A pastor and his wife started a church a couple years ago in Holiday hoping to reach those who need help the most, but they never realized just how involved they would become with one family.
Pastor Ronnie Stewart and his wife Krystal are the founders of Refuge Church, which has partnered with Metropolitan Ministries.
One night last November, Mark Purcell, the executive chef at Metropolitan Ministries, made a surprising discovery on the Pasco County campus.
“There were five or six bags piled right here and that was everything they owned,” he said. “The child was sitting with his feet over the edge here and the older one on the other car seat was right on top.”
Purcell couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the boys, now ages 2 and 11 months, so late at night, sitting on what looked to be trash.
“The mother was shy and timid and hiding in the corner," he said.
So Purcell decided to help them. The following day, the family was sent to Refuge Church.
“They were coming to our place to eat hot meals," said Krystal Stewart.
The homeless couple continued to receive help from the Stewarts, but then one cold night, everything changed.
“We noticed right outside the glass doors that a family with two small children was sitting outside the awning of the church," said Krystal Stewart.
The Stewarts asked if they could take the boys home for a warm bed, and the parents agreed.
“She had to bathe them twice, I think three times, just to get the dirt off of them," said Ronnie Stewart.
They brought the boys back to their parents the following day, fed, bathed and clothed. They began working with the family, trying to get them into housing.
However, Krystal Stewart said those efforts did not pan out.
“They chose to, because of their lifestyle of substance abuse and drugs, they wanted to live out with their homeless population," said Krystal Stewart.
Eventually a social worker approached the homeless couple.
“They had a quick conversation with us and said 'After talking with our social worker we wanted to find a safe place for the children to be and would you guys mind taking them home for a while?' ” Stewart said.
The boys stayed with the Stewarts for five months. Last month, the couple asked the Stewarts to adopt the boys.
“They met with an attorney and signed their parental consents," said Krystal Stewart.
And soon the family of five became a family of seven.
The Stewart family is looking for help with adoption expenses. They have set up a GoFundMe account for anyone who wishes to contribute.
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