By Lex McMillan

Despite the pain he has known, gratitude is his recurring theme.  A 62-year-old black man, he arrived at the Adams Rescue Mission’s men’s shelter earlier this year.  He had been living out of his car for a couple of weeks after being removed from his place in an old farmhouse near Columbia, where he and two others lived as caretakers for the elderly owner.  When the owner died in December, the owner’s family gave them 17 days’ notice to vacate. He suddenly found himself homeless—a first for him.

A skilled cabinet maker, he worked full time until he became disabled when he was 50.  His only income is from Social Security. After finding several other shelters had no available space, he was referred to the Adams Rescue Mission. He said that when he spoke to Bruce Dietrick, the ARM executive director, it was like he was talking to an angel.  Dietrick welcomed him with open arms.  He is “eternally grateful.”  He’s now working in the recycling center and driving a truck to pick up donations.  He seems quite simply at peace and filled with joy.  “This is the beginning of my life,” he explains.

He was born in Philadelphia, the child of an affair that his mother had when she was married and already had three children.  He was only three when his mother and her husband put him up for adoption.  His only memory is that he was not wanted by his family and was mistreated by the other children.

He was taken in as a foster child by a hard-working couple who made a home for 27 foster children over 30 years.  He was the youngest of them.  Although he spoke gratefully of the stable household that his foster parents provided, he also has painful memories of being abused by the older foster children.  When he attempted to tell his foster mother, she didn’t want to hear it.  She insisted that he must not talk about it. “We could lose our money,” she explained.

Although never married, he had a long-term girlfriend, and they have two grown sons.  Both live in Philadelphia and are doing well.  He is proud of them.  In 2017 after he and his girlfriend separated, he left the city looking for a fresh start in a more rural setting.

Although he never expected to find himself in a rescue mission, he is certain that God led him here: “God has a plan for me. I know things can get better.”  His goal is to take the skills he has learned at the Mission and apply them in “the real world,” to be a contributing member of society.  In just a few months, he feels he has grown spiritually and is healthier.  He has a deeper appreciation for little things.  “Never take a sunrise for granted,” he advises me.

The Adams Rescue Mission exists to proclaim the passion of Jesus toward the hungry, homeless, abused, and addicted; to accelerate recovery and restoration to the least, last, lonely, and lost.  Lex McMillan is a board member of ARM.

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