11/24/2003 News media contact: Tim Tanton · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.
NOTE: A photo is available. For related coverage, see UMNS story #567.
By Tim Tanton
really are a lot of Annie Calhouns out there. … Maybe they’ve lost
their confidence," says Annie Calhoun of Portland, Ore. Though she and
her family have struggled with hardship, she says her problems have
brought her closer to God. A UMNS photo by Tim Tanton. Photo number
03-487, Accompanies UMNS #568, 11/24/03
No Long Caption Available for this Story
PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) - Annie and Stefhan Calhoun
arrived in Portland from Los Angeles one Thanksgiving Day, eager to
start a new life and raise their infant son in a safer community.
Thanksgiving marked the beginning of a decade of hardship as the family
contended with homelessness, unemployment and illness. Today, living in
subsidized housing, the Calhouns are getting by.
Amid the difficulties, Annie, 46, has found her spiritual life strengthened.
"The Calhoun family is not poor," she says. "We're just financially challenged."
United Methodist congregations helped the family meet some of its
challenges. First United Methodist Church and Vermont Hills United
Methodist Church provided monetary aid and other support.
"I wouldn't be where I am today if the church hadn't been part of my life," Annie says. Her story illustrates the ease with which a family can find itself mired in poverty through a series of setbacks.
has been out of work since October 2002, partly because her husband and
son are in poor health. Stefhan, 56, has an enlarged heart, back
problems and a sleep disorder. Trevor, 10, weighs more than 300 pounds
and has Blount's disease, characterized by severely bowed legs. He is
the youngest of five children - ranging in age up to 29 - and the only
Their troubles began the moment they arrived in Portland in
1993, when they discovered their intended home had burned down. The
following month, Annie's new employer downsized and Annie was left
without a job. Because of his health problems, Stefhan had difficulty
The Calhouns moved from place to place, staying in a
motel for several months, then with friends, then going to the YWCA,
which put them up in a hotel for four weeks. Eventually, they got into
public housing, and Annie found a calling doing work with people in
She helped start a youth advancement program in October
1995, working with kids and their families living in homelessness. She
played a key role in developing the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference's
Creation Vacation camp, offering homeless or needy families the
opportunity to take a week's vacation near the beach.
"I took 43-year-old moms who had never ever in their whole lives seen the ocean," Annie says.
She also served on the conference task force for the Bishops' Initiative on Children and Poverty.
is not just a way of life," she says. "Poverty is more of a feeling of
hopelessness, of feeling desperate that there's no way out of this. You
got there because you don't have any money, but it's not about the
money. It's about what's in you."
Annie says the adversity has
brought her closer to God and that God doesn't give her anything she
can't handle. She has learned to rely on God more, knowing that she
can't do the hard work without divine help.
"I just know that
God is so in control that you have to pay attention to him," she says.
"You have to know that you're not in it alone, and if you pay attention,
more often than not, there's only one set of footprints in the sand."
# # # *Tanton is United Methodist News Service's managing editor.