From trailer park to budget motels, churches take God’s love to the people
Roughly 780 miles away, members of the College church in Searcy, Ark., frequently gather at two low-rent apartment buildings.
Down in Atlanta, volunteers from the Campus church in Norcross, Ga., prefer to meet up outside budget motels with low weekly rates.
All three congregations have their own church buildings, complete with comfortable pews and furnished classrooms. Yet leaders at each say they see great value in taking ministry to the people.
Blacksburg campus minister Seth Terrell encourages students from Virginia Tech University to reach out through the 2-year-old Common Ground trailer park ministry.
Terrell and 20 or so volunteers visit the park three times a week to provide tutoring and leadership activities for younger residents. They also provide groceries and clothing to families in need and offer additional assistance during Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“The kids are our gateway to the families, and we want this to be a family ministry,” Terrell said.
With more than 200 mobile homes in the park, and typically two or three children per family, the opportunities to serve seem endless.
Common Ground volunteer Kerry Strosnider said that need and the church’s response help him stay passionate about sharing his faith.
“This isn’t just a spiritual high for one week out of the year,” he said. “This is keeping us alive for Christ all year long.”
After-school tutoring and mentoring are the focus of the Fortress Learning Ministry in Searcy, as those with ties to the College church and Harding University help children with homework, offer peer counseling and build relationships with children in kindergarten through sixth grade who live in two of the city’s apartment complexes.
The goal of Fortress is to help children develop academically, physically, socially, emotionally and spiritually, directors say.
“This program is … going to where the needs are,” said David Crouch, Harding’s director of public relations.
Richard Denney, a deacon at the College church, serves as principal at a local elementary school and helped identify the areas where church members might best serve, Crouch said.
As with Common Ground, Fortress workers also plan special events for entire families.
When school doesn’t meet during the summer months, Atlanta-area Christians step up their ministry to homeless families living in four hotels paid for by county housing authorities.
While they might have a roof over their head, many lack food. Especially the kid-friendly breakfasts and lunches they receive during the school year.
Project Kids Eat meets this need.
Up to 10 volunteers from the Campus church meet each weekday at a kitchen inside Greater Atlanta Christian Schools to prepare 150 individual bags with a day’s worth of food.
A typical lunch sack includes two slices of hot pizza, a banana, lemonade and milk, a box of cereal, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, snack crackers and Jell-O.
Church members greet the children outside their hotels, handing out the food as well as a few hugs. The program has been so well-received that volunteers from a nearby Methodist church and a community church have observed and plan to begin similar programs to serve homeless children in other hotels.