After three years of marriage, Charlie and I decided to move from my modest, 3-bedroom house in Adamsville to Homewood to be closer to Charlie’s business. We had a blended family of eight children, some children-in-law, and grandchildren. So we needed to make a decision about the size of our house. We could not justify putting more money into a larger house just for family gatherings and other visits. There were others in need with whom we could share the financial blessings that the Lord had given us. We ultimately went with a larger house, but this situation was not going to be your average move. Before moving, we committed to use the house to help others.
In the ensuing five years, we housed multiple children who were in transition or recovering from major medical events, friends of theirs needing help, four homeless people who were casualties of alcoholism and gambling, two young ladies from the church who would soon graduate school as nurse practitioners, and others from the church in various forms of need. We thought this experience was only going to be us helping others. How wrong we were.
In one unexpected situation, we were confronted with a decision to house a homeless couple who battled alcoholism and a gambling addiction. We had met the wife at the Lovelady Center, where I served as one of the two nurses and Charlie taught a self-esteem class disguised as an employment training course. We didn’t know how to help people who struggled with addiction, but we had a desire to do what we could and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
They had a choice: certain homelessness or moving in with us. They chose us.
John and Mary are now among our best friends, and they live in what they designed and ultimately built as a 600 square foot apartment above our garage. To see them in their new walk with Christ has been inspiring to us.
Would Charlie and I have shown the same level of trust in the Lord as they showed when job hunting proved fruitless? They both came from very affluent families and all that came with that in their prior life. With that history and where they now were, would we have honestly responded as Mary did when she said, “I don’t think John and I have ever been this happy”?
They were challenging us in many good ways.
One day, I asked Mary if she would like to paint with me. Little did we know that Mary would discover an enormous talent in painting. It didn’t take long for her to discover other creative talents which led to a financially rewarding career in selling her art along with refurbished and repurposed furniture and collectibles.
John also got a job in the industry that he loved, and he is now a supervisor in the company. This couple has also helped us in so many ways when we have been in need.
We have had failures and several heartbreaking turn of events, and we’ve learned much about our limitations and what to do better next time. However, we have also been able to pour into many young people, two of whom joined us on our medical mission trips to North Africa. We have had lots of laughs, tears, and prayer together with our visitors.
Charlie has only had to leave the dinner table once for fear of throwing up due to a vivid discussion the two nurse practitioner students and I had about a medical condition. We are also looking forward to attending the wedding of one of the nurse practitioners very soon.
Charlie and I have grown in our faith, love for those in trouble, and understanding that trusting in the Lord is often the only answer. We’ve learned more about each other and ourselves. It helps that both of us are extroverts to have opened our house in this way. However, our marriage is so much better having gone through each of these experiences. Stretches in life with dependence on the Lord can do that.
One thing that didn’t cross our minds at the time was that our blended family was watching, learning more about themselves, and telling others about what was happening at our house. They have even participated, in their own ways, in the work of serving others. The same has happened with friends and our small group that meets at our house. Our neighbors have been inconvenienced with some extra cars parked on the street, and they were initially frightened to hear we were housing addicts. But they have since seen that our visitors are God’s children, too.
There is much more, but we are so thankful that the Lord led us in this way, with the joke being on us. We thought our initial commitment was about us helping others. In a turnabout, we realize now that we have been the ones who have learned the most.
Nancy and Charlie Haines have been married since 2009. They have eight children, six children-in-law, 10 grandchildren, with one due in February, and two dogs who have also shown love to their numerous visitors. They have been members of Brook Hills since 2013.