Not Alone

Posted Nov 04, 2010 by 8 Comments

This past week I have been working on a small side project for Elanco, an Indianapolis-based animal health company with a strong focus on ending global hunger.  For the project, I spent time interviewing several families and individuals connected with Shepherd Community Center, one of World Next Door’s partner ministries.

Each story I heard gave such a unique perspective on hunger, poverty and the incredible work of Shepherd that I had no choice but to share them here.

You’ll find the other stories here.  I encourage you to read them all.  Who knows?  Maybe they’ll change your perspective as much as they did mine…


It’s humbling to think about how many different roads lead to hunger.  Homelessness, joblessness, the loss of a family member… It can happen in so many different ways.

In my suburban world, there are plenty of safety nets to keep me from worrying about going hungry.  I have money in my savings account, family and friends with food to spare and connections to land a part-time job if the need arises.

But for families in lower income communities, hunger can loom much larger on the horizon.

It often takes little more than an unfortunate series of events, a few bad decisions or an unexpected illness to change their financial situation entirely.  One day they have leftovers in the fridge.  The next day they wonder how they’ll get another meal on the table.

In my time with Shepherd, one of these stories stood out to me as particularly moving.  This is the story of Dawn.


Dawn with Mikey on her lap.

It was noon on a bright fall day when I came to the apartment where Dawn was staying.  Kitty, Dawn’s mother, greeted me at the door.

“Come on in!” She said with a smile.

As I walked in, I was immediately hit by a wall of cigarette smoke.  Inside, Dawn and her three year old son, Mikey, were watching Dora the Explorer on the TV.

Kitty put out her cigarette.  “Can I get you something to drink?” she asked. “Some coke or something?”

“Yeah, a coke sounds great.” I replied.  “Thanks!”

While Kitty went into the kitchen, I introduced myself to Dawn, then turned to Mikey and said, “Mikey, how old are you?”

He held up four fingers, said “three,” then put one of his fingers back down after thinking about it for a second.  “I’m three.”  He laughed.

Kitty came back with the coke as I was explaining to Dawn why I was there.  After a bit of small talk, I asked if Dawn would be willing to share her story with me.  She agreed.

The Tables Turned

Dawn was 18 when she had her first child, Breanna.  Her second, Bianca, came along a year later.  Mikey, the youngest, was born three years after that.  Together with her husband Michel, they made a beautiful and thriving young family.

Dawn holding a photo of her family before Michele went away.

Today, however, Dawn is 25.  She’s unemployed.  Michel, her husband, is gone.  She struggles to feed her three children.  The tables have completely turned for Dawn and her kids.

So what happened?

Well, it’s not what you might think…

Michel didn’t abandon his wife.  He was deported.

Sent Away

According to Dawn, in October 2008 Michel “got in trouble” and was sent to federal prison.  She didn’t tell me why he was incarcerated, and I didn’t push to find out.

Whatever the case, after a year in a federal jail, Michel was sent to an immigration detention center.  Although he was here legally before his imprisonment, the immigration department decided to send him back to his home country, Peru.

When word came in April of this year that Michel was being sent back to Peru, Dawn did the only thing she could think to do.  She scraped together her savings, sold a few things and bought four tickets to Lima.  She and her three children would be waiting for Michel when he arrived.

Unfortunately, there were two major problems with this plan.

One, Dawn had never left the country before and didn’t speak much Spanish… a real problem since Michel’s family didn’t speak a word of English.

Two, the job situation in Lima was even worse than here in Indianapolis. Michel would have a very difficult time finding a steady job.

Mikey, who came back from 5 months in Peru almost fluent in Spanish!


Things unraveled pretty quickly for Dawn in Peru.  The first few weeks she spent with Michel’s family, waiting for Michel to arrive in a place where nobody understood a word she said.

“I cried a lot.”  She explained.

When Michel finally did arrive, he couldn’t find a job.  With no income, they couldn’t afford to send the kids to school.  After a few months of scraping by, Dawn had no choice but to return to Indianapolis with her children.

Together they moved in with Dawn’s mother, Kitty.   Dawn tried to get her old job back at a local Sam’s Club, but discovered that they no longer had a place for her.

Which brings us to today.  Dawn is still unemployed.  Michel can’t send child support checks from Peru because he too is still out of work.   He hopes to one day return to the U.S., but the government has made it clear that he cannot re-apply for another five years.

Shepherd’s food pantry is a lifeline for families like Dawn’s.

With no money for food or clothes, Dawn’s situation is pretty bleak.

