Our small congregation has a decades-long history of meeting the physical needs of poor, homeless and struggling people. We believe it is a vital part of the gospel ministry that Christ set before us:
1 John 3:17 – “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?”
We are told to see Christ himself in the faces of those in need:
Matthew 25:35-40 – “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, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.. … as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
The Bible is filled with hundreds of exhortations to “open wide your hand to the poor.”
Over the years we have adapted our approach to both the kinds of needs we encounter and to the resources we have to draw on and to offer.
The Dallas Project
Members had already taken several homeless people into their homes in 1987 when the congregation (then under the umbrella of Trinity Foundation) launched The Dallas Project. That project tried to persuade more churches, synagogues, mosques and other organizations to get at least 10-20 members to commit to taking those in need off the streets and receiving them into their own homes if possible, doing whatever is necessary to help them turn their lives around.
Instead of the jargon and BUREAUCRACY
of the urban social service
we try to give needy people what they need most–
Our elder Ole Anthony felt that if every church, synagogue, mosque and temple in America were to take in just one homeless person or family, homelessness in America could be eradicated overnight.
The philosophy we started with is still valid today – interaction is human – not programmatic. What people need is community, not jargon and bureaucracy. We draw them into a caring community, which is what they desperately need both psychologically and spiritually. We become advocates and, more importantly, friends.
Transitional Housing Ministry
Because of a dearth in low-income housing in Dallas, we recently began a transitional housing ministry for families. After purchasing two condos near our location, we prepared them for families to move in and live for a time until they can get on their feet and acquire permanent housing. (We also support several families and individuals long-term in other church-owned apartments).
Over time we’ve found that a reciprocal commitment from residents helps the process. Their dignity is preserved when they invest something, usually a small rent payment or a regular contribution to a savings account that can be used later as a deposit on a permanent place.
Interest-Free Loan Ministry
In 2018 we began a ministry to provide zero-interest loans for people who were being ripped-off by “payday” loan companies, unscrupulous auto dealers, local loan sharks and other scams. Recipients are expected to pay back the money, but without added interest. As an example, members of our congregation have put up several thousand dollars to help one woman with four children to buy a reliable car that can get her back and forth to work.
‘The Lair’ Community Restaurant
For decades our community restaurant has provided food throughout the week for residents, staff, neighbors and anyone who drops by. We often distribute supplies from our cooler to families that need groceries.
Our Meet Need Committee regularly dispenses funds for people in emergency situations – to help pay rent, bills or provide diapers and other essentials.
For more information about how we go about providing these ministries, or how to start similar projects at your church, you can email John Rutledge, firstname.lastname@example.org.