By Caleb Mynatt
As a very well-known faith-based charitable organization in North Carolina, Welcome House has had a tremendous impact on hundreds of people. Now, with expansion in sight, they’re calling on local communities and congregations to help them impact thousands.
Founded by Kim and Marc Wyatt, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship field personnel in Raleigh, Welcome House has become known around North Carolina because of its results. Originally created to assist refugees and immigrants who had recently migrated to the United States, what was a small operation in Raleigh expanded to eight houses around the state. Now, as the flow of refugees and migrants into the United States has slowed, Welcome House is looking to broaden its reach.
“In March, we had a lot of local churches and partners ask about the future of Welcome House,” said Marc Wyatt. “What about other vulnerable people that live in our communities?”
As a result, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina (CBFNC) voted to make Welcome House Community Network their mission program with the hopes of expanding the ministry all over the state of North Carolina. The idea, according to Marc, is for every church and community within the state to consider housing assistance a part of their Christian hospitality ministry for the vulnerable in their respective communities.
“This is now about providing housing so that people aren’t homeless,” said Marc. “The scope of Welcome House as a ministry is now widely open.”
Part of the decision to expand the ministry, even amidst a global pandemic, was because of the housing ministries already active in CBF churches around the state. In the case of First Baptist Church in Black Mountain, it’s providing housing for single moms and children in their community. At First Baptist Church in Gastonia, there was a similar housing project that ministered to singe moms. In Conetoe, CBF field personnel Anna and LaCount Anderson are renovating a trailer into a Welcome House for their community.
“We are seeing that there are churches already involved in their communities in this way,” said Marc. “There were communities doing things that fit perfectly into the Welcome House model that we simply didn’t know about. We’re seeing this network expand—really just because we’re sparking ideas.”
This was an initiative at the leadership level that has been over eight years in the making. Even though the Wyatts were originally slated to be in California to pursue creation of the Welcome House ministry, a last-minute change meant their being assigned to North Carolina instead. Since then, they have worked very closely with local CBF churches as well as CBFNC to accomplish their goals. With the ministry already expanding, the CBFNC decided that they wanted to help propel the expansion.
“As a natural outgrowth of the Wyatts being with us, we decided it was time to take this to the next level,” said Larry Hovis, executive coordinator of CBFNC. “Let’s not make this a niche ministry—let’s make this a core to our identity and our mission work in North Carolina and beyond.”
For Hovis, the expansion of the Welcome House ministry is not only a way to help vulnerable people around the state, but also a way that churches around can grow their congregations. After spending part of his 2012 sabbatical in Canada, where Hovis had first met the Wyatts and experienced their ministry firsthand, he noticed something: The churches in Canada were not too different from the ones in North Carolina. There were plenty of churches with old, monolithic congregations, along with a few that were much more diverse. It was then he realized, especially in the case of continued church growth, that diversity is very much a strength.
“Churches that had to learn to actually embrace their diverse communities and welcome refugees, immigrants and newcomers had been able to find new life, growth and vitality,” said Hovis. “I realized that we needed that sort of outreach in North Carolina. I prayed that the Lord would send someone like the Wyatts to help us accomplish that goal, and God did just that.”
Although the ministry may be broadening its scope, the Wyatts plan to continue their focus on refugees and immigrants in their own individual work in Raleigh. However, they are excited about the opportunities this expansion means and the additional needs which the Welcome House ministry will be able to address.
“What excites me about this additional mandate is that we are calling the church to look and see who their vulnerable population is and figure out how we, as the body of Christ in that area, can assist folks with making and finding a home,” said Kim Wyatt. “We all know that everyone needs a home.”