Bears and Bunnies and Blessings
Sort of like Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my…only better! Much, much better! It started by just being available at first, then getting to know people and learn about them, and then the tough part of putting myself last. Dying to self and finding balance. Gotta be honest – I'm still working on that! :-)
When I lived in Virginia Beach, my friends and I engaged in a lot of homeless ministry. We knew where the tent cities were, and we joined together with a lot of others to help feed, clothe, and find jobs for people, coordinate medical attention, and even housing. Through it all we witnessed success, failure, joy, and sorrow.
Not to generalize, but over the years I found the homeless to fit into four basic categories. There were lazies, there were crazies, there were the alcohol and drug addicted, and then there were those who had fallen onto hard times. In getting to know them, and their situation, it helped me to discern what types of resources to use to help them. Balance.
Certainly, we could offer food to anyone, but what about other resources? Some days all we could do was offer food and a shoulder, but there were other times when we were given the opportunity to do much more. I met a Bear, and then a Bunny, and soon after that, many Blessings.
So this one guy stood off from the rest of the crowd when we were feeding. He kept to himself, was quiet, and even when pressed for more info had little to say. He told me his name was Bear. We struck up a friendship early on, and one day I simply asked, “Bear, what the hell are you doing out on the streets?” He must have admired my directness, because he told me.
He used to live in Florida, his house and business were obliterated by a hurricane, and they found him floating on a door in the Gulf of Mexico. He walked and meandered and found himself wanting to come back home to VB. Anyone he knew from his early days was either gone from the area or dead, and he was living in a tent. We were able to find a temporary job for him, but he had no ID, and he needed one to get something permanent.
He was born in the area, so we ordered a birth certificate. He said he used to be in the army, so we could order a DD-214. I asked him what he did in the military, and he said, “nothing much, just put in my time.” So I ordered the DD-214. I had plans to go away for Thanksgiving, and a couple of days beforehand a dang Nor’easter hit the area and it was wicked!
I marched out into the woods and found Bear, told him that it was time to get out of the dang woods, so collect whatever you want and let’s go. We went and had dinner, I put him up in a hotel, gave him some money, and told him we’d sort the rest out when I got back. He was scheduled to start a new job the first week of December, and he needed this ID.
It was Thanksgiving morning, Momma had the house smelling wonderful with the day’s feast, and I decided to check my email. There was an email from the Veteran’s Administration (VA), and I opened it first, then downloaded his DD-214. Army my a$$, this guy wasn’t just Army, he was a dang Army Ranger who used to hop out of helicopters in Vietnam to rescue his brothers!
He had purple hearts and all sorts of commendations, and I swear even as I type this I well up with tears. I cannot ever once share this without doing so. Here was a National Treasure, a True Hero, living in the dang woods! I called my friend Joseph (one of my brothers in helping others), and we both cried and prayed over the phone.
When I got back home, we were able to get Bear’s ID squared away, a friend from church donated an old car, and another mechanic friend from church offered to fix it for free. He was able to start his new job, and two weeks later moved into an apartment. It was sweet, a blessing I’ll never forget. Here’s a picture of Bear putting a license plate on his new whip, and another one of me and Bear and Joseph on Bear’s birthday.
While I was having adventures with Bear, I was able to meet a Bunny. Gosh, little Kylie was something else. Joseph and I met her and her parents one day while we were out feeding people. It was in March and pretty cold and rainy, and they were homeless, living in their car. We offered to put them up in a hotel, and went back the next day to talk to them about finding them work and permanent housing.
When we arrived, something wasn’t right. They were both pretty buzzed, and Kylie was obviously hungry. My daughter Olivia was the same age as Kylie (4 at the time), so I offered to take Kylie to our house to play with Olivia, eat lunch and dinner, and spend the night. They didn’t bat an eye, and off I went with Kylie.
The following morning I went back to the hotel. The mom had been arrested for shoplifting and the father was most definitely high on drugs, and in possession of numerous stolen bicycles. I gave him two options. I could either call the police and CPS to have their daughter taken into custody. Or I could apply for custody of Kylie while they entered rehab.
We went to VB Juvenile Court the following day and I got full legal custody of Kylie. Her dad was able to stay with another friend of ours. When the mother was released from jail several days later, she agreed to inpatient rehab. It wasn’t really that simple, it was a battle, a dang nightmare to put it mildly. But in the end, they went to rehab.
