Meeting Malachi

As many of you know, a homeless encampment plays a big part in my Branigan Powers mystery series. Malachi Ezekiel Martin is a homeless veteran who often sees and hears things that others don’t because homeless people “are looked right through.”

What you may not know is I based Malachi on a man I know who spent 35 years on the streets. I met Sippio in 2005 when I became pastor of Triune Mercy Center, a church that ministers to homeless people in Greenville, SC.  He was always the last in line to eat, and the first to jump up to carry out trash or mop the dining room floor. He was also kind, exceedingly kind.

Those were attributes I used when I began to create the character Malachi. He meets the reporter, Branigan, in The Cantaloupe Thief  when the pair attempt to solve a 10-year-old murder in Grambling, Georgia. They reunite in The Cover Story to solve the deaths of two college students. In Death of a Jester, available now on Amazon, I decided it was time to explore why such a smart man was living on the street. And so in this third book, the reader will learn what happened to Malachi in the Gulf War that led to his drinking — and eventually to his life in Grambling’s homeless encampment.

Sippio, of course, didn’t serve in the military nor does he drink or solve murder mysteries. But he continues to worship at Triune, has obtained housing and bought a car.  And now he has a book dedicated to him. Here’s what the dedication page of Jester says: To Sippio, who taught me what kindness looks like on the street. 

 

Robert-isms

painter-jan-bakker-at-work

Robert is one of our most faithful parishioners at the Triune Mercy Center — both in church and in the art room. He was living on the street when we met, but he’s been housed since 2012 — when our first social worker recognized a condition that could get him qualified for disability. He’s been doing beautifully ever since, keeping an immaculate house and participating actively in the art room.

At last spring’s art auction at the Hyatt Regency, he and professional artist Judy Zeimer contributed a vinyl floor mat with a stunning painting of fish. It sold for several hundred dollars.

But beyond his paintings, Robert contributes wisdom. We call his pronouncements “Robert-isms,” and our volunteers keep a running commentary taped to the art room door.
Here are a few:

* You think backwards, you go backwards.

* It doesn’t get done looking at it.

* God takes a bad situation and makes it into a message.

* A half truth is a whole lie.

* Listen with your eyes and see with your ears.

* If you stay ready, you’re always ready.

* People with money have got no time. People with no money have got nothing but time.

* If it starts with a lie, it ends with a lie.

* You learn a lot by just being quiet.

Robert doesn’t talk to me a lot. He ducks his head and politely murmurs “Pastor Deb” when we pass.

So I was surprised when, on the night of the auction, he stopped me and made a point of speaking. “I just want you know how glad I am to have Triune to come to,” he said.

Then he bowed his head, and walked off.

Occasionally, I learn a lot by just being quiet.