By Debra Hobelman
After I moved to Lincoln five years ago, I decided I would like to renew my relationship with my cousin, Terry. After all, we had grown up as first cousins both living in the same small community with just a few years difference in age. As young children, we spent Sundays playing together when our families gathered often for dinner at Grandma & Grandpa’s house.
As we got older, our life directions changed, and Terry chose a path that was nearly 180 degrees opposite mine. Through the years he found lots of trouble, lost his marriage, spent time in prison, became estranged from his children, then found a companion and moved in with her and her handicapped son in Lincoln.
I had prayed for Terry throughout the years – I hoped he would turn to God and trust Him. Since I was also now in Lincoln, I decided to contact Terry. I remembered learning of Terry’s companion’s death a few years earlier, and knew he’d become the guardian of her handicapped son, Shane. I discovered Terry was in ill health, but didn’t realize just how ill he was. He was in and out of the hospital. When he was in the hospital, that’s when he would usually call me. I would chat with him and found he was receptive to my offer of praying for/ with him. However, he reminded me that from his experience he didn’t believe prayer worked. But, he was worried about Shane, and I began to see a softer side to Terry as his own health declined. I continued praying for Terry’s salvation and attempted to share Jesus with him, but he continually shut me out.
In his final days, he was hospitalized and called me, in a state of panic, desperately crying out for help. He wanted me bring Shane to the hospital because he believed DHHS was coming to take Shane away from him. My husband and I went to talk with Terry. Indeed, it did look like his time here on earth now was short. We picked up Shane and took him to the hospital, where he stayed at Terry’s bedside during the final week of Terry’s life.
The last time my husband was with Terry, who was now very weak and near death, God used Gene in a powerful way. In a non-threatening voice, Gene explained salvation and the assurance we have from Romans 10:9-13. Gene knelt beside Terry wiping the fluids drooling out his gurgling mouth. On his death bed and with little energy left, he nodded yes to Gene—like perhaps he got it?? As Gene left the room that evening, Terry, with every ounce of energy he could find, raised his head up and said, “Thank You Gene!” Gene and I continued praying, trusting and thanking Him for this opportunity in Terry’s last moments.
When we went to the hospital the next afternoon, we found Terry in a coma. Gene had been the last person to talk with him. After we were there only a short time, Terry passed away. We want to believe he truly accepted Christ as his Savior the night before when Gene shared the Gospel with him.
At this point, Adult Protective Services was at the hospital. What will happen to Shane? I began praying for him and his future care. Now, he was truly a complete orphan and handicapped with physical & mental limitations.
The Adult Protection Services case manager asked us if we knew if Shane had any family or knew of anyone that might take Shane in. From our knowledge, he had no living family – and also his ability to express himself and be understood is quite limited. Shane had No One to advocate or care for him–no family and it appeared No One wanted him. It was Very Sad.
A.P.S. was struggling with what to do with him. They talked of government housing that took folks without homes, but these places had many mentally ill and “mildly violent” people. Shane really wasn’t a “fit” . . . and we worried he might be physically harmed there. Gene became convicted as he recalled James 1:27:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
He asked me how I felt about taking Shane for the weekend–until A.P.S. could find a more suitable place for him. I have to admit, I did not feel the same conviction in my heart. But if my husband thought we should take Shane for the weekend, then I felt I should consider it. My prayers became more intense, calling out to our faithful God. This was all very alarming to me! I needed a lot of courage to do this . . . courage I didn’t possess on my own!
So, I agreed to have Shane stay with us for a few days. We took him to gather his clothes and personal items. However, when we arrived at his “home,” we were in shock at the living conditions. They were terrible! Why DHHS hadn’t removed Terry from being Shane’s guardian and removed Shane from those home conditions, I’ll always wonder! Well, instead of gathering his minimal & poor-condition belongings, we took him to our home. The next morning, Gene went out & bought him new clothes and personal items.
Now, I’m really praying! God you are always good! You always love me! We must find a real place for Shane to live . . . but please God, not us! And, if us, then not with us forever! You know All Things, and You know I’m already feeling stretched to the max! I never felt my new life and marriage would go like this. This was a recent marriage for both of us after losing our spouses to early-onset Alzheimer’s. I didn’t foresee or plan on a 42-year-old, handicapped, orphaned man living with us!
The following week we again met with the man from Adult Protection Services. Basically, he said the situation was this . . . since Shane was now living with us and not on the street, the State no longer considered him “Emergency Status”! So he said, “I’m sorry, we don’t have immediate placement for Shane.” I had agreed to take Shane in for a WEEKEND. In reality, he lived with us for 22 months . . . that’s nearly TWO YEARS!
Many prayers were lifted to God by our friends and family asking God for direction in this struggle. As some of you know, my husband’s daughter Lisa lives with us. She was born with Down syndrome and is now 42 years old. We had concerns about Lisa and Shane both living in our home. When we first brought Shane to our home, Gene explained to Lisa what was going on. Her simple, childlike, unfiltered remark was, “Dad, its okay. This is God’s calling for you at this time.” Wow, we didn’t see that remark coming from her! We had asked God for answers, but never saw that affirming answer coming through Lisa!
We had come to a place of: Ok God we get it, we just need to trust You! We prayed for Lisa’s safety in this situation, and Gene spoke with her and gave her counsel. Actually, she became kind of a policewoman–she would ‘nark’ on Shane if he had been in the candy, cookies, chips or anything she thought was against house rules.
And, not only did we grow to love Shane . . . so have our children and grandchildren. In all reality, I’ve yet to come across anyone who does not find Shane stealing their heart soon after meeting him. He is very compliant in his behavior. He just isn’t a problem type of individual.
Interestingly enough, we’ve discovered how much he enjoys community! Even though he’s not too verbal, he is social! In maneuvering through the community we have found connections from his past – someone in a barber shop knew him and called him by name; someone in the bakery at Sam’s came up to him and said, “Hi, remember me?”; some HyVee coffee-goers knew him; Julie Braunsroth, from here at Lincoln Berean, recognized him from working food service on East campus. All of us understand how important community and connection is to us, but what we discovered is, it is just as important to someone with Shane’s limitations.
My husband, Gene, really is a hero in this story. He has been so tender and loving with Shane. He takes care of his “man” needs. He even became his legal guardian—and that’s no picnic…wading through all the government bureaucracy. When Shane fell off two steps this past summer, his collar bone was broken. Shane was unable to do his self-care, so Gene helped him. I thank God for my husband’s nurturing characteristics. Each night he tucked Shane in and asked him, “Who is Jesus?” Shane always said boldly, “Jesus is God.” As Gene departed Shane’s room each night, Shane would usually say, “Going to heaven someday.” Then Gene would turn around and say, “That’s right Shane, and who is gonna take you to heaven?” Shane would always respond, “Jesus is God!!!”
In God’s perfect timing, He found a family home for Shane. His care provider is certified, experienced, AND a Christian. Shane has been living there since last October. We are grateful how our loving God has answered our prayers for Shane.
Gene remains his guardian, and we stay in touch. God has definitely shown that His ways are higher than ours. He has taught us many things through Shane. It’s been an incredible story and journey.
Every person has value, and I had to look at what’s right in God’s eyes – not what I thought I needed, or what I thought I could make happen.
The big lesson I’ve learned is—JESUS is Always Trustworthy. He Hears and Perfectly Answers all my prayers! I just need to Rest in Him during the uncertainty, Depend on God, and TRUST Him in every situation!
As Shane simply says, “Jesus is God!”