I obtained health and dental insurance for Kylie and we enrolled her in a Christian Preschool with Olivia. They shared a room and were like sisters. Kylie was with us for about 8 months, and to be honest, giving her back to her parents was difficult for all of us. She had become part of our family. But her parents had completed inpatient rehab, were gainfully employed, and had a safe place to live.
It was a stressful but amazingly worthwhile time in life. How’d she become known as Bunny? Well, Olivia and Kylie used to like to pick on Bear and call him Uncle Bunny. He told them that Bears eat Bunnies, so they’d better watch out! haha They thought he was the funniest guy, and liked that he called them Bunny 1 and Bunny 2. :-)
Here’s a picture of Olivia and Kylie in our home and then the 3 of us at Christmas. Liv’s in pink, always the pink back then. haha And just so you know. I ran into Kylie’s parents just over two years ago and they were doing great! Bears and Bunnies and Blessings!
My time in Virginia Beach was super sweet with blessings like that, and I could share a ton of them. But I’m trying to write a post, not a novel, so let me cut it short! :-) Two years ago I moved here to Surfside Beach, SC to care for my Pop after Momma died. I really didn’t want to do it. And I mean I REALLY didn’t want to do it. But I did it out of obedience.
Blessings often start with obedience. A friend once shared that, “The Fruit of Faith Begins in the Garden of Praise.” That taught me that, no matter how difficult the situation or circumstance, start by praising. You know, an attitude of gratitude kind of thing, right? I started to thank God in advance for what He was going to do. And I praised. I’m a musician friends, and this boy can play, so I praised and I praised.
And I praise today. Two years after coming here I was blessed with a beautiful bride, Rosina. The vows I wrote for our private little sweet ceremony were this: “With this ring, you are made holy to me, for I love you as my soul. You are now my bride.” Rosina is definitely a blessing, and she stretches me to continue growing.
Rosina’s a VA nurse, and she encounters all kinds of Veterans coming in for treatment. One guy was Marquis, and he had just been shot up in Myrtle Beach. He should have died, truthfully, but survived and needed both treatment and friendship. She introduced us and we became friends, brothers really. He’s back in Michigan now with his family, but here’s a picture of us before he left. Another blessing!
I’ll be brief in sharing just a few more blessings. This spring a guy named James came to our church one morning and we became friends. He had recently gone through a divorce and was now homeless. He started working but was still living in a tent. After a while he was able to move into an apartment with some other people, but it was not a healthy situation.
He came home from work one night to find them doing drugs, so he packed up his things and moved back to the woods. I shared that with Rosina and we both agreed in an instant that we couldn’t let him stay in the woods. We have room here, so we invited him to live with us. James has been living with us for 5 weeks now, and is leaving on Wednesday to go take care of an uncle in NC. He has a job waiting for him, a place to live, and family.
I’m gonna miss him. He has become a brother to me, and to Rosina, and we’re thankful for him. Here’s a picture of James and me and Pop on Thanksgiving. We had dinner at Pop’s and then Rosina and I were off for more blessings. And a picture of James and Rosina and me on the MB Pier last week. Don't tell her I posted this picture! :-)
After dinner at Pop’s we finished cooking another meal to take to other friends. Mario is 89 and a Veteran that Rosina knows from the VA. He always brings his wife Maria (86) with him and they have a number of health issues. We often stop to visit them and bring them to church, so we decided to take a bunch of groceries and Thanksgiving dinner to them.
As we were finishing our feast and fellowship, Maria pronounced, “Today I declare that you, Rosina, are my daughter. And you, Bobby, are my son. You are our children, and we are your parents.” What an absolute blessing! Today is my Pop’s 82nd Birthday, and after church we brought Mario and Maria and Pop and James back home and had another feast!
I wanted to share this with you in hopes that you find Bears and Bunnies and Blessings, and Thanksgiving every day. Step outside of your comfort zone, and know that you are of immeasurable value in this world. Someone you haven’t even met yet needs you and what you have to offer. :-)
As I close, here is a picture of my beautiful daughters, Olivia and Marisa, from Thanksgiving a few days ago. I am blessed beyond measure. And that is my hope for you as well - blessings beyond measure. Peace friends, and remember. Love Always Wins!