Buckner & Broadway cooperate
to help Fort Worth families
___By Russ Dilday
___Buckner News Service
___FORT WORTH--JoAnn Tucker had moved to Fort Worth from California in the hope
of making a better life for herself. Instead, she recalled, "I got into a homeless situation and wound up living in an abandoned building off Hemphill and Vickery."
|A SMALL VISITOR leaves with a new backpack filled with clothing--and a few sweet treats. Her mother was able to take home much-needed clothing and food from the center. (Photos by Russ Dilday/Buckner)
___Destitute, hopeless and homeless, Tucker's thoughts moved from making a better living to survival. Casting about for options, she turned to Broadway Baptist Church's Baptist Center, a social care ministry in partnership with Buckner Children and Family Services of North Texas. Buckner is a social ministry agency supported by the Baptist General Convention of Texas.
___"I came over here because I knew they served lunches every day and I could get some clothes," she said. "I would come to the Agape Meals on Thursdays."
___Among its services, the Baptist Center helps feed and clothe many of Fort Worth's homeless and impoverished families. The ministry's food pantry gives out sack lunches to the homeless and to day laborers with limited lunch options, and its adult and children's clothing ministries distribute thousands of work and school clothes, blankets and shoes and socks each year to community residents.
___But the Baptist Center doesn't just dish out food and clothing to the needy. It also gives away healthy portions of love and the message of good news through relational ministries to area teenagers and children.
___"The Baptist Center's ministry is twofold," explained coordinator Sheri Ferguson of Buckner. "You're meeting the physical need of the people coming to the Baptist Center and surrounding the church, and you're seeking to make the spiritual connection."
___Ferguson, who provides leadership and assistance for the clothing closets, food pantry, financial crisis assistance and other ministries, said many of the center's ministries or events point to Christ. "On Thursday nights, we have the Agape Meal where we feed 250 homeless people or low-income families. We do a worship service, and we have seen several come to Christ."
___It was during one of those meals that JoAnn Tucker's life took a turn for the better. During the program that accompanied the meal, "I got tired of the way I was living," she said.
___"I was living in an abandoned building with pigeons. I poured my heart out to God while I was here. In a week, God started opening doors."
___Although her road to recovery from homelessness was long and God's doors opened slowly, Baptist Center staff and church volunteers and counselors helped her to independence. She recently passed her trucking school examinations and has accepted a job with an Arkansas transport company.
___"JoAnn had very basic needs, plus vocational training that had to be met, but I'm convinced that just as important was the nurture and caring support a community of faith provided that has led to her progress," said Scott Waller, who serves as director of
community ministries for the Baptist Center.
|AT BROADWAY BAPTIST CHURCH, volunteers (above) separate and stock adult and children's clothing.
___Touching lives such as Tucker's is what brought Buckner and Broadway together in the collaborative ministry that began more than a year ago.
___Broadway was known as a leading social ministry in the area but needed help in directing and coordinating its social work and scores of volunteers. Buckner was known for its social care ministries and developing new ways for the Christian community to help its neighbors. The church and the social ministry agency forged a partnership that calls for Buckner to assist with directing and coordinating the daily operation of the center's ministries and Broadway to provide facilities and volunteers.
___The needs are best illustrated by the numbers of neighbors the center services.
___During a recent 12-month period, 1,803 adults received more than 15,000 articles of clothing. About 1,354 children received clothing assistance. Almost 1,700 hygiene kits were distributed. The food pantry helped 1,087 households, served about 9,600 through the Agape Meals and gave out more than 16,000 sack lunches.
___Waller, who has served as Buckner's community ministries director two years, said the church is determined not to ignore the needs that exist within the shadow of its steeple.
___"Some churches have a credibility problem," he explained. "People don't take us seriously anymore because our actions don't match what we say. Broadway realized they could not accomplish the Great Commission without addressing the Great Commandment--loving our neighbors as ourselves."
___And "neighbors" is the term used by Baptist Center volunteers when they refer to the center's clients. These neighbors are primarily "single moms with one to four children, or single homeless men or women with children, many of them day laborers," Waller said.
___"We try to be distinctive from what they would experience in secular non-profit social service agencies," he said. "We call them by their name, which is an empowering, valuable, affirming thing."
___Affirmation is high on the center's priority list, he said. "One of the things that's worse than being homeless is to be hopeless. The last I checked, the church, not an agency or para-church group, is the body of Christ. Therefore, its laity has a definite role of communicating the love of Christ."
___Even with the Buckner partnership, the members of Broadway remain the heart of compassion and the hands of care for the ministry.
___Although Jerry Mueller jokes that he began working in the ministry nine years ago "because my wife volunteered me," he has his own reasons for continuing to volunteer. "It's Matthew 25:42-43. 'If you do this to the least of these, my brethren, you're doing it to me,'" he said. "That's the reason I'm here."
___That message recently came home to Waller as he was serving one of the Agape Meal guests in a communion line. "I turned around, and I expected to see the next person come forward. Instead of him stepping aside, he stayed there and kind of gave me a deep stare. He held out his arms and asked, 'Can I have a hug?'
___"That reminded me that, yeah, we are here in terms of the physical and address the real pressing, basic needs of our neighbors who come," he said. "But in that process there are a multitude of their needs that are being met in terms of the social and emotional needs of people feeling isolated and without hope.
___"As I hugged this man, I realized what many of our volunteers have experienced: I was embracing Jesus."
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