Not Desperate

Yet despite this hardship, Dawn is not desperate.  She isn’t hopeless.  Why?  Because Shepherd Community Center is there for her.

Shepherd’s food pantry provides Dawn’s family with food when times are lean.  It provides after-school tutoring for her kids.  Every Saturday morning they offer a free medical clinic.  They even help Dawn with Christmas.

Last December, Dawn felt terrible.  She had literally nothing to give her children for Christmas.  She couldn’t afford a single toy.  On top of that, it was the middle of winter and her kids didn’t even have coats.

But Shepherd stepped in.  Through their Christmas adopt-a-family program, a family from suburban Indianapolis “adopted” Dawn and the kids for the holidays.  They bought gifts, helped with Christmas dinner and, when they discovered the need, bought Dawn’s children coats.

Because of Shepherd Community Center, Dawn is no longer alone.

“There would have been no Christmas without Shepherd.” She said with tears in her eyes.

After telling me this, Dawn shook her head in amazement.  She still can’t believe anyone would care.


Things are still very tough for Dawn and her family.  Michele is still hundreds of miles away.  But Shepherd Community Center is here. And through the support of Shepherd, Dawn can face the future with courage.

Dawn is no longer alone.

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Next Steps
    • Do you live in the Indianapolis area? You too can adopt a family like Dawn’s this Christmas. Click here for more information.
    • Please pray for Dawn, Michele and their kids Breanna, Bianca and Mikey. Even with Shepherd’s influence in their lives, the next few years will undoubtedly be some of the hardest they’ve ever faced.
    • Consider donating to Shepherd Community Center. Every dollar you give helps families in need across the near east side of Indianapolis. Click here to contribute.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Barry is the founder and Executive Director of World Next Door. A storyteller, traveller and giant nerd, he lives to compel suburban Americans to get engaged with social justice and find their place in God's kingdom revolution. His ultimate dream is to adopt a pet monkey named Kevin.

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  1. Kathy said... 


    November 4th, 2010 at 3:51 pm  

    It seems like in Dawn and Michel’s situation there is no justice, no chance for someone who WANTS to work and provide to be ABLE to work. The government, I would say, was unjust to send Michel back to Peru if he was here legally. There isn’t a winner here, not in Indy for Dawn or her kids, not in Peru for Michel, not for either the US or the Peruvian government. Why does government sometimes make it so hard to people to have a fair opportunity to provide for themselves?

  2. Dave Rod said... 


    November 4th, 2010 at 5:02 pm  

    Look at Dawn’s smile. There is no tragedy in her face. What is it?….hope? thankfulness?

    And today I whined about my sinus infection. Yeah.

    Thank you Barry. Thank you Dawn. Thank you Shepherd. I am humbled by one young woman’s faith and hope.

  3. Crista said... 


    November 4th, 2010 at 9:42 pm  

    Although, these aren’t the typical “be thankful” blog posts that are popping up everywhere these days, they sure are making me re-think my attitude and actions as I head into this season of…giving. Thank you Barry.

  4. Amy Sorrells said... 


    November 4th, 2010 at 10:08 pm  

    Absolutely precious story, Barry. I fell head-over-heels in love with Dawn and Michel and their children this evening. And I fell deeper in love with Shepherd Center. May this post bless the socks off whomever reads it . . . may it bless Dawn and her family . . . may it bless Shepherd to be a ginormous portal that rains down overflowing blessings on all who need its touch.

  5. Barry Rodriguez said... 


    November 5th, 2010 at 4:30 pm  

    Just to clarify, Michel wasn’t a citizen. He was here under a worker’s visa I believe. So after he committed a federal crime, the government was well within its rights to send him home. But yeah… that doesn’t take into account the devastating effect it would have on his family.

  6. Virginia Baldwin said... 


    November 9th, 2010 at 6:12 am  

    Thanks for telling us about Dawn and her precious family. Thanks be to God for Shepherd Center. How many more Dawns are out there that we don’t know about?

  7. Dawn said... 


    April 16th, 2011 at 9:21 pm  

    I want to thank you Barry for takeing the time tell my story.So i just wanted to give you an update on how things are going,well i still havent had any luck on a job im still looking but me and the kids have an apartment now it is threw sec8 but it will help Michell got a job in Peru and he trys to help as much as possible.So i think everything is starting to get better!!!Thanks agian

  8. Barry Rodriguez said... 


    April 25th, 2011 at 2:42 am  

    Dawn, it’s so good to hear from you! I’m so sorry to hear about the job situation, but it’s great that you guys have an apartment. I will definitely keep praying for you guys.

    Tell Mikey I said hi! :)

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