Robert Crum and his wife, Linda Hertzler Crum, visited StoryCorps in Lawton, Okla.
Robert Crum and his wife, Linda Hertzler Crum, visited StoryCorps in Lawton, Okla. StoryCorps
Robert Crum, 83, worked as a Methodist minister for nearly four decades. Some time ago, Crum was sent to work in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. He turned a deserted building into a shelter for people in need — and saw things he's never forgotten.
The shelter's name was Hawthorn Hills Ministries — but Crum called it "the House of Refuge," a place for troubled youth, battered women and people struggling to make their way in the world. Crum still calls the experience "an eye-opener."
Around 5 p.m. one day, a young man stopped by Crum's office, with a woman and two children in tow. He was there to talk, he said, before going down the street to rob a gas station for money to support his family.
But instead, Crum took the man in, gave him and his family food and a place to stay — and helped him find work.
About a month later, Crum recalls, the man was back. This time, he was asking for another favor.
He said, "I've lived with this woman for six years, and these are my two children. I'd like to honor them with marriage," Crum recalls. "Would you be willing to perform the ceremony?"
"Sure," Crum answered.
The last Crum heard of them, the man and his family were still together. He was working and making a living. "It was the most beautiful time," he says.
Of those days, Crum says, "I quit preaching the gospel, and began living it."
Produced for Morning Edition by Katie Simon with help from Rachel Falcone. The senior producer for StoryCorps is Sarah Kramer.