Brian Bisbee can remember, clearly, two moments that led him to where he is right now — the new director of New Hope Shelter Inc.
The first was watching a movie at his daughter’s home in Indiana.
"I wondered why I was tearing up," Bisbee said. "There were tears rolling down my cheeks and the Lord said to me, ’Hey, I want you back working with the poor.’ So I came out of retirement."
He was watching the 1979 film "Jesus."
The second prompting was a conversation with his wife.
She looked at the job and shelter descriptions of New Hope Shelter of Newton and another position Bisbee had applied for in Michigan and offered sage advice.
"What they are describing is what you do. That description has your name on it," Bisbee said. "I looked at it, and said yes. I shifted my emphasis. ... They were looking for someone with my set of gifts and skills."
He was retired, living in Anderson, Ind., where he concentrated on being a father and grandfather.
He thought he was happy, and he thought he was ready to no longer work.
"I never thought I would get into homeless shelter administration again," Bisbee said. "The Lord had other plans."
Experienced in shelter management, he started the job as director at New Hope Shelter in June — living for the first month in a storage area at the shelter as his wife packed their belongings to move to Newton.
He saw first-hand how the staff operated and how New Hope was the right fit for him.
"One of the things I find exciting are days like today," Bisbee said, as a resident walked out the door for the day. "Before he came here he had been living under a bridge for three months. He’s going to his second day of work. I like to see people get back to work and be productive, get their lives back on track and get into places of their own and be productive again. ... There is nothing like restored hope."
Before moving to Indiana, he had retired in 2016 after 13 years of being director of a homeless shelter in Carthage, Mo.
Carthage, a city of 14,746 as of July 2019 census data, hosts the Carthage Crisis Center — a homeless shelter that focuses on plugging residents into the church community of Carthage and Celebrate Recovery programs.
"He made significant growth with the program there," said Victoria Adamé, president of the board of New Hope Shelter in Newton. "We have been very pleased with his work already."
This is a smaller shelter than that one, but it is much more organized, Bisbee said.
"We have good staff. I was able to walk in and have a good, smooth running operation in the middle of COVID. That brings its own set of difficulties," Bisbee said.
A combination of a roof leak, needed renovations to some bedrooms and COVID-19 restrictions has cut the capacity of the shelter dramatically. Currently there is space for about 14 people, while normally the shelter can hold about 30.
Right now, new residents can only live one per room and must quarantine for 14 days as a COVID-19 precaution. There are mask protocols, and time out in public is limited. The family bedrooms are closed, pending repair and renovation after water leaks damaged ceilings.
Those challenges, however, are not getting Bisbee down.
"I am excited about life. I am excited about functioning in this capacity and what I bring to the table. I love to be in relationship with people," Bisbee said.