembered, “Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you,” and at that moment, he said, he understood what “laboring” in the Bible meant — to take action.
Cyrus's experience at Thomas's home with his wife Ann and children started something that grew quickly. At one time, 30 people were living with Thomas and his family.
Some stayed a couple of days; others a couple of years. Some wondered whether God was real and whether he loved them. Thomas knew his answer. “No money for shelter or food was required. I only wanted those who stayed with us to understand how much God loved them,” Thomas, now 43, said.
Ann Thomas said helping others is the true application of God's word.
“After years of living in Los Angeles as a single woman, I felt an urgency to accomplish something and started to pray and ask for direction,” Ann Thomas, 41, said. “Anthony was the answer to my prayer for a loving family and a desire to make a difference in the lives of others. Together, after reading the Bible for hours on a daily basis the Gospel was revealed to us — live in truth, life does not have to be perfect, but in applying God's word, one is able to help others.”
Anthony views his work as looking at the uniqueness and beauty of every person as a jewel and treasure.
“Dad is a treasure hunter,” said Kyesha, his 17-year-old daughter.
Thomas's children agreed with these teachings.
“I thought that helping others was cool,” said Anthony Jr.
Adrian Thomas, now 20, also contributed to helping the family as it helped others.
“Contributing part of my part-time job money to the household was what I was supposed to do to help others,” Adrian Thomas said. “We did not have a television, cellphones or electronics, but we knew helping others get back on their feet was more important than all the material things we could get in the store.”
Taking what they have been taught, Ieshia, the oldest daughter, is using her talents in an attempt to benefit Oklahoma tornado victims; she's working on a benefit CD.
Robert Ojemann, who found himself homeless after living in roach-infested housing with gas leaks and the water turned off at NE 28 and Martin Luther King Avenue, gave credit to Thomas for helping him out when he was in a jam.
“What is a true Christian? Anthony Thomas, humble with a big heart and always a smile on his face,” Ojemann said. “We were living on the street when I ran into Anthony near the downtown transit center.”
Ojemann and Thomas had become friends at Abundant Life Church, and had not seen each other for a while. Anthony invited him to stay at his home. Now, Ojemann and his wife Hannah live in Norman with their 2 month old baby.
A current resident of the Thomas home likewise praised Thomas's generosity.
“Thank God for Anthony and his family. I appreciate all their support as I get my life back together,” said Cordell Medlock, the last resident at the Thomas home. He has been there almost three years.
Thomas's efforts haven't gone unnoticed. Anita Arnold, executive director of BLAC Inc., nominated Anthony for a White House award recognizing regular people for doing extraordinary things to help their community. Whether or the White House recognizes him, his children, friends and community recognize his efforts as a great human being, and on this day a great father.