Updated: Aug 3
Sophia was living in a small apartment with her daughter and four grandkids when tension erupted, and everything changed.
As families sometimes do, she and her daughter were struggling to get along. Throw in tight finances and very different opinions on how to budget their money, and the tension in that household became a volcano just waiting to erupt.
After the landlord refused to renew their lease in the summer of 2021, the struggling family ended up in a hotel, perpetuating the strained budget and adding more stress to the exhaustion. Her daughter wanted out. “If you weren’t here and I didn’t have to take care of you, my money wouldn’t be drained,” she said. So, with her kids, she left.
Sophia felt hopeless.
She was lost.
Retired, living on social security, with no car to get to a job, and not wanting to burden her children anymore, Sophia was alone with no one to turn to.
She didn’t want help. She had raised those kids for all those years. She should be able to care for herself.
She did not want to admit that she had run out of options. While visiting friends, Sophia never let on that she was in crisis. She didn’t tell them that when she boarded the bus to go home, there was no home awaiting her.
One day on that bus, Sophia thought to herself, “Where am I going? I have no place to go.” She felt a nudge from God saying, “Go back to Columbia,” and she obeyed.
She found a women’s shelter and arrived with all her bags, only to find out that she couldn’t stay there that night. With nowhere to go for the night, Sophia began to cry.
“I don’t know what I am going to do. I want God to take me now. I’ve had it–I can’t do this anymore.”
She called her son, helpless. Her son and daughter-in-law sent her some money to stay in a hotel.
The crisis in front of her was averted—for now.
Sophia knew she could not rely on her kids forever; she needed an income.
In an act of courage, spurned by the generosity and compassion of her son and daughter-in-law, she called her previous employer at a local daycare.
“I need a job,” she said with all the courage she could muster. She held her breath as she waited for their response, and time itself seemed to slow as she did. And then the answer came:
“We’d love to have you back. When can you start?”
She could see the future for the first time in months.
Next step? Find a home.
To Sophia, the idea of a shelter was scary. Assuming them all to be plain, dirty, and uncomfortable, Sophia was not hopeful about finding a home in a shelter.
As she pulled into the parking lot at Toby’s Place, walked in the front door, and looked around the lobby for the first time, Sophia thought, “What have I done with my life?”
Sure, Toby's Place was beautiful. It was a top-notch facility with beautiful amenities and everything one would need to feel comfortable. Yet, Sophia could not stop the fear from creeping back in.
A 63-year-old mom of three grown children living in a shelter was an overwhelming and humbling reality. As she was led to the hall of rooms, she spied a sign on her door that read, “Welcome Home.”
Her emotional defenses rose even higher as she thought, “This is not my home. This place cannot be my home.”
As she settled in for the night, she cried, grieving the hardships, the battles, the loneliness.
But she couldn’t shake the feeling that God had sent her to Toby’s Place. So, she chose to try to trust instead.
Sophia's fears started to subside as she became accustomed to the new environment and befriended the staff and residents at Toby’s Place.
Finally, her future was becoming clearer.
She found a community that loved her. She found spiritual guidance and encouragement, which drew her close to God. When she learned she had cancer and needed surgery just weeks after arriving, Sophia found the support and care she needed at Toby’s Place.
Sophia is a recipient of Oliver Gospel’s transportation scholarship, an application-based stipend to help residents with the costs of getting to and from their jobs daily.
When Sophia learned that she was receiving this gift, she teared up. “I am not a person who is used to having people doing things for me. But, I can’t help but be grateful.”
With the added savings, Sophia knows she is moving forward.
Her future is in full view now.
The scholarship isn’t the end of Sophia’s story. It’s just the beginning.
Her future is not in the rearview. It’s right in front of her. Full of hope.