As we have completed our third year of our new ministry to Northeastern North Carolina, our network has seen some changes. 2012 was the year of growing a ministry to women and children. We added to our staff Mrs. Leah Reed, a graduate of Campbell Divinity School, who has brought passion and creativity to the Eastern NC Poverty Network. Under her leadership we began Christian Woman’s Job Corps. of Roanoke Rapids and have spent this year developing the program to meet the needs of those in the Roanoke Valley of North Carolina. We had great success in starting a support group for women called The Well. Women from various income spectrums attended this weekly group designed for support and Bible study. The Well participants enjoyed a dinner prepared by residents in the men’s homeless recovery program at Union Mission and was hosted at Rosemary Baptist Church’s facilities. Presently The Well meets on a semester time frame and will begin another semester in January, 2013.
Homelessness is not only an urban problem. In rural eastern NC the problem exists in small towns and villages covering 16 counties and a population of approximately 350,000 people. We have discovered that of this population some 25% of children are poor. Families are unable to provide for themselves due to the low number of jobs in the region. 25% of the children don’t receive nutritious meals on a regular basis. That is a staggering statistic to me and represents our second goal for 2012.
I met Alexander in the food line that stretched out the door of Union Mission and down the street. We began to see more and more people coming for food each month, and then as time progressed we began to see a large number of people weekly, and then finally, daily. The number of requests for food became a burden to our small staff; those standing in line each day would be tired, angry, and hostile as they finally moved their way up through the food line. Alexander was with his mother that day and it hurt my heart to see this little boy standing in a food line where the temperatures were extreme, and friends and neighbors could view him and the others who would do most anything to get a box of food.
We decided to organize our food distribution efforts this year. Beginning in February we divided all of our food recipients into Food Co-ops. Twice per month 6 Co-ops meet for fellowship, education, and the receiving of a food box. People enter the building as members, rather than beggars on the street. They pay a $2.00 membership fee to belong to the Food Co-op and enjoy the company of their Co-op friends as they drink coffee, eat pastry, and assist one another in assembling their own food boxes. The Food Co-op gives dignity to the food distribution process and we are grateful to our friends at the Georgia Ave. Community Ministry in Atlanta, Ga. for sharing the idea with us. This coming year the need will be great in northeastern NC, and we now have the opportunity to more personally become involved in the lives of the citizens of the Roanoke Valley.
Anna and I believe that ministry to those in poverty is more than giving out a can of food or paying a water bill for someone. Many times that can actually be counterproductive to the person in need. It helps for that day and that hour, but what about tomorrow and the next day, and the day after that? We are investing our lives in people and want to develop relationships with individuals, to discover why they find themselves in the situation of poverty. We want to help those who want to help themselves to break the cycle of poverty they have become entrapped. We need the help of our CBF family and welcome your partnership. We serve as self-funded Global Field Personnel and are charged with the responsibility of raising our own funds to carry out this ministry. If you would like to partner with us we invite you to go to our web site to learn how you can become involved : www.morethancans.org .
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