Maria Doss was our Stewardship Witness during the services on October 28 and 29 where she offered the following testimony to how St. Bart’s blessed her so that she might be a blessing to others.
About a year ago, I discovered that just about anyone, even a loving, responsible parent with a good job, can find themselves homeless.
My 3-year old son, Acelin and I had moved in with a friend who was also a single mom, in the hopes that together we would be able to share the child care load as we both worked. Unfortunately, she wasn’t nearly as responsible with my son as I had hoped, and when I spoke to her about my concerns, she retaliated by changing the locks and putting my stuff out on the sidewalk!
And that’s when it hit me: I was facing homelessness with a 3 year old.
I was terrified. I knew nothing about where to go or what to do. We were barely making ends meet and I couldn’t afford a place of my own. After staying temporarily with some friends, I was eventually referred to several shelter programs, including Interfaith.
To be perfectly honest, I was just as scared about the prospect of staying in a shelter. I had heard enough stories. Would there be any privacy? Would my son be safe? Who would watch him while I went to work? What would I say to him?
As a mother, I found myself digging deep to find an inner strength I didn’t know I had and trusting in God in ways I never knew I could.
For starters, I decided that I would never called the shelter “home.” I told my son that we were visiting people, and we would be doing God’s work for a little while. Little did I know that the story I told Acelin would become a reality as I discovered quite unexpectedly, that my time in the shelter would eventually turn into a kind of ministry. I remember asking God to use me; to be your vessel not knowing then what it would mean. Never did I think by becoming homeless would allow God to use me to reach out to people in the same current situation. I became a Peer Leader, and my job was to show the ropes to new families coming into the shelter as well as to counsel and advocate for them. My message to them over and over was not to give up, to make a plan for yourself, and most of all, to trust God.
After several months in the shelter, I had found an apartment that was ready to rent to me, but I didn’t have the deposit and the first month rent saved. I had a job and wasn’t on welfare so I couldn’t get daycare help, so between that and the rental car, saving for a deposit and first and last month rent was just too much. I literally prayed to God for help, and it was then that Holy Spirit said to call the churches I had stayed at.
And of all the churches I called, it was St. Bart’s that was there. You gave me the deposit I needed to get our life back on track.
I now live in a great, new apartment where I don’t need a roommate. I had to give up the rental car so I could afford the rent and pay for childcare but it's all worth it the experience we endured for a season. My son and I now have gotten back to a semi new routine our life had changed for the better we were blessed with a stroller since we walk everywhere and his little feet may rest.
A few months ago I got a call from one of the shelters asking if I might be willing to put up a young women who was on the waiting list for a shelter and was facing homelessness in the meanwhile. And while I was unsure at first, again thinking about my son’s safety. But then I remembered that The Holy Spirit reminded me how I had been blessed by so many to get to where I was. Now it was my turn. And so I said YES - of course! And we were blessed to have been able to help her.
These days I continue to speak to families going to the shelter program, to encourage them. I remind them never to give up hope. My dream is to be an entrepreneur and to one day open a day care that might even be affordable for single moms like me.
Of all the places I stayed in the Rotational Shelter, I will never forget St. Bart’s. You sat down with us at dinner and really tried to get to know us some as people. So thank you for that. I will never forget the woman at St. Bart’s who gave my son a teddy bear.
Even though he’s more into race cars! :)
This experience taught me that we really need to change the way we think of homelessness. We need to remove the stigma of that word. It really can happen to anyone. We are still all people, made in the image of God.
I thank you all, the people of St. Bart’s, for not forgetting that.
If you would like to help St. Bart’s continue to reach people like Maria and her son Acelin, become a partner in the ministry of St. Bart’s today by making a pledge you can make an online pledge today.