Ronnie Simmons shows WWFF11 photographer Hilary Coles his favorite Bible passage.
Photo by Stephanie Hardiman
Stephanie Hardiman is a graduate student at DePaul University. She wrote about sex and HIV in the shelter during WWFF11.
Ronnie Simmons loved to write when he was younger. Love poems, sad poems, he wrote them all. As he grew up, he had less time. He quit writing. He got carried away with other things.
Four years ago, he found religion, and it changed his life. He goes to a nearby church where the pastor is a former addict and homeless man. He recently became an ordained minister.
“God told me, ‘Remember that talent you had? Now you can use it for me,'” Simmons said.
Now he writes inspirational messages for Christ. He has photocopies of these handwritten musings he passes out:
I’ve been lied on; But I love you
I’ve been talked about; But I love you
I’ve been mistreated; But I love you
I’ve been abused; But I love you
Even been used; And I still love you
For Jesus is Love!!
Love – Is listening
Love – Is observing
Love – Is visualizing
Love – Is Examining
Love is when you can let go and let God
In room 216 at COSAC, Simmons has about two dozen Bibles: King James, New Living, Concordia, Greek and Latin translations.
Despite being homeless, he has to live out the happiness Jesus has put in his heart, he said. It’s only then that people will ask him what brings him joy and he can share his message of everlasting life.
Hilary Coles ran into Simmons while searching COSAC for a religious resident to photograph for a story.
Coles grew up Catholic but was turned off by hypocrisy in the church. In attempting to cope with the death of both of her grandmothers, she rediscovered her spirituality this past Mother’s Day after years of not attending church.
The pair got to talking about religion, God and faith.
“Every time I looked in his eyes, he didn’t have any kind of frustrations, any kind of bitterness,” she said. “It would be so easy to be negative in his situation…he’s totally inspirational.”
When she asked to see his Bibles, he passed one to her and told her to keep it.
It was an emotional moment for Coles, who had been considering leaving the church again this past week. She felt as if her grandmother was trying to speak to her through him, nudging her in the direction of God.
“Ronnie sort of sealed the deal for me,” she said. “I felt like I was meant to meet him and go through that.”