The basketballs bounce on the Kennedy Home gym floor in unison. The group of younger boys concentrate as 18-year-old Sherman guides them through one ball handling drill after the other.
“Basketball has always meant so much to me,” Sherman shares. “Going to the gym, doing drills and shooting hoops made my hard times better. It was my escape.”
Sherman didn’t want to go home. He and his mom were always at odds with each other. It always ended with his mom becoming angry and Sherman walking away and closing himself off in his bedroom.
“I can see now how that didn’t help,” he says. “I couldn’t express what I was feeling. I know each time the gap between us became wider and wider. I wish I could go back to those days – I’d fix that.”
Sherman’s mom lost her children after being incarcerated when Sherman was five years old. He and his seven brothers and sisters were parceled out to live with relatives. Sherman was sent to live with his great aunt in Houston. After his mom’s release, she moved to North Carolina, trained as an electrician, began working, and then set about bringing her children back together.
“When I first came to North Carolina in 2009, we lived in a trailer,” Sherman remembers. “But my mom is a hard worker. She was determined that we would be a family again.”
The family moved to a nice house. Things were good and should have gone like his mom planned.
“It was too hard,” Sherman confesses. “I couldn’t get close to my mom. Maybe it was having to leave my life in Houston and starting over. It became too much.”
Sherman and his mom’s relationship came to a breaking point. Police were called. Sensing a deep rift, the police called the department of social services (DSS). DSS determined it was best to remove Sherman and his younger brother from the home. In January 2015, the boys were driven to Kennedy Home.
“We didn’t know what to think,” he remembers. “We expected fences with barbed wire and maybe bars on the windows. It was nothing like that. The cottages were homes and there were no fences.”
The brothers were convinced that someone would come and get them. They thought a family member would welcome them into their home – but nothing. As the time passed and no one came, Sherman’s brother began to act out. Sherman retreated to the solitude that he knew so well and shut himself off.
“It was so painful,” he says. “I felt unloved. I was being rejected and I didn’t understand. The walls came up.”
Sherman let his hurt be known by arguing with his houseparents. He says he stirred things up with the other children just for spite. “It’s kind of funny now, because I was doing things I would never normally do. I was broken.”
The memory of one particular day is vivid for Sherman. Feeling empty and retreating to his room, he closed the door, sat on his bed, and began to sob. He says one question ran through his mind over and over again, “Why, God?”
Sherman turned to his houseparents. He took a new interest in the cottage’s daily bible studies they led. He began to ask questions about God. They offered scriptures as answers to Sherman’s questions.
Sherman says his houseparents were persistent. They never stopped sharing God’s love. People would visit from churches and share love with Sherman. He says the walls crumbled as people spent time with him, hugged him and loved on him.
“It all got to me,” he says. “That’s when I made the biggest decision of my life. I turned away from everything my life was and turned to Him (God).”
On Saturday, August 8, 2015, Sherman responded to an altar call when asked, “Is there anyone here. . .?”
“God took me away from everything – out of my comfort zone,” he says. “It was in this place where I thought nobody cared for me that I found God.”
Sherman says he now lives outside the walls he had built. He is more open. He chooses to be a role model for the other children.
“It has been like my eyes opened up and everything changed,” he says. “I’ve learned that if God can get you to it, He will get you through it. It feels like my life has begun again.”
You can help share hope with children like Sherman by making an online gift to Baptist Children's Homes of North Carolina today at www.bchfamily.org/givenow