Her life was once fuelled by drugs and alcohol.
Pearl Solomon was “at the bottom of a pit” living in a refuge in Hastings with her two-year-old baby Tarnae.
Fast forward five years and Pearl is now a member of the Church, sealed to her family in the temple, and the founder of an organization that feeds homeless people every week.
“The Lord filled a void in my heart,” Pearl said.
“When I found out I had a Heavenly Father, it changed everything. He’s never let me down and that is a comforting thing for me.”
Pearl was only 21 when she first met her now husband Dwayne, a patched gang member, at a party in 2008.
Drugs, alcohol and parties was a way of life for both of them. When they met, they were “broken-hearted” and “messed up”.
Pearl fell pregnant and their son Deejaye was born 15 weeks premature. After just three weeks, Deejaye died.
It was really hard for me,” she said.
“I was battling with my own guilt. My son Tarnae was the only reason I was living because I didn’t want to live.”
Pearl decided she’d had enough of the drugs and alcohol lifestyle. She packed her bags and left with her son Tarnae, finding herself on the streets with no place to go.
“I wasn’t sure how I even got there. But I was there and it was hard and lonely.”
What Pearl didn’t know was Dwayne was also trying to turn his life around.
“Dwayne called me and told me ‘I’m going back to Church’,” she said.
“I didn’t believe him at first. I had no idea he even went to church.”
Dwayne was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but had been less-active for 20 years.
“It wasn’t until he picked me up and took us to the bishop’s house in Hamilton when I realised what was happening. Dwayne quit smoking and he changed.”
Pearl was taught the lessons from the missionaries and within six weeks her and Dwayne were married and Pear was baptized into the church.
Now 29 years old, Pearl lives in Papamoa, Tauranga with Dwayne, and their two sons Tarnae and Nephi. Their three children from Dwayne’s previous relationship also stay with them in the holidays.
“I see now that drinking and drugs was a kind of escape - it was a temporary high, a temporary happiness,” she said.
“I was looking for love, a white picket fence and I wanted children. I never thought I would find that in a former gang member.”
Under The Stars Te Puke was formed after Pearl received a prompting at Church.
“We had been in the gospel a few years and I began to feel weighed down by our financial problems, work was getting hard to find and our bills were piling up each day,” she said.
“I was thinking about our trials and praying to know how we can get help. The bishop then shared a talk on the importance of feeding the Lord’s sheep.
“As I pondered this talk, the Spirit prompted and asked me 'who will feed my sheep?' The question lingered in my mind for weeks. As I looked around my community, I saw the hungry, the poor, the naked and I felt something needed to be done but how?”
Pearl began to pray and ask Heavenly Father for help. She started delivering left-over dinner to the homeless, but knew she had to do more.
After careful prayer and planning, Under The Stars served their first meal to the homeless on 20 September, 2015.
“We have provided a hot meal every Saturday night for the past two years without fail. The Lord has provided a way for us to administer unto his children not only in word but in deed,” she said.
Pearl posts a list of ingredients she needs on the Under The Stars Te Puke Facebook group. Volunteers from the community will then contribute the ingredients or money towards the costs. Although Pearl works full-time, she prepares and cook the meal at her home every Saturday.
“People always ask me how I am able to accomplish this every week while working full-time, attending church and raising a family. I know exactly how I am able to rise to this occasion because I have the Lord at my side.”
“At first I felt inadequate for this calling but I have put away my insecurities because I live unto the Lord and through Him I arise each morning and serve until my heart is content.”
In the end, Pearl said, it’s about loving all of Heavenly Father’s children.
“I just want them (the homeless) to know that someone cares,” she said.
“We as members are Heavenly Fathers hands and feet and I think that’s what Heavenly Father wants me to do- share His love with His children.
For more information, visit the Under The Stars Te Puke Facebook group.