Homeless for three years, Ressurrection Graves vividly remembers the week she slept in her car, waiting for beds to become available at a Washington, D.C., homeless shelter. It was the week of Aug. 23, 2011, when a 5.8 earthquake shook the Virginia area and Hurricane Irene battered the East Coast with wind and rain. “I prayed and was asking God how this could end,” she told TODAY.com. “It was like, ‘Make it stop!’”
When beds finally became available at the shelter, Ressurrection checked in. And there she met Deven Graves, the “kind” man with whom she would leave homelessness behind and start an organization that is helping people caught in a cycle of poverty, including more than 75 homeless individuals so far this year.
“I had this guy staring at me,” Ressurrection recalled of her first encounter with Deven. “It felt like he was looking into my soul. It’s certainly not what you’re expecting in the environment I was in.”
In an interview with TODAY’s Lester Holt on Saturday, Graves added to the story and said she “certainly did not go to a shelter to look for a man,” but the pair had an instant connection that she called “magical.” Deven, a veteran, had a difficult time making the transition from military to civilian life. That and the death of a family member left him feeling “a little bit lost,” Ressurrection said. He was living at the shelter while working construction jobs and looking for something more permanent.
Deven wooed her over a game of chess, and asked if she would edit his resume. As an entrepreneurial-minded mother who owned her own massage business before she fell on hard times, Ressurrection was impressed. But she didn’t want to get serious until they were out of the shelter. It didn’t take long. After a month, Ressurrection and Deven saved up enough money from their jobs to move out. Their first date was “romantic and affordable,” a picnic at a park near the water.
Five months later, Deven proposed. They decided to hold a wedding ceremony on a day of special significance: the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech.
So on Aug. 28, 2013, two years to the date after Ressurrection and Deven played their first game of chess, the couple exchanged vows on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial as they heard President Obama‘s voice echoing across the water during his speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
“I felt nothing but peace and joy,” Deven said. “It was a blessing.”