|Martha and Glenda talk with Ms. Olive at the Dothan Bus|
Station Saturday evening during LIA's bus station outreach.
Ms. Olive tells stories of her life with great detail, painting pictures of snow-covered ground in Alaska and hot humid afternoons in Florida. Some stories are sad and filled with pain,which brings tears to her eyes. Others are happy, making her laugh as she holds her hand over her mouth.
She's 91 and homeless. We met her Saturday night at the bus station as she stepped off the Greyhound here in Dothan. She wanted to go to a Seventh Day Adventist church, so we drove her to one, but nobody was there.
We didn't want to take her to a shelter. She's healthy enough and definitely independent enough to take care of herself, but she needed some place quiet. She was tired, worn out from a long bus ride from Milwaukee. We took her to a safe hotel that's quiet and comfortable. She liked it, smiled and cried as she thanked us.
After we got her settled in her room and talked for a while, we prayed. She wanted to pray as well, and she thanked God for having all of us there at the bus station to help her.
This evening Martha read the Bible to her and we discussed scripture, and she shared some more stories. This time of life in Los Angeles.
Ms. Olive has traveled throughout the U.S. on bus, and by air to Alaska, since the mid 1960s when her and her husband had problems and they split. She's had a tough life, but through it all she talks about God's faithfulness.
Through her moving around and her children moving, she's lost contact with them. She doesn't know where they are, and they obviously don't know where she is. Unfortunately, her story isn't unique. However, her stories are much more interesting and detail-oriented than others.
Throughout our 14 years as a ministry, we have heard similar stories of people who become homeless for a wide variety of reasons, and many of them are due to life-changing situations. In the early to mid 1900s, it was not uncommon for wives not to understand finances or have job skills, as the husbands worked and kept track of all the finances. Unfortunately, some men kept women in the dark about many things. It's called control, and it's a horrible thing to do to someone.
If the man suddenly left the woman, she was lost, and if there wasn't any help from family available, life all of a sudden became extremely hard.
When people fall into homelessness for whatever reason, many lose track of their family. Some never find their family again, but we have also witnessed reuniting and restoration of the homeless to their families. It's awesome to see.
Maybe that will happen with Ms. Olive. Maybe we can find her children. Maybe that won't happen. What we do know is God brought this sweet lady into our lives, and we are going to take care of her for however long she's here.
Martha and I asked her if she would consider making Dothan home and settling down. She smiled and said she would like that. We're going to check on housing for her and see what we can find. She loves Jesus, and at 91, we just want to see her live out the rest of her days happy with a feeling of security. No more wandering.
Please keep Ms. Olive in your prayers. If you ever meet her, you will love her, and I guarantee you she will share one of her stories with you. Memories. That's all she has left of her family, and whether they are painful or joyful she shares them. I guess I would to if that's the only family I had.
Ms. Olive now has a family of God here in Dothan who loves her. Maybe she will stay and make new, happy memories.