NOTE: Due to the personal nature of this story, Ruth’s name was changed to protect her privacy.
Seventy-eight-year-old Ruth’s home was in foreclosure. For seven months, she had desperately searched for a place that fit her budget and would allow her to keep her dog Maggie. Ruth’s 90-pound Setter is her only companion since she has no living relatives – her husband passed nine years ago. “Maggie is more than a dog to me,” Ruth says. “She’s my family.”
Within days of her home being padlocked, Ruth settled on the only affordable place that would accept Maggie. She had cash for a rental truck but no one to help with the move. Overwhelmed, she contacted North Carolina Baptist Aging Ministry’s (NCBAM) Call Center. Ruth explained her urgent need to Martha McDowell, NCBAM’s north central regional director. As McDowell listened, she realized much of what Ruth needed was outside the services NCBAM provides.
But the desperation in Ruth’s voice was compelling. McDowell knew that while NCBAM may be limited, God is not. Assuring Ruth that she would contact her the next morning, McDowell felt a determination to show this woman that God had not forgotten her.
McDowell took a deep breath. She knew finding drivers and teams of heavy lifters to volunteer on the same day in two cities could take weeks to arrange – if it could be done at all. She remembers lying awake that night and thinking: “It will take a miracle to arrange these logistics on such short notice.”
Moving day turned out to be the hottest day of the summer. “More calls were made than could be counted,” McDowell says, “but God moved in the hearts of North Carolina Baptists and it was amazing.”
No one knew at the time, but this move was not all Ruth needed. When the youth volunteers from Boiling Springs Baptist Church unloaded Ruth’s possessions at her new “house,” they were shocked. It was little more than a shed. Alan Newcomb, student minister, told McDowell, “This lady stole our hearts. If you can help her find a better place to live, we’ll move her again.”
Megan Dellinger, a student at Gardner Webb University, was one of the volunteers. “The place wasn’t habitable. It was in a scary neighborhood and only a few feet from a busy street. There was no running water and the only outlet was extension cord hanging from a broken ceiling fan. There was no air conditioning and we couldn’t raise the windows. It was hard to leave her there.”
Ruth’s other needs became apparent as volunteers unloaded the truck and noticed the lack of necessities. With gentle questioning, McDowell learned that in a vain effort to keep her home out of foreclosure, Ruth had sold things.
She had no bed, mattress, sofa, washing machine, or stove.
She had no refrigerator – and no food to put in one.
So again, churches and other friends were called. “God orchestrated everything beautifully,” McDowell boasts. “A realtor accepted a lower offer for a safe and comfortable home for Ruth. Other groups helped with moving. People sent cash for a second round of utility deposits and a rental truck. More volunteers donated appliances, washed windows, and stocked the pantry. No one group could have done everything, but together, Baptist churches and other friends worked a miracle in this woman’s life.”
Sadly, Ruth’s story is not unique. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, nine seniors are waiting for every occupied unit of affordable elderly housing. Waitlists of three-to-five years are common. Isolation contributes to the problem as half of all Social Security recipients are living alone prior to losing their homes.
For Ruth, it happened like this: She worked her entire adult life – as a bookkeeper, office manager and respiratory therapist. Her husband was an artist and sign painter. They had no children. She cared for him during his final illness which was long, debilitating and expensive. When he passed away, the Social Security check was not enough to cover food, gas, property taxes, insurance, and old medical bills. She began to accrue credit card debt. Behind in payments, she second-mortgaged her home for relief from creditors – a solution that proved untenable.
Throughout the foreclosure, Ruth’s prayer had been, “God, I’ve exhausted all I have. If I find a place to live, I will know it came from you.”
At peace now in a home that she knows came from God, Ruth’s faith has been strengthened and renewed, “There didn’t seem to be any way out of the mess I was in. I am thankful that God answered my prayer.”
Learn more about the services NCBAM has to offer at www.ncbam.org