I found what appeared to be an abandoned trailer park in Luthersville, GA yesterday, so I stopped to explore. As I was driving through, I heard someone holler at me. It was Trena. I told her about the project, and asked if she'd tell me her story. We talked a lot about God and how she felt abandoned by her spiritual family at the local church.
Trena: We've been here two years. I didn't grow up in church. I didn't know nothing about God. I know the presence of God is everywhere, but this is where I found God, was in this camper.
BW: How did you wind up here?
Trena: Drug addiction. Meth. I'm ex Navy and I'm from up North, so I wasn't around none of that stuff. My ex-husband [introduced me to it]. It's taken me a long time to forgive him. I've had to accept it all. God had a plan. God allowed me to be a drug addict for a reason. Some days it's really bad. It's awful. When you hit rock bottom it's so hard to get up out of it.
We're blessed to be able to have this camper. It's better than a tent. We had no place to go, but when you trust God, he'll always open up a door, and he did. The owner said we could stay if we helped clean up around here.
This year's been a blessing because we've been able to have a bag of ice every day. Last year, maybe once a week we were able to get a bag of ice. We've been blessed. We have water here. Some people probably don't have water in their situation.
BW: When was rock bottom for you?
Trena: We used to live down the road. [I went to jail for] obstruction of an officer. They were trying to get my old man. For three months I sat in there for a misdemeanor charge of obstruction, waiting for court. Nobody would come bail me out because everybody would rather buy dope. It was sad.
BW: You don't have any felonies?
Trena: No, I have college and I can run a hotel, I just don't have a ride. People say, "Oh you'll get a ride, especially at church," but I can't even get a ride from here to downtown Luthersville for church service. But somehow they're gonna get me to Atlanta or Newnan to work? I'm not naive.
You see, me and Jason aren't married. We've been engaged, but his I.D. was stolen. You need to have your social security card and a picture I.D. in order to get a new I.D. So we can't get married until we get his I.D. So the church kicked me out of choir.
BW: Because you're not married and you're "living in sin?"
Trena: Yes. A lot of people don't agree with it because I'm living with Jason and we're not married.
BW: But that's so unchristlike... They don't have to agree with it. What harm was it doing to let you sing in the choir?
Trena: There was no harm... it was actually doing me a lot of good being in choir. We got to sing at so many revivals. That was my motivation to get up and go to church was praise and worship. It was my calling. It hurt.
BW: How do you keep going back to a church like that?
Trena: Well... I don't go as much as I used to. When I hear the preacher preaching now I think, you're a hypocrite. Maybe it's something that I don't understand, but no... I think it's something that they don't understand.
[They say] "You're still living in a camper? You haven't grown spiritually." Come spend a day with me, and tell me I haven't grown spiritually, cause I know I have.
BW: Has anyone in the church stood up for you and tried to help?
Trena: They said they've helped enough, but here's the thing. They allowed me to clean the church, which hadn't been cleaned in 50 years, I swear. They paid me $7 an hour. I took that money, paid my probation off, and got back my picture I.D. I've paid back everything, so how has the church helped me? Yeah, they allowed me to have a job, but they were going to have to hire someone to do that anyway.
After I got out of jail, papers were served and we had seven days to get our stuff out. I went to the deacons and asked if the pastor could do a love offering. "We've helped you enough" he said. I came home and I was crying. That hurt. I stood up for them. I said, "they'll be there for me because the bible says so," but they weren't.
BW: How do you reconcile the way [some of] God's people act with believing in God?
Trena: That's what I'm stuck at right now. They've let me down so much. I've been abandoned by my family, because I made wrong choices. I had church... They were like my family. They were there for me, but when that happened, it was like I was abandoned again.