CLOVER — Pastor Sam Thompson and his wife, Annie, lost their home last month, but say they’re grateful they have a love strong enough to weather tragedy.
The couple of 52 years, who moved into the homeless shelter they’ve operated for 18 years after their home was destroyed by a Jan. 22 fire, clasped hands and exchanged a quick kiss as they chatted. The fire was ignited by combustible materials left too close to a heater.
They both agree that facing the loss and living in the shelter has not been easy. But Thompson, pastor of New Beginnings Baptist Church, which operates the Lighthouse homeless shelter, said he isn’t discouraged.
Thompson sees the hand of God at work in every turn of fate.
“We’ve walked in these guys’ shoes now,” said Thompson, 76, referring to the shelter’s occupants, “and we know what to do to help them better.”
The Thompsons have devoted most of their lives to helping others in need, and now others are organizing in turn to help them. A March 1 concert is planned at the Blue Eagle Academy auditorium in Clover to raise money for belongings lost in the fire.
Pastor Clay Thompson, the couple’s youngest son, said their homeowners insurance will only cover structural damage from the fire. He said it will not cover the loss of their furniture, clothing and other personal possessions.
“Everything that they owned is gone,” he said. “So we decided that we would do a benefit concert to help replace everything that they lost.”
The younger Thompson said organizers who call themselves Project Action are working to line up a headliner group for the concert, called Beauty for your Ashes.
Concert tickets will be sold through the church at a price to be determined when arrangements are finalized, he said; T-shirts will be available for a $20 donation.
Churches, local businesses and other organizations can sponsor the event by purchasing ads in an event program for $25, $50 or $100, he said. The York Baptist Association, which has a fund set up for the Thompsons, is helping promote the event, he said.
Clay Thompson, who lives in Huntersville, N.C., said the loss has been hard on his parents and the rest of the family, “but they still have each other. They’re my heroes. I’d like to be half the man my father is.”
He said his parents’ stay in the shelter has also increased their awareness of upgrades that are needed, such as improved heating. “They have a very different perspective now of what it means to be homeless,” he said. “With them being there, there are things that have been brought to our attention.”
He said many of the items his parents lost in the fire are pictures or personal mementos that can’t be replaced. Sam Thompson said they did find pictures of both of his parents in the ruins, though.
“There are a lot of memories there and we can’t replace those items,” Clay Thompson said, “but we want to get that behind them so they can start the healing process.”
Since the fire, Sam Thompson has been staying in the Lighthouse men’s shelter, while Annie stays a few doors down in the second-floor women’s shelter with the couple’s great-granddaughter, La’Loni, 7.
Annie said the separation of living quarters from her husband has been the most trying. “You’ve always been a steady support for me,” she said, turning to Sam. “Even though we’re making it, it’s hard. I wake up in the night and you’re not there.”
Still, Annie said she knows things will get better.
“It’s what we have that is so strong,” she said. “We’re going to make it because of our love for God, and our love for others and our love for each other.”
Clay Thompson said they are working on some permanent living arrangements for his parents. He said he offered to have his parents stay at his home in Huntersville, but they would not leave the Clover ministry.
“This is my heart,” said Sam.
Annie agreed. “We’d rather stay here on campus,” she said. “We work here every day.”
Annie said some of the items lost in the fire were belongings of her late mother, which had sentimental value. “I still have it here in my heart, so I’m not gonna worry about those,” she said.
The couple also lost all their clothing. Sam said community members brought him several pairs of overalls and a new suit for church. They brought clothes for Annie, too.
“It has drawn this community together,” Sam said. “So much love, and out of the love God is going to do a great work in the community.”
The Thompsons said they are grateful for the help they have received. “We want to thank everyone for how kind and supportive they have been,” Annie said.
And they say they plan to continue on their mission of ministering to others in need. “I am a defender of the downtrodden people, who are hungry and in need,” said Sam Thompson.