By Kathy Johnson
Director of Community Outreach
I first met Rebecca on August 2nd, 2019. She called First Presbyterian looking for some help, as she and her 62-year-old disabled son were homeless. At the time of the call, Rebecca was 88 years old and she and her son Derek had been living on the streets for approximately 4 weeks. Rebecca was seeking a hotel voucher.
The Friendship Fund doesn’t assist with hotel vouchers – our mission is to keep people housed and prevent eviction – we assist with past due rent and mortgages. So, normally, I would refer a caller looking for hotel assistance to another ministry. But, this call was a little different, I felt compelled to listen.
Rebecca and Derek had been sharing a house for over a year with another woman. They split the rent and all utility expenses. This roommate wasn’t family or a close friend, just someone they had met on their life’s journey, who could help them share expenses and afford a roof over their head.
One day, the roommate just up and left, leaving Rebecca and Derek to pay all of the bills. Because their only income was Rebecca’s Social Security and Derek’s disability, they couldn’t afford to pay the entirety of the rent, and all of the utilities, and they were evicted.
They didn’t have a car and were too beaten down to catch the bus downtown, so I drove to North Raleigh to conduct my interview with Rebecca in the parking lot of an Extended Stay. The Friendship Fund paid for a week in the extended stay, while I went to work looking for an affordable housing unit that was handicap accessible.
I found an available senior living unit in their price range close by and together with Edenton Street United Methodist Church, and Hayes Barton United Methodist Church, we were able to get Rebecca and Derek housed by the end of the week and living independently.
Since last August, Rebecca and I have kept in touch and text or talk several times a week. She likes to text me the scripture she’s studying or her favorite bible verses. Sometimes we listen to old hymns together over the phone. Occasionally, I go to the Catholic Parish Outreach food pantry with a voucher and deliver groceries to her door. Every time I ask her how she’s doing she replies that “she’s blessed to see another dawning and is grateful for the Lord’s abundant blessings”.
During our many phone conversations, I learned that Rebecca’s long deceased husband Riley, played professional football many years ago for the Oakland Raiders. His career took them to Boston, where the local semi-pro team was called the “Boston Sweepers”. Naturally, we reminisced about Boston.
One day about a month ago, Rebecca called me to say she needed me to come visit because she had something important to tell me. When I arrived, she shared that she felt the Lord would be calling her home soon, and she wanted to see my face one more time. Thankfully, the Lord hasn’t come calling yet, so we continue to talk and text. But, I know the day is coming soon and am grateful to have had that opportunity to visit in person.
In the Gospel of Mark, Chapter 12:30-31, Jesus commands “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The beauty of the Friendship Fund is that we can do so much more than just help people financially. On behalf of FPC, my volunteers and I have the wonderful opportunity to get to know people, communicate with people, pray with people, and make meaningful connections. Discipleship is about loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves. I am so grateful for these wonderful connections.