For many people, the word “family” ignites feelings of love, warmth, and tender memories. But for Randy, the word triggers bitter recollections of past betrayals. “I love my family, but I just have to love them from a distance,” Randy shares.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Randy is one of five children raised by a single mother. Randy reminiscences fondly about watching television shows like Batman and Wonder Woman with his siblings as a little boy and roughhousing with his older brothers outside. Unfortunately, the sweet memories of Randy’s youth cannot overshadow the deep wounds of the past.
“I’m not perfect,” Randy explains. “I served time in juvenile hall for robbery. I used to get in fights. I did this before I knew better. I tried to do good too. If my family or friends were in trouble, I helped them out. Although that usually left me in tough situations.”
Before Randy walked through the doors of the Mission, he was struggling to maintain a roof over his head and keep a steady job. He moved from New York to Pennsylvania in 2016 after a conflict with his younger brother. Needing a fresh start, Randy settled in Philadelphia where he lived with relatives until he got on his feet. However, when Randy suspected a family member of stealing his identity and bills piled up in his name, this living situation was no longer a safe place.
After a family member helped Randy secure a job at a local fast food restaurant and a room to rent, Randy thought life was taking a turn for the better. But after a few months at the restaurant, he was laid off and several weeks later he also lost his room. Thankfully, before he was evicted, Randy secured work through a temp agency that referred him to Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission for shelter and a hot meal.
“When I came to Sunday Breakfast, I was sad,” Randy recalled. “I didn’t know how I became homeless again. I was homeless in New York for a year after my landlord sold my building. But I tried to find the good in the bad and just went with it.”
Randy stayed in the emergency shelter for three months before joining the program in January of 2017 and he is glad he did. The program has provided Randy with stability, friendship, and the tools to begin the healing progress. “In the program, I read the Bible every chance I get,” Randy described. “I was baptized as a child but it had been years since I read the Bible. The Bible helps me navigate my life now. I’m learning to forgive my family and I’m learning to pray for them.”
There was a time when Randy did not want to pray for his family. He harbored anger in his heart towards them. Randy was furious at his older brother for putting him in a dangerous situation when he tried to help him with his drug addiction. He was also livid with his sister for insulting him in front of his friends. But now Randy understands that God can heal and change people’s hearts and lives. Randy has seen God change his attitude towards others and wants that for his family.
Although Randy has experienced many hardships, those hardships led him to the Mission and allowed him to create a family of friends he can depend on. During the day, you can hear Randy laughing and joking with Intern Chaplain Fred. Randy exclaimed, “Fred is honest with me and tells me things that are difficult for me to hear. He encourages me to surrender my past hurts to God.”
As Randy continues forward in the program, he hopes to secure a job as a security guard and an apartment of his own but, more importantly, he wants to continue to grow in his faith.
“The chaplains have encouraged me to allow God to fight my battles,” Randy shares. “They are right. God is the only one who can give me victory over the battles I face.”