Yul-Tide Blessing- Yul’s Story
That’s what I love about walking in #MiracleTerritory, you just never know when your life will change and suddenly you are going in a new, exciting direction—experiencing new adventure.
That’s what happened the day we met Yul. Neither one of us could have expected what happened that day. You wake up in the morning and go through your normal “routine” and then suddenly around 2pm in the afternoon, EVERYTHING changes.
I wonder what Yul was thinking that bitterly cold December day as he sat huddled up in his big winter coat. I haven’t asked him yet–but I will. Bobby and I pulled into the Chic-Filet with no expectations except to grab a quick sandwich and get back to our errands, but God had different plans. When I write the words #ButGod I always know that something incredible has happened.
We pulled into the parking spot and I noticed him sitting on the concrete curb hunched over with his hood over his head obviously trying to stay as warm as possible in the 38degree day–the wind was blowing a bitter chill and it was COLD! He caught my attention and I remember saying to Bobby, “I wonder what he’s doing out there.” Bobby looked over and noticed the service truck parked behind him in the Shell station and answered, “He’s probably on lunch break.” I chuckled to myself with the answer…..why would anyone choose to sit outside in the cold when they had a perfectly good truck to sit in? But I let it go and we went inside.
How we chose to sit that day was unusual. I don’t recall us ever sitting side by side when eating together, we normally sit across from each other. I share this detail because it “proves” that what happened next was a “set-up” by God…..and was not an accident. As we sat next to each other chatting and eating, looking out at the parking lot, I noticed the man again. He hadn’t moved from his hunched over position, so all I saw was his big bulky frame completely covered by the oversized coat. His hands were thrust into his pockets and he sat motionless on the cold concrete steps.
I am not really a person who notices great detail, but it suddenly occurred to me that the service truck was no longer parked behind him. Bobby’s lunch theory was wrong, so I mentioned it to him. As soon as I said it out loud I found myself standing up and saying to Bobby, “I’m gonna go ask him what he’s doing out there.”
As I walked past him I heard Bobby say, “Okay,” and I remember it startled me that he didn’t argue or try to stop me–his normally skeptical and protective instincts weren’t in action so I hurried my pace before he changed his mind.
“Hey–you alright?” I asked as I stood about 3 feet from the man and directed my question at the top of his head. I will never forget his eyes that first moment he looked up at me. They were deep. I don’t know how to explain it but they were mesmerizing almost.
“Yeah! I’m okay.” He replied, looking up just enough for me to see his eyes under the hooded coat.
“What are you doing out here?” I grabbed my shawl that was blowing in the wind and wrapped it tighter around me.
His eyes spoke volumes. “I’m homeless,” he said matter-of-factly. There was an awkward pause and I remember thinking how cold it was. “Been homeless for about a year.” He let that sink in for a moment. Long enough for me to think about the last two weeks in Atlanta. Downpours and rain and wind daily– everyone talking about how wet and nasty it was running from their cars to their homes or offices.
“I been looking for work, but it’s not easy out here on the streets.”
“I’m sure it isn’t,” I agreed. “Are you hungry? Can I buy you some food?”
“No. Thanks, though.” The wind kicked up and I struggled to keep my thin shawl tight around me. I was freezing.
“Yeah, I been homeless for a year,” he repeated. “I came here from North Carolina hoping to get to spend time with my son. He just turned one. But it didn’t work out. I just went through a bitter divorce.”
“I’m sorry…..are you sure I can’t buy you something to eat?”
“No, really, I’m good…..I guess I’ve lost everything. My house, my car, my family, everything.” He pulled a cell phone out of his pocket and started looking for something.
“Let me show you a picture it my son.” He held up the cell phone so I could see it– it was of him and an adorable little baby–and then another of him and other people.
“That’s a picture of my house.” He said this as if to assure me he hasn’t always been homeless. “I’ve lost everything. I shouldn’t be out here. I have a black belt in karate. I used to teach young boys martial arts.” He showed me a picture as proof.
“Wow, I’m sorry,” I said, “are you sure I can’t buy you something to eat?”
“I’m good.” He said and put his phone back in his pocket.
The wind was blowing my hair and my skirt all around, I didn’t know what else to say.
“What does it feel like to be homeless?”
His answer went straight to my heart and pierced it. He smiled a big grin and his eyes lit up. “Every day that I wake up I think to myself I am blessed and highly favored.”
