The wife and mom whose story inspired the new faith-based movie 5000 Blankets says she wants the film to inspire Christians worldwide to "get out of the church" and live "like Jesus."
Two decades ago, Cyndi Bunch and her young son began collecting blankets for the homeless community of Fort Worth, Texas, after her husband – who suffers from mental illness – went missing on the city's streets.
Their random act of kindness caught the attention of local media and helped launch a homeless charity, Phillip's Wish. It also caught the eye of a screenwriter who wanted to turn their story into a movie.
That film, 5000 Blankets, is now streaming on Pure Flix. Actress Anna Camp (Jerry & Marge Go Large, Pitch Perfect) portrays Bunch.
"My husband suffers from paranoid schizophrenia," Bunch told Christian Headlines. "... [He] was a construction engineer working in downtown Fort Worth – an extremely intelligent man. But when you have a mental illness, you have to stay on medications. If you don't stay on those medications, you start to spiral out of control, which was what took place. He got off his meds. And he just started disappearing. And at the time, he was working in Fort Worth in a big building in downtown Fort Worth."
Bunch and her son Phillip, then 5, searched for her husband on the city's streets and discovered that a homeless district was located just two blocks from her husband's place of work.
"Phillip had never seen anything like that before in his life," she said. "He was just a young kid. … You could see the empathy in his eyes."
One night, she was tucking Phillip into bed when he asked, "Mommy, what about all those other people that are sitting on the streets and sleeping in those tents – are they warm?"
She answered honestly: They may be cold.
"And he said, 'We need to get blankets [for them].'"
At the time, Bunch was "dead broke" and working two jobs. Still, she felt convicted by God to take action. Her goal: collect blankets for the homeless community.
"God whispered to me – he whispered to me through a child," she told Christian Headlines. "... And so I typed up a three page-letter telling our story and what I wanted to accomplish. And I literally made 500 copies."
She handed out the flyers on the streets of Fort Worth. One of them landed in the hands of a local television journalist who invited her to the studio to tell her story.
Bunch also was impacted by Rick Warren's bestseller, The Purpose Driven Life.
"I came to a certain page where it says: You'll find your greatest action through your greatest pain.
"And that's when I said, 'I'm all in God – just use me,'" Bunch said.
The movie's message, she said, is simple: Love your neighbor.
"It's time to get out of the church and start walking and living like Jesus," she said. "... I want [viewers] to take this into their own communities and get out there. Because government can't do everything. Government can't fix everything. … It's up to us to get out there and make a difference …. in loving the way God wants us to love."
Photo courtesy: ©Affirm, used with permission.
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.