What a Difference a Year Makes by Travis Sharpe

Last year we traveled down to Biloxi, MS to spend some time helping pastor Brad Newsome of Lighthouse Baptist Church. The Lord had been impressing upon pastor Brad’s heart that he needed to be helping the many homeless individuals that frequented the neighborhoods around his church.

He knew that God wanted him to do something, but he wasn’t exactly sure how to go about it. That’s where we came in. He called us asking for help, so myself, Tim Barbee, and Steve Battles answered the call. We spent three days with pastor Brad and brother Wynn teaching them how to discover where unsheltered people live and how to interact with them.

That Saturday, we drove behind a Winn-Dixie grocery store where there was a very small patch of woods just beyond the chain link fence that ran the distance of the back alley. Noticing a well-worn trail leading into the woods, we stopped the truck to investigate.

We followed the trail a few yards and that’s where we saw an old mattress that was being used for a makeshift lean-to type structure. It didn’t appear that anyone was there, but we called out “is anyone home?” We were surprised when the lean-to moved and a bearded man crawled out to meet us.

 

His name was Richard. We talked for a long while and invited him to come to church with us on Sunday. Arrangements were made and brother Wynn picked him up the following morning and brought him to Sunday school and church. Here’s a picture we took after church that Sunday.

 

That was one year ago. This past weekend, Tim and I went back to Biloxi to assist the church again and we were thrilled to find out that Richard was still there! In fact, Richard has lived at the church this entire time. They made him a room and the pastor has become his guardian. He has been caring for him and discipling him. This year of receiving care has made a tremendous difference in Richard’s life that is evident to everyone.

 

We found out that Richard is a veteran who was suffering from PTSD and CTE. These conditions have caused him to have great mental challenges such as remembering things and keeping his right train of thought. He was living in the woods and trying his best to survive on his own while fighting his illnesses all by himself.

Richard got saved and has learned so much about following the Lord and trusting others. He has developed meaningful friendships and those have proven to pay off. He told us that he was suicidal the day we found him a year ago. He had a gun and a plan to end his life. He thanked us for finding him and pastor Brad and brother Wynn for not giving up on him over the past year.

This year hasn’t been easy for Richard or for pastor Brad. There have been ups and downs as Richard is fighting his demons and trying to live for the Lord. But he has hung in there and God has blessed. It was great to see him again!

Richard’s story begs the question, what about you? is there someone waiting on you to find them? Could God have someone out there who needs your love and care over the next year? Are you available if the Lord leads you to disciple someone so that their life can be put back together one step at a time? I hope so!

Please pray for Richard and the men who are discipling him and don’t forget to ask the Lord what he wants you to do.