By Kay Bennett, Director of Baptist Friendship House
As we move through our daily lives encountering different experiences do we realize that God is uniquely equipping us? Every person God created is different. You are the only one with your life experiences, the only one with your fingerprint, the only one who sees through your eyes, the only one with your voice, the only one who hears what you hear, and the only one with your touch.
God made you uniquely you and so His call in your life is just as unique.
A passion for ministry evangelism
As I look at God’s calling in my life, I realize everything I have experienced has led me to where I am right now. Each experience and encounter is like a piece of a puzzle. Each piece leads you on a journey. My journey and calling in life began with a desire to minister to the whole person (ministry evangelism).
We are all made of physical, emotional and spiritual parts, and even though the spiritual part is the most important, to leave one of the other parts out can leave person feeling helpless and hopeless. I feel that building relationships with people and investing in their lives is one of the greatest ways to build God’s Kingdom.
I don’t remember a time when I did not have a calling to help people, but while in college, I got another piece of the puzzle or more direction of where God was leading me.
My bachelor’s degree in counseling required an internship, which I did at a mental health center. While there, I was able to minister to people’s physical and emotional needs, but not to their spiritual needs – and that made me feel limited. I grew up in a Christian home and have always felt it is important to minister to the whole person.
Someone told me that New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary had a master’s degree program in counseling, so I went to the Seminary to check in out. I knew that was where God wanted me. Shortly after beginning seminary, God opened the door for me to minister at Brantley Baptist Center, a shelter for the homeless and a treatment program for people with addictions. My first day there was like everything I had ever wanted to do. I was able to minister to the whole person.
I often tell people I found a home with the homeless.
When I graduated from Seminary, God opened the door for me to stay at Brantley Center as a career missionary. Ten years later, in 1997, God moved me across the French Quarter to direct the ministry at our sister agency, Baptist Friendship House.
Friendship House is a transitional housing program for homeless women with children and a community ministry center. Over the past few years, the number of homeless women with children has increased. Today, families make up one third of the nation’s homeless population.
I love to watch God show up and show out. At Baptist Friendship House, I get to watch people’s lives change for the better. It is evident that only God can take someone who has nothing and take them to a place where they are self-sufficient. Only God can give that help and hope for a person to rise from their circumstances.
For example, not too long ago a homeless lady rang the doorbell at Friendship House and asked to use the restroom (finding a restroom is a real challenge for homeless that many people never think about).
The first thing I noticed about the lady was her t-shirt which had a nasty comment on it. I let her use the restroom, and then when she came out, I offered her a new t-shirt. She thought I wanted her t-shirt and she began looking down at her shirt. She looked back up at me and said, “What does it say?”
The lady could not read.
I was able to give her a new t-shirt from our clothes closet. I was also able to begin teaching her how to read and write. Allowing her to use the restroom gave me an opportunity to give her a t-shirt, which made it possible to teach her to read and write, and through building that relationship, opened the door for me to share Jesus with her. That is ministry evangelism! That is ministering to the whole person. That is my passion and my calling.
A day at Friendship House
There is no typical day at Friendship House. Everyday is different and it is never boring. Our days revolve around families in our transitional housing program and new families coming into our program. The ones in the program get up for breakfast and get their kids out to daycare or school. We then build mom’s skills and have Bible study. She either has a job or goes job hunting. She learns how to save her money. And we help transition her into her own housing.
The day also consists of people coming to our door for emergency food assistance, snack packs, hygiene kits, clothing, diapers, school supplies and other needs. We also teach computer skills, literacy skills, adult basic education and English as a second language to women in our city. We have community Bible study, health education and nutrition classes at the center as well.
People often show up at the door in crisis situations and need someone to counsel with them and pray with them.
We also have big events such as block parties, health fairs, pet fairs and fall festivals. During the summer, we have a preventative program for girls called Up 2 HOPE that encourages girls ages 8 and up to avoid destructive lifestyles and to stay in school.
We want to reach them while they are young, so they will not need us when they are older.
The bigger picture
As I look at my calling and our world today, I become more convinced that ministry evangelism is the greatest way to reach the world for Christ and to share His love. The statistics are staggering:
- Statistics show that the United States ranks 3rd in the world with regard to lostness.
- 500,000 American children under the age of 5 are homeless.
- On any given night, there are 2 million homeless in the United States.
- Every 9 seconds a woman is beaten in the United States.
- One out of five adults in United States cannot read or write.
- One third of our students in the U.S. ages 12 to 18 reports having been bullied in school.
- 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.
- As many as 2.8 million children live on the streets, a third of whom are lured into prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home.
- There is a trafficking victim brought to the U. S. every 10 minutes.
- Today, at least 3,750 persons in the Gulf Coast Region have been identified as potential victims of human trafficking for the purposes of forced labor following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita – 704 cases are in the New Orleans Metro Area alone.
- Louisiana has the most homeless children in America per capita, but every state has homeless children.
This is but a glimpse into the reality of our world and community. But this brief glimpse demonstrates that one of the best ways to make a difference is to use the life that God has given you to invest in other people’s lives through building relationships that bring about positive change.
Let us not cut back on doing ministry evangelism in a time in which our world’s needs have increased, but let us be found faithful following Jesus example in Matthew 25. And may you take part in the way only you can.
You are the only you.
For more information on Baptist Friendship House, go online to http://www.baptistfriendshiphouse.blogspot.com or follow Friendship House on Facebook and Twitter.