“I’m freezing out here,” I said, “Come inside where it’s warm and let’s keep talking.”
He stood up and we walked into the warmth of the Chic-Filet. Blessed and highly favored. This homeless man was blessed and highly favored. I wanted to know more.
He sat across from us and began sharing more about his past and his X-Wife and kids. Then he began talking about his life homeless for the past year.
“I have a good place to sleep now–its behind the Auto-Zone cause there’s not any rats or bugs out there. You know, no food in the dumpster, mostly boxes and stuff like that.
“They let me stay there and I wake up early and sweep the parking lot or the store in exchange for leaving my stuff behind there. It’s hard to find a place that’s safe. Then during the day I look for work or do odd jobs for food or money. I try to collect enough to stay in a hotel room once a week– you know, to take a shower and wash my clothes.”
We found that in spite of his circumstances he had a playful sense of humor–his face was animated and we could tell he enjoyed the audience.
“Why don’t you go to a shelter?”
His face said it all! “You obviously don’t know anything about the shelters! They are more dangerous than the street! The last time I stayed in a shelter I knew I could never do it again. If you have anything of value you can’t sleep at all cause when you wake up it’ll be gone. Fights break out all night long.” He looked down at his hands. “Remember I am a black belt. I could kill somebody if they mess with me. I just need to stay on the streets. Safer for everybody.”
After another hour we knew we had to move on. We were already late for our appointment. “Let us buy you some food for later since you aren’t hungry now.” I insisted.
He smiled that famous smile–“Oh, I’m always hungry, I just don’t like begging for food. I’ll tell you what means the most to me, no one ever wants to stop and listen. You two cared enough to listen today. Thank you.”
“Listen, let us buy you some food and I think we have enough cash for a night in a hotel. You have blessed us today.”
“Sure,” he agreed. “It’s gonna be a cold night.”
I suddenly realized we didn’t know his name! “It’s Yul,” he said, “Y-U-L- but pronounced like ‘yule’.”
“Yul,” I said, “I want to give you a Word that God has for you. This morning I was thinking about the story of Joseph in the Bible. Do you know the story?”
I continued without waiting for his reply. “Joseph was blessed and highly favored like you. And he had a dream of greatness that God had put in his heart. But his brothers were jealous and threw him in a pit. It was dark and cold there. But Joseph didn’t look at the pit. His situation seemed hopeless. He was cold and the floor of the pit was hard. But Joseph didn’t look at the hard floor, instead he looked straight up at the sky. It was filled with stars–beautiful, bright stars! That’s what I want you to do. At night when it seems hopeless I want you to look at the stars! God has a great plan for your life. In fact, you are now walking in #MiracleTerritory and just like Joseph God is about to restore your dream.” He listened intently.
Bobby looked down at his wrist and pulled the red #MiracleTerritory wristband off and gave it to Yul. Yul put it on and smiled. “I believe it. I’ll do it.” He said.
It was hard to leave Yul standing in that parking lot that day. I promised to stay in touch after exchanging numbers. He got all the cash we had. Not a whole lot, but enough to get out of the cold for one night.
We couldn’t get Yul off our minds. We wished we could do more. We knew what we had blessed him, but we wanted to do more.
That night as I lay in bed I wanted to share the story of Yul and especially the part about being “blessed and highly favored” in spite of his circumstances. I scrolled through Facebook as I usually do and I wanted to share the blessing of meeting Yul with everyone, but I didn’t want them to think I was bragging on what we had done.
I turned off the lights and tried to sleep. I just kept thinking in my spirit, “share his story.” I turned the light back on and posted the photo we had taken and his incredible attitude. “Blessed and highly favored.”
The next morning I woke to so many amazing comments– and then there was one…”contact me–I may can help him find a job.”
My heart leapt! I called her, Altha–and HER story was also amazing. She made it her mission to help homeless people like Yul find a job! She set up an interview for the following Monday–he needed a shirt and tie. I called him and told him the great news and we celebrated this first miracle!
Bobby and I drove straight from church on Sunday and picked him up — there was a thrift store down the street and we excitedly bought a nice blue shirt, matching tie and socks and a pair of light brown pants and a couple of other things he needed. Our son Ryan had a pair of nice shoes he gave him–Yul looked amazing!
