Transformed

Posted Nov 06, 2010 by 2 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…

———

Homelessness is a difficult issue to deal with.  It’s messy.  It’s complicated.  It’s hard.

I got a taste of just how complicated it is when I lived homeless for four days in Manhattan six months ago.  The frustration, the uncertainty, the shame… After only a few days on the streets I had a newfound understanding of what can come from living without a home.

That’s why I am always amazed to find homeless and formerly homeless people who exude strength, love and joy.  Frankly, they don’t make sense. 

Fredrick (“Freddy”) Crawford is no exception.  I sat down with him a few days ago at Shepherd Community Center to hear his story and I am still baffled at his uplifting and joyful attitude…

Welcoming a Stranger

I met with Freddy in Shepherd’s food pantry.  We sat in a couple of metal folding chairs while he told me where life has taken him up to this point.

Freddy, an amazingly joyful man.

One of the first things that struck me about Freddy was how intentional he was in simply being there.  I knew he had other things to do, but Freddy was with me 100% and never turned his attention away.  He answered my questions and told me his story in a way that simply made me feel respected.

As I spoke with Freddy, I was surprised at how quickly I felt at home.  His kind eyes and warm smile made me feel welcome, even though he had no idea who I was.

It would have been easy to write all of this off as the byproduct of speaking to a genuinely nice person.  But the more I heard Freddy’s story, the more amazed I grew that he is warm and kind at all.

Freddy has every right to be bitter.  Nobody would blame him for being cold.  After the things he’s gone through, it would come as no surprise if Freddy was a distant and angry man.

But he’s not. 

Freddy is loving.  He’s kind.  And, as you’ll see in a moment, unbelievably selfless.

His is a story of transformation that can only be found through the power of the kingdom of God…

The Spiral

Freddy, 46 years old, is originally from New York City.  At the age of 25, he found himself living on the streets.  I’ve written about homelessness in NYC before, so I won’t go into too many details about what it is like.

The streets of The Bronx, where Freddy lived for many years.

I’ll simply say that homelessness often becomes a downward spiral for people caught in the middle of it – a long series of events, decisions and circumstances that lead farther and farther into desperation.

Freddy’s life on the streets followed that pattern exactly.

Although he was able to move around from New York to Chicago to Indianapolis, his situation got steadily worse each year.  Freddy moved in and out of countless homeless shelters, but more often than not chose to sleep on the streets.  Discomfort, he decided, was far better than the theft, violence and rape that often took place in the shelters.

Depression and anxiety came to dominate his emotions.  Eventually, Freddy became hopelessly addicted to cocaine.

“It took me to places I wasn’t expecting to go,” he said. 

Altogether, Freddy was homeless for 20 years. 

A New Life

But then, in May of this year, Freddy finally decided to put his past behind him.  After spending a very cold winter sleeping under a highway overpass, he decided to give up his “freedom” for the sake of a better life. 

Homelessness often takes a deep emotional toll.

He got plugged in with Horizon House, a homeless empowerment organization on the near east side of Indianapolis.  They got him cleaned up, linked in with a case manager and connected to Shepherd Community Center.

Today, Freddy spends his days volunteering in Shepherd’s food pantry.  Horizon covers the rent for his small, one-bedroom apartment, and Shepherd provides him with food.

Although he doesn’t get paid for his work, Freddy often puts in more than 40 hours a week at Shepherd.  Sorting donations, doing intake work, interacting with volunteers…  Freddy is an integral part of the food pantry, and one of the reasons Shepherd is able to help so many people.

Freddy hopes to be hired one day by Shepherd, but not just because he wants to be financially self-sufficient.  Freddy loves Shepherd Community Center.  In his words, “This is my sanctuary.” 

Jumped

Listening to Freddy as he spoke, I could tell that he is a changed man.  He exudes joy and confidence.  Even after a lifetime of struggle, he has a smile on his face.

This came as even more of a surprise when I heard what had happened to him just one month ago.

Today, Freddy has purpose, a life and a caring community around him.

At the end of September, Freddy was jumped by a group of thugs as he walked down the street one evening.  Despite the fact that he didn’t have anything of value on him, they beat him up, breaking his jaw in the process.

Wishard Hospital did what they could to fix him up, but Freddy still suffers daily pain, especially when he tries to chew solid food.

And yet, he is still a remarkably joyful man.  He spends his days tirelessly sorting cans of corn and boxes of cereal, doing his part to help vulnerable families in his new neighborhood.

Transformed

Freddy’s story speaks volumes about the power of a transformed life.  But it also reminds me of the importance of organizations like Shepherd.  Their staff welcomed Freddy in, despite the difficulties of his past. 

To Shepherd, grace is more than simply a buzzword.  It’s the foundation of their ministry.  This is why they are so effective.  They care for those who have been forgotten and abandoned by the rest of us…

Thank you, Freddy, for showing me the true meaning of transformation.  And thank you, Shepherd, for opening your arms wide.

It is stories like these that show me just how powerful the kingdom of God can really be…

Enjoy this post? Get future updates sent to you for free! Join by email or RSS

Next Steps
    • Pray for Freddy. Pray that his jaw would heal quickly, that Shepherd would be able to hire him soon and that he would be able to remain free of his addiction forever.
    • To learn more about Horizon House, click here.
    • Do you want to work side-by-side with Freddy in Shepherd’s food pantry? Click here to volunteer!
    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.

More posts by Follow Barry on Twitter


Comments

  1. Jim M. said... 

    Reply

    November 8th, 2010 at 10:56 pm  

    You know Barry, this beautiful story about Freddy will give some of your readers great hope.

    Some one out there reading this may have a loved one who is somewhere on the odyssey leading to to the difficult life on the street that you depict here, and in prior stories on World Next Door.

    This is a great story , and I pray God will continue to provide for Freddy, his story is amazing. Knowing the evil grip of cocaine…this is a modern day miracle.

  2. Breanna Sipple said... 

    Reply

    November 16th, 2011 at 12:24 pm  

    Thanks for sharing Freddy’s story. I can share with your experience of getting to know people who are or have been homeless, hearing them share their story with such amazing transparency, and being touched by their kindness and joy. It truly is a testimony.

    p.s. I love Shephard Community Center. :)

Leave a Reply