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 | By Joseph Reistroffer

The Widow and the Auctioneer

God’s Call

Two years ago, John Slaughter received a call from a widow named Mary Ellen, who left him this message: “I’m sitting in my house, surrounded by so much stuff, and I’m overwhelmed and I don’t know what to do.”

Slaughter answered her call, and in doing so, he answered God’s.

“I told her not to worry,” Slaughter said.

He did much more than that. He visited her home in Landrum, near the North Carolina border, to comfort her.

“It was during COVID,” Slaughter said. “She was so sad, lonely and overwhelmed.”

So he told Mary Ellen his job was to help bring her some peace.

Three years ago, Slaughter stepped away from his 25-year career as a park ranger when he saw that people in his community and parish were hurting. Widowed men and women were broken and alone, not knowing where to turn, what to do, how to cope or even how to get through a day.

Some struggled with finances, he said. Others couldn’t find resources they needed to move forward, and they got taken advantage of, he said. So Slaughter started BidYall Auction Services to assist them in selling what they no longer wanted or needed.

Helping widows “morphed into part of my business,” he said. “This is exactly why God has led me to this career.”

He said he sees the widowed in their homes, surrounded by all their possessions and all their memories, but no one to share them with. They realize they need to downsize, but they have no idea how to start.

“There should be a support system that we have in place for our [grieving], whether it’s a widow or a young girl who has lost her parents,” Slaughter said. “They don’t know where to go or what to do.”

Slaughter is determined to fill that gap and to see them not lose everything to unscrupulous business practices. He follows 1 Peter 4:10: “… serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”

“This is not a job; it’s a ministry,” he said. “I’m doing it one person at a time.”

When Slaughter visited Mary Ellen, he walked through her house and saw a statue of Mary, along with a cross bearing three nails. He knew that cross. It came from Emmaus, a program where men get together to strengthen their relationship with Christ.

When he asked Mary Ellen about the cross, she said her husband had come back from an Emmaus retreat on fire with his faith.

Slaughter knew what he had to do. He made one phone call, and the Emmaus brotherhood immediately came to help.

“It was amazing,” he said. “In a day, we had her packed up. In another day, we had her moved.”

Slaughter said Mary Ellen sold her house, along with the things she did not want to keep.

“Sometimes letting them get rid of their stuff helps them turn a page in their life,” he said.

Slaughter wants those who are grieving to know that they are not alone. There are people in the Church who can and will help, and today, Mary Ellen lives in Boiling Springs. Thanks to a bunch of guys who cared, she’s no longer overwhelmed or alone.

Joseph Reistroffer is a long-time writer who teaches religious education classes at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Spartanburg. Email him at