We left him once again with enough money in his pocket to spend the night in the hotel and get a good nights sleep before the interview.
Altha is my new hero!!! She picked him up early on Monday morning and took him to the interview. I could hardly wait to hear the news! Finally in the late afternoon I got but text from Altha, “He got the job!”
What a blessing!!!
Later that night we heard from an excited and thankful Yul! “I’m gonna make you really proud of me. I’m gonna be the hardest worker in the warehouse. All I needed was a chance.”
I believed him.
Yul was starting the next Friday and we knew that even though God was mightily blessing him there were still hurdles to jump.
I asked Yul to take a photo of himself in his new clothes—and I posted the great news! It was like God brought amazing people with big hearts But God.
People wanted to bless him and help him! Donations came pouring in and it began to mount! My first goal of $500 was hit in a couple of hours and then the next day it reached $1000!
It was like Christmas when we took him shopping at Wal-Mart to get the clothes necessary to get started in the 38degree warehouse. We laughed and joked and his spirits were high. I knew we had done so much more than buying him a few clothes and new socks. We had all as a family given him HOPE.
Bobby and I got to be the hands and feet of Christ as we helped him shop for food and paid for 7 nights in a hotel a couple of miles from his new job.
He stood outside the door of his room and waved good-bye. We all knew we were walking in miracle territory– and God wasn’t done yet!!!
TO BE CONTINUED………………
3/1/16– MORE of Yul’s story!
I wish I had more time to share details about our journey of getting to know Yul better. Life tends to get in the way, but let it be known that I am grateful to God that He gave Bobby and me the energy, compassion, and most of all TIME to help Yul since the last post several weeks ago. Yul has worked hard. He has walked the 2-1/2 mile trek to work each morning, and then back to the seedy motel he calls “home” each afternoon. His work is not easy. He has walked in the (at risk of sounding cheesy) rain, sleet and snow. He has a suit we purchased to help keep him warm in the elements, but once inside the warehouse it’s still not the most pleasant of circumstances. The portion of the warehouse where he works is kept at 32degrees, so he gets to work cold, stays cold all day, and then walks home in the cold. Sometimes hitting the 40degree weather outside is a huge relief after being inside for 8-10 hours in the cold warehouse. But he has not complained. He is grateful.
For the last 5 weeks he has managed to pay his own way– the $225 per week motel bill and his food and supplies. We believe this shows huge integrity and tenacity on his part. I am grateful to incredible friends and a community who has continued to ask about him, to support him, both by prayer and financially…and the desire to purchase him reliable transportation has been at the top of our list. Rallying together just a handful of loving people, we raised the $700 to purchase him a 50cc Scooter– which made the most sense as he did not need a driver’s license or insurance to be able to ride it to and from work.
My friend Bonnie Ross-Parker “strongly encouraged” me to create an event that would allow his supporters to meet him, and to watch his face as we presented him with his new gift– the scooter! Again, so many incredible moments of love and kindness– we were able to get the scooter for $100 less because of incredible people who care– we rallied and met at Bonnie’s community room last Saturday and presented the scooter to Yul. Most importantly, we got hugs, and smiles and yes, tears as he shared some of his story. He is grateful.
Oh– and the best of the best news?! He is reuniting with his family! His wife Toni and 2 young sons— working past their differences to join together!
Is he ‘out of the woods’? Honestly, no. The motel is seedy at best. It is not a place to have young children or a shaky at best marriage. Is the pay enough to really support a young family? No….not by a long shot! But here’s what I know. We serve a huge big amazing God. God has orchestrated this community and this journey from the day we met Yul. He planned the whole thing. As Yul sat on those concrete steps motionless, freezing for well over an hour, God was stirring some things up, creating this perfect collision of people to take a journey together into #MiracleTerritory. I had no idea how we were going to help Yul that cold day in November, yet I boldly told him that God had a plan for his life. I asked him to trust me that God had His Hand on him. I am not sure if he trusted me or thought I was a bit crazy. I am sure his faith has increased dramatically.
As we sat together last Saturday and made promises that we would not forget him I remember thinking, “Okay God, you’re in charge!” That’s all we got and that’s a whole lot more than many people have!
Check out these photos of our continued journey! Pass this along to someone who can help us or who just needs to know that God has not forgotten them. I will add to the story as it unfolds….we are walking together and we #ExpectMiracles!