Matthew 25:35-36 (ESV) For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
Things can only get better, right? Wrong!
Right away we began looking for a new facility that could meet our needs and the vision God had given us only to find one closed door after another. Wilmington can be a very expensive place to live and operate any ministry or business. I should also say that some local officials aren’t very helpful especially when it involves churches or Christian ministries. To make matters worse, a local pastor and his leadership wanted to sell their church building in order to move to a new location. His congregation was about twice as large and needed more space. After talking several times he encouraged us to give our notice to vacate our present building and prepare to buy their church facilities. Everything seemed to be working out for both congregations until this pastor and his elders changed their minds. It was too late for us, and we were without a building altogether. We now had thirty days to find a new building from which to operate, or we would be homeless so to speak.
God is rarely early but He is always on time!
So what did we do? First we rented a warehouse in order to store many of our materials and to have an office to work from during the week. Second we changed our worship times because of an unexpected opportunity. Another local pastor offered us the uses of his facilities on Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings which turned out to be a blessing for both churches. To be frank with you, this was no easy feat. Even though the majority of our congregation is very loving they are like most others who are fond of Church traditions. I was asking them to do something that was out of the norm, and they never let me down. As a pastor I can truthfully say I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to shepherd. I was proud of them for exercising their faith and not giving up where others had by seeking “greener pastures”.
Here is where the story really gets good!
I knew God had something greater for us as a congregation, and I just needed to be ready when He revealed His will. After several days of deep prayer and witnessing a need in our community, as well as in our congregation, I knew what we were to do from a ministry standpoint. One of our members was an evangelist named Chris Rollings. Reverend Chris operates an evangelistic ministry called Calvary Praise Ministry and is a frequent speaker in jails and prisons throughout South Carolina. Chris’ style of preaching is probably identified best as “in your face” preaching and for good reason. He personally knows what it takes to win a convict to Christ. His personal story is worth hearing time and time again.
I incorporated Chris’ help for a new ministry because I thought he was the perfect fit. With our services moved to Sunday afternoons we now had a great opportunity to reach out to the un-churched community. Chris and I headed out one Sunday morning to investigate the plausibility of a new ministry at Greenfield Park in downtown Wilmington. This was the area where a large number of homeless people lived or spent the majority of their time. We began talking to these folks trying to get a feel for who they were and why many had chosen to live this lifestyle. That’s right many of these individuals CHOOSE to be homeless. Some are ex-convicts, drug addicts, prostitutes, runaways, mentally ill, and saddest of all veterans with no place to call home.
The next week we began holding Sunday morning services in the park. Our mission was to feed these individuals both physically and spiritually. We began building relationships with these folks hoping they would trust us enough to one day help them move beyond their present circumstances. They would have to have the desire to do so because that was the one thing we couldn’t provide.
Each week members of our church would put together bags of food and other personal care items for the homeless as we worshiped together in the park. Slowly and steadily folks would come out of the woods to worship with us, and afterwards members would sit and talk with these individuals that others often shunned. The Wilmington police loved having us in the park and were a great help until city officials became involved and wanted to move the homeless out of the area. We understood their concerns about families not feeling comfortable, but it didn’t change the fact these people were still going to gather somewhere. The homeless were still going to be hungry and in need of spiritual care.
At last count the city of Wilmington has more than 2,000 people considered to be homeless, and while a large number choose this lifestyle others do not. To make a long story short Chris has become the pastor to many of these people through what is now known as the Wilmington Homeless Ministry. Chris, Steve Lambros, a deacon at Myrtle Grove Baptist Church, and Glenda Dodge, a lay member also from MGBC, continue to run this ministry each week out of the VFW on Carolina Beach Road in Wilmington. They average 50 people in their Sunday morning service each week, still reaching a group of undesirables that need to know Christ as Savior.
Space just doesn’t permit me to tell you all the stories behind these folks. I can tell you that we have lost several by murder and exposure to the elements. I can tell you that there is a young woman trapped in prostitution and is constantly under the threat of harm if she tries to leave, and this ministry provides her with a sense of hope. I can tell you many have come to know Christ and have made profound changes in their lives. I can also tell you there is still much work to do and others continue to struggle with addictions, daily threats, and extreme poverty. And with all that said Chris Rollings is still the best one to reach them.
I thank God for Chris and his team of two. If you’re thankful for these ministers of grace let me ask you to do something for them.
- Pray for them and the people they serve.
- If you live in Wilmington consider helping them on Sunday morning. Set one Sunday aside and join them for worship. Sit with these folks and just talk to them, offer prayers, and maybe open the Word and take them step by step through the Scriptures and show them how to be saved.
- Send Chris and his team a word of encouragement. If you’d like to send them an email free feel to send it to me on my contact page, and I will forward it to them.
- You can help them financially. You can send a check to:
Calvary Praise Ministry
476 Vallie Lane
Wilmington, NC 28412
Myrtle Grove Baptist Church
(Wilmington Homeless Ministry)
5524 Myrtle Grove Road
Wilmington, NC 28409