Part 1: Ohio
I’m 26, and spent the spent the first 26 years of my life in Texas. In April 2014 I moved to Ohio. There were many reasons for this, but mostly I just needed a change of scenery. I graduated high school in 2006, and hadn’t really done anything worthwhile between then and 2014. I took a week-long trip to San Francisco in July 2011,but other than that I pretty much was a useless hermit. So in September 2013, when a friend in Cincinnati, Ohio offered me a room, I thought about it a couple days then said yes.
I’ll call her Sherry for this post. I’d only known Sherry about a year or so. But we talked nearly every day, so I thought I knew her quite well. She often mentioned a friend of hers whom I’ll call Karen, but I only talked with her a couple times before the move.
On 5 April 2014, I locked my apartment door for the last time as I headed to the Greyhound station, arriving in Cincinnati the next evening. Karen was there to pick me up. I thought it was weird that Sherry wasn’t there, but even weirder that we went to Karen’s house instead of Sherry’s. I asked when we would be going to Sherry’s house, and that’s when I found out that there had been a change of plans back in January, but Sherry was afraid to tell me incase I changed my mind. Sherry had gotten engaged to her boyfriend and his kids would be getting the room that was to be mine, so she figured since I had talked to Karen a couple times that I wouldn’t mind living with her instead.
At first I didn’t mind. I was in Ohio, and that was all that mattered. Things were going smoothly for about a month. I got a job, found the best church I’ve ever attended, which I’ll call Grace Baptist Church (because that’s actually it’s name…), and made a few friends.
But near the beginning of May, Karen started to change. I found out that she was crazy. No, that’s not me calling her crazy because I don’t like her or anything, she’s literally clinically diagnosed with several things. I don’t remember all of them, but the main ones were Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), Bi-polar, schizophrenia, and a few others. She had a large pill compartment for all the pills she had to take. I’m not criticizing her for her condition, or putting down anyone with mental illness, because I know other people with the same things. The only difference is that none of them did what she did.
In early May, she told me I had until October to find a new place to live. She’d had a chore list for me, which I totally didn’t mind. I’d have felt weird not contributing. The only problem is that she wanted me to Swiffer the floor. Everyday. The Swiffer uses disposable pads, and they’re expensive, and a pack doesn’t come with much. I decided to do it weekly, since the floor never gets dirty enough in a day to warrant a pad. So even though I did everything else on her list, because I skipped Swiffering (I swept, however, everyday), in her eyes it cancelled out everything else I did.
So to clarify, I did the dishes, cleaned the bathroom completely, wiped the counters, dusted the shelves, and swept the floor. But I didn’t Swiffer the floor, so that meant I didn’t do a single thing.
So instead of our original signed agreement that I’d stay with her until I could afford to get my own place, she changed her mind and said I had until October 2014 to find a place.
So then I started using the Swiffer everyday, hoping she’d change her mind, but when I predictably ran out of pads a week later, she got onto me for wasting Swiffer pads. I was doing what she originally asked.
One day in late May, I’d been at work all evening, and when I walked in she was angry and said, “I’m still mad at you for what you said to me a couple hours ago!” I told her I’d been at work for eight hours and she said, “Don’t give me that!”
On 1 June, she had Sherry come over with her phone to film her (Karen) telling me something. She fake cried while saying how afraid for her life I make her and that she doesn’t even feel safe in her own home. I was so fed up after nearly a full month of putting up with it that I finally snapped at her…on camera. Probably the worst time to do that, because she grinned at the camera and said, “See what I mean?”
Anyway, during that she said I had until 1 July to get out, even though we had already signed on October. Well, I was go from my job the next day (was still under the 90 day probation, so they didn’t even have to give a reason).
On 11 June 2014, Karen kicked me out, even though we agreed on July.
(My stay with her was actually much worse than that, but I shortened it greatly so as to move this along.)
So now I was homeless in a place I barely knew.
Thank God it was Wednesday. Literally. I walked around town all day, calling all the homeless shelters, but they were all full. When it came time for church, part of me wanted to skip it to keep looking for a place. But I knew if anyone could help it was the people at church. Sure enough, a couple friends, a married couple I’ll call Steve and Peggy, stayed behind and called around for me. They found a shelter in the next town over that I didn’t find on Google. They had one bed left, and you could stay for 45 days. But they stop intake at 10pm and it was currently 9:30pm. They drove me over there as fast as possible, and we got there at 9:55pm. Last minute.
Part 2: The Shelter
After a week at the shelter, I began to notice something. Most of those people there were either just having bad luck and had just become homeless, or had been homeless for years or decades. However, both types of those people were angry and bitter about their situation. When they heard that someone had gotten out of the hole and into their own place, the number one thing I heard was “When is MY turn!?” instead of being happy for them.
What made this even worse was that the shelter had this program where if you could show a proof of income and get approved for an apartment, they would pay the security deposit and first month’s rent for you. Most of the people who qualified would complain about “ONLY the first month’s rent!?” instead of taking advantage of this easy head start.
