Church and State for the Homeless
The woman soaked up the financial counseling and parental guidance. Six months came and went. The woman asked to keep meeting. Five years later, they still do. The woman recently bought her first home. She expresses interest in their faith, Long says, and they have found a church that she hopes she will try soon. "We've helped her, but boy, we've learned a lot," Long says. "She's certainly enriched our lives."
For pastors, FSHI presents an ongoing way to empower everyday Christians to put their faith in action, says Tom Melton, senior pastor of Greenwood Community. "The mentors often say they are the ones who are blessed," Melton says. "In that atmosphere, the Lord has unique ways of working."
Looking back over the past six years, Kimberly Banks has seen enormous change in her own life. She was skeptical before meeting her FSHI mentors. "I was very proud as a black woman. I wanted to do it myself and not get anyone's help," she says.
But her boys told her it was worth a try. Banks says that by the end of their first meeting at a McDonald's restaurant, "I couldn't hold back the tears. People just wanted to help us. Not for any reason, but just to help."
Banks, 43, spent years working in the food service and hospitality industries. When she filed a sexual harassment claim against a co-worker, she was let go a few months later. The mentoring program helped her begin anew. The men from the mentoring team took her boys on fishing trips and to Air Force football games, while the women counseled and encouraged her as she pieced her life back together. She still calls them her "moms."
By 2008, she says, she started to reawaken spiritually. Now she and the boys are active in Prince of Peace Church of God in Christ in Aurora, Colorado. She's pursuing studies that will help her go into ministry, and she regularly counsels women and families living at the Crossing, the Denver Rescue Mission's transitional housing community.
"Now that I look back, I can say, 'God, you were working on me the whole time. I'm not ashamed to tell people I was homeless. It's going to bring somebody else up,'?" Banks says. "The glory of God has to be put out there."
Matt Branaugh is director of editorial for Christianity Today's Church Law & Tax Group.