Craig Berendes and Brian Brooks

Craig Berendes had come to terms with his mortality. He was dying. Any hope of a must-have kidney transplant had waned months earlier.

The 68 year old was at rock bottom.

His only hope was his faith.

Yet, he had come to terms with the fact he would be dead soon.

“I just wanted to go home with the Lord,” he said. “I’m done.”

That faith pushed him to a new church, Unity Christian Fellowship.

“The Lord came to me and said, ‘I have two paths for you,’  and they both will be blessed. So I took the new path and ended up at Unity, where I met Brian.”

Yet, even after exchanging a few pleasantries at church over the next months, Berendes and Brian Brooks hardly knew each other.

Berendes, a handyman who had been too ill to work much of the time, was still just waiting to die. He did odd jobs when he could.

Brian Brooks admits that 20 years ago, he wouldn’t have even considered what he was about to do.

“The thing that came through all of this that – I have come to realize – is I’ve got a God that gave his Son for a guy who needed a heart transplant; that’s who I am.

“I was a selfish, ugly dirt bag most of the first 30 years of my life; everything was about Brian,” he said.

Somewhere along the way, he had a change of heart. Now he’s a deeply religious man.

His life, he realizes now, was redirected by God onto a path he never saw coming.

“God’s timing . . . it was  amazing. In hindsight, I realize now that God put this all together. God’s timing, I wish I would have been .  . .” Berendes said, his words simply trailing off into some deeply philosophical or religious thought.

For the rest of this story, check out the Budget's e-edition or Dec. 25 print edition available now at retailers across Douglas and Converse County.

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