One of the biggest problem at the shelter was drug use. In particular, heroine. Pretty much everyone there had visible track marks on their arms. In the back of the shelter was the kid’s area with a TV and VCR and DVD player. One day I sat down in front of the TV in the main area and was surprised to see a Care Bears DVD on top of the DVD collection. That night the residents were trying to pick a movie and I jokingly said, “Why not the Care Bears?”, picking up the DVD. I heard a rattling, so I opened the case and the room went silent. Right there in a children’s DVD case, someone hid a heroine syringe. I immediately turned it in.
The shelter was in the middle of a wide countryside. I was from Texas, so this view was entirely new to me. It was the freshest air I’d breathed in years. I’m an amateur photographer, and the scenery inspired me greatly. It was one of the best photo opportunities I’ve ever had, and got some of the best pictures I’d ever taken.
Everyday I would walk down to the McDonald’s a mile away. It was mostly for their wifi to look at apartments or anyone needing a roommate. I wanted to find a place within walking distance of my church, but I knew that was highly unlikely, but I still prayed that it was somewhere close. I looked in the entire Cincinnati area, even checking Craigslist once a week.
Everyday, I called my friend Brent (fake name), from church. We discussed biblical things, mostly dealing with End Time prophecy. I love discussing it. One day I decided to write down everything I knew about it to tell one of my other Christian friends. I found that it was too difficult to write down everything. Just like this post, I was mostly jumping around and was having trouble finding a way to make it flow. I’m just trying to get it out. Eventually, I decided it’d be easier to make a couple blog posts for her. But that expanded into a blog series, which I called Fig Tree Reborn.
What started out as me trying to tell a friend about what I’d learned from studying the Bible turned into something I’ve since been able to turn into a way for me to teach the Bible to other people. Not only am I posting things I knew and using scripture to back up everything, I was also in turn learning as I researched posts, which lead to more posts.
And I started it while homeless.
My learning more about the Bible automatically grew my faith in God as a result, and because of this, when people at the shelter told me my situation was hopeless, I told them God would take care of me. And take care of me He did.
The shelter accepted donations, but they didn’t come everyday. So they made the food last as long as they could. Even past expiration. Even meat. My first week I got sick from eating shelter meat. So because of this I refused to eat the food the shelter provided.
Yet not one day I was homeless did I ever go hungry. The people at church heard my situation and reached into their pockets and handed me their gift cards. The majority of the cards were……. McDonald’s.
God always provides. The gift cards lasted until the Sunday before my 45 days at the shelter were over.
On 23 July 2014, I was starting to worry. I had only one day left until my 45 days ended and I had to leave. I had no apartment, and no roommate. Most of the people there at least found someone to stay with by then. Rarely do people stay the whole 45 days. Usually they don’t even stay a month. Yet I was on day 44 and had nowhere to go.
So I went on Craigslist to check again. I saw a newly posted advert by someone in my city saying they needed a roommate immediately. I looked at the map and froze.
It was one block away from my church.
Part 3: The Golden Tree
20 October 2014: Today. I’ve been living with Dave, the fake name I just gave the poster of the advert (my roommate) for nearly three months. It’s been very great here. Dave is very friendly and we get along nicely. As I said, I’m a block away from my church, so that’s always a blessing.
A couple days ago was Brent’s birthday, so he, Steve, and I went out for lunch, then afterwards we went up to the church. Behind the building is a large wooded area. It’s property of the church, we just never use it. So today we went on a little hike and found out it was much larger than we thought it was.
As pointed out earlier, I’m an amateur photographer, and seeing all the colours of autumn around us like that, I pulled out my phone, a Galaxy S4, which is the best camera I’ve ever had. I bought it since before I moved to Ohio. So I was using it to take pictures.
I stopped in my tracks when I saw it. Standing before me was a tree with bright yellow leaves. I snapped a quick photo.
But I knew I had to get closer and take another picture. As I approached the tree, the Sun peeked out from behind some clouds and the tree lit up in a dazzling display of the brightest yellow leaves I have ever seen. I walked under the tree, pointed my phone up, and said, “Capture”. I heard the shudder sound, but because it was so bright, I couldn’t see the screen to see how it turned out.
A couple hours later I returned home, and I went through the photos I took while in the woods, doing my usual Instagram edit of each one as I looked at them. Then I got to the picture from under the tree. I was blown away. I’ve been taking pictures for years, but this has to be the most perfect picture I’ve ever taken. The following picture was set up by God Himself, as He made the Sun brighter just so this picture could be possible.
In fact it’s the first picture I ever posted on Instagram that I didn’t edit. Nothing I did to it could enhance what was naturally perfect.
God has never failed to provide everything I need. It’s never in my time, but in His time. Yet He never fails me or let’s me down. He can even use the smallest thing to inspire you. My friends have been trying to convince me to write my story, about being homeless and everything, but I kept refusing. This wasn’t supposed to be that. I was just going to write the story of how I came across this tree, and I was going to explain that I’m from Texas so this was new to me. But before I knew it I was telling my story.
Because I can’t tell the story of where I am without telling you the story of how I got here.