Friday, September 23, 2011


My 24 year old brother Luke decided to make a trip into some woods one day in our little city of Brooksville. He had a bag full of burgers and decided to see if anyone living amongst the trees would like some.

That was the first of many visits and the beginning of a genuine relationship with a man that called himself Kowboy.

Kowboy passed away this week.


My sister Tanya wrote this:

No one probably even noticed when this happened yesterday in the morning. It happened in the woods. In a tent. Probably alone. Kowboy was a homeless man who lived in the woods in Brooksville. You have probably seen him stumbling down the sidewalk a time or two. Not someone you would look at and give a second thought to, except maybe that he really needs to do something with himself, and then look the other way.

A few people did get to know him though. Luke, April and Alex got to know him a long time ago and had frequent visits since. They got to know this man who's real name is Claude, but everyone knows as Kowboy (with a K). April even made him a cowboy hat of his own, with his name "Kowboy" stitched on the front.

Over the past two years Luke and Kowboy became very close. Sharing meals together. Drinks. Stories. Luke listened to the man a lot of people would simply wave off. He learned that Kowboy had a sister, a family, loved ones. He learned that Kowboy served this country many years ago in Vietnam. That he was haunted by memories of things he saw, things he did, regrets.

Luke also learned that he just met one of the most giving and caring people he would probably ever know. A man who had nothing, but would give you everything. A man who looked out for others that came wondering into his "camp" looking for shelter, an extra tent to sleep in. Kowboy was a man who never once asked for anything for himself, but if someone he knew had a need, he would call Luke up to see if it could be filled. "So and so needs a sleeping bag. Someone just got their tent ripped up, could you get one for them?"

Kowboy would just randomly stop by Luke's work, just to talk. Or maybe show him a new chord he learned on the guitar that Alex gave him. When he was sober he could actually play pretty well.

Once he did need a ride back from the jail. He got kicked out of his spot in the woods and then arrested for loitering. This was a common occurrence for him and his friends.

One time when he was caught at another spot in the woods he called Luke to see if he could bring his truck so they wouldn't have to make so many trips. While moving stuff it looked like it was gonna start storming. Kowboy started to get angry at God for allowing this to happen, so Luke suggested praying that the rain would hold off, at least till they were done. Kowboy almost laughed at this, "why would God even care about us enough to do something like that?" God cares, Luke said, very much. "Sure, go ahead" said Kowboy.

Luke prayed, and the rain didn't come until they were finished. I think that was the turning point for Kowboy.

One day, out of the blue he called Luke up. He was going to stay with his sister in Georgia. He wanted to get sober. (Something he had no intention of doing, and had not been in years). He was so proud to tell Luke, and Luke was just as proud to hear it. Like a parent that just found out his kid wants to go to college, this was a huge milestone.

Time went by. Some of his friends would come by to see Luke, check in, maybe get some supplies.

Then out of the blue Luke got a phone call. It was Kowboy. He was with his sister in Georgia and he was doing great. Sober. Feeling better than he had in a long time. He just wanted to call and check on Luke to see how he was doing, and to let him know that things were going great. Again, Luke was so proud. In fact he beamed for the rest of the day like a proud dad. More time went by with a few phone calls here and there, just to check in.

Not long ago he called to tell Luke he was coming back to Florida for a bit. He missed his friends and just thought he would visit for a while. He was still doing good, so Luke wasn't sure if it would be a good idea to come back and be around the same crowd again, but Kowboy won out.

Visits were few and far between. Time went on. Kowboy still stayed in Florida.

Then on September 21st, around 10am, Luke got the news. Kowboy was found in his tent, no longer awake on this earth.

Luke and Alex went by the campsite that evening to bring dinner to his friends and just sit and share stories, memories, tears and laughter. No one wanted to move anything in his tent or touch any of his belongings. They all brought flowers to surround his tent with. They celebrated the life of a man who was once someones baby. Someones brother. Someones friend. A man who usually wouldn't get a second glance beyond the first glance of judgment. But those who knew him, and took the time to sit with him knew what kind of man he was. He was a man of honor. A man of dignity and hope. A man who was selfless. A man of compassion.

The one comfort that we now have is that we know where he is.

A place with no more tears, no more hunger, no more pain and no more suffering. There is a place that was set for him at the banquet table that he is sitting at and enjoying every moment. He has probably already joined the angel choir singing praises at the top of his lungs. I can see Jesus beaming at him like Luke used to, like a proud father, happy to see his son again.

He may not have meant much to that many people, but he meant everything to one person. Jesus.


The thing I love most about what my brother and his friends did was that it was not about "religion". They made a point to build RELATIONSHIP. They knew they didn't need to preach to Kowboy and the rest of the camp, or stand in a circle holding hands to pray. No, they wanted to SHOW Jesus to them by their actions. By coming out into their world. Their dirty, smelly, uncomfortable world. To simply play cards, talk, and share meals together.
It's funny, I remember someone else in the Bible that would do the same (well maybe not cards) and the "Religious" had a real problem with it.

I'm sharing this with you to encourage you to think twice when you see someone on the side of the road looking for a handout. Don't worry about needing to preach to them. Maybe they just need a smile.

I know there are a lot of thoughts about what the homeless do with the money you may give them. My take on that? Read the Word. Did Jesus, in the hundreds of times that He talks about helping the poor, did He ever say that you better know that when you give to them it better be going to good use?

I highly recommend reading the book, "Under the Overpass" by Mike Yankoski

It is about a young man that steps into the life of a homeless man living on the streets for months. It will open your eyes and really help you understand what your role could be in helping the homeless.

But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won't help him--how can God's love be within him ? Little children, let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions. - 1 John 3:17&18


Julie September 24, 2011 at 5:00 AM  

Thank you for this beautiful story!

Kelly September 24, 2011 at 6:34 AM  

That's just the thing. Everyone in this world matters to Jesus regardless of location, race or social status. So glad your brother and his friends were able to share Jesus with Kowboy!

The Monier Family September 24, 2011 at 6:35 AM  

So sorry for Luke's loss:( Your family is amazing and truly caring:)

Rays-R-Us September 24, 2011 at 8:41 PM  

That is an amazing story of love and compassion. My husband taught me this very lesson about it not being our business on where the money goes; we just have to love our brothers (and sisters). I'm glad this thought is shared by others. Your family is amazing. Sorry for Luke's loss. What a wonderful young man to share the love of Christ.

Elle Bee October 6, 2011 at 2:23 PM  

This is really beautiful and so meaningful.

Rachel October 28, 2011 at 1:03 PM  

I loved that story! It goes to show what a difference just a life can make for another with Christ looking down upon them :)

MommaofMany February 5, 2012 at 7:51 PM  

This is such a beautiful story. I love reading of folks who are truly Jesus' hands and feet in this world. I came here from Reece's Rainbow after looking over the "My Family Found Me" page and seeing Kole there. I am so thrilled to see him coming home! I had shown him to my husband several times and we have prayed for him. Blessings to you!!

Midlife Army Wife February 9, 2012 at 7:34 AM  

I came across your blog today as I was searching for blogs on adoptions through RR. As I was looking back through your posts, I read this and just had to share the link to it on my blog! What a beautiful story of Christ's love and an awesome example of truly living it out. Years ago I learned the same lesson about giving to the poor. If God tells me to give, it's up to me to obey. What that person does with the money is between them and God and should be of no matter to me. Many times I have found that crossing the line into someone else's world - a world we might not otherwise consider entering - is exactly where God reveals some of his best blessings :) Thanks for sharing this sweet story.


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