By Shirley Cox
Illustration by Heidi Younger
NAMB missionaries work under three broad categories: career, limited term
and Mission Service Corps (MSC). All categories of service require an
application with specific eligibility criteria depending on the category and
service. All applicants must be NAMB-approved. Visit www.answerthecall.net for specific
Ongoing support for missionaries comes through financial support, including
the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® (AAEO) and the Cooperative Program, and
prayer support from Southern Baptists. MSC missionaries primarily receive their
salary and benefits support through personal resources, from family, friends
and related churches who are ministry partners, or from marketplace employment.
MSC personnel typically serve in areas where traditional funding is unavailable
but where NAMB strategies or state strategies are in place. Go to pages 43-51
to read about this year's Week of Prayer missionaries.
Randy is one of more than 5,000 North American missionaries who are changing
the world by impacting the lives of others with the transforming power of the
gospel. Randy is constantly reminded of the urgency to share the gospel with
his clients. He keeps a litany of names of people who've died on the streets
and how they died: "Jack-brick to head; Rankins-stabbed; Rory-drunk, run over;
Roger-froze to death in a dumpster; Debbie with walker-suicide, OD; another
client-froze under a bridge."
Randy's call to missions started on the streets of New Orleans where he and
his wife, Kelda, handed out sandwiches to the homeless in the early 1990s. He'd
been called out of architecture into ministry a few years earlier but enrolled
at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary a bit "directionless."
"I knew I was being called into ministry but knew I wasn't called to
pastor," he recalls. Then the Bakers heard about the US/C2 program through the,
then, Home Mission Board. The couple was appointed as missionaries and assigned
to Arizona where they served with an inner city church among the marginalized
folk there for two years.
"It was there that God
confirmed that this was the kind of work we were supposed to be a part of," he
Through the gifts of Southern Baptists to the Cooperative Program and Annie
Armstrong Easter Offering®, Randy and Kelda were able to fulfill God's call on
Randy began serving as an intern at Jefferson Street Baptist Center in 1995
while earning a master's degree in social work from The Southern Baptist
Theological Seminary. This was during a time when the center's ministry ranged
from providing children's and youth programs to assisting low-income families
with financial emergencies. Since 1997 the non-profit corporation has "directed
its efforts solely at showing God's unconditional love to homeless people in
tangible ways." The center is staffed 24 hours a day by 13 full- and part-time
employees. During the day shift the center only has three to five people on
duty. "Barely enough to get by," Randy says.
In 2005, the Jefferson Street Baptist Center provided services to 55,812
homeless guests-77 of them accepted Christ through the ministry.
The Day Shelter, open from 7
a.m. to 3 p.m., provides a drug-free safe environment, access to a laundry room
and showers, storage for personal belongings, mail and phone service, and a hot
meal. "We provide basic but vital services that ought to be a right for all
people," Randy says. "We meet physical needs unconditionally. Most of our
guests don't know what agape unconditional love is."
Mary, 42, and Chris, 39, married and homeless, walk four miles every morning
for laundry and showers at the Day Shelter. At night, she and Chris sleep in a
tent set up on private property. Besides four bags in storage at the Day
Shelter, their only possessions are blankets.
Chris is applying for disability. His deteriorating joint disease and other
injuries could cause paralysis if he works. Mary cared for her mother until she
died in 2001. That same year she was raped in her motel room trying to escape
the December cold. A professional counselor is treating her for depression.
Mary carries photos of her three children and a granddaughter. Mary and Chris
have accepted Christ since coming to the center.
Randy's goal is to provide
assistance with employment, housing and health needs. "We want our guests to
become more employable and to gain permanent housing," adds Randy. "We don't
want to make it easy to be homeless, but we want to make it easier for them to
get off the streets. Our desire is to build real and trusting relationships
with those whom we serve so when the opportunity to present the gospel arises,
our guests will be honest with us and with God in their responses."
The center also operates Fresh Start, a transitional housing program for 26
dually diagnosed homeless men. Dually diagnosed means they suffer from severe
mental illness and one or more substance addictions. Residents of the program
are provided a small private room, three meals a day, clothing, recreation and
many support services. "Each resident is engaged in intensive case management
to help ensure their success," Randy says. "This program provides a safe, quiet
place for these men to work on goals in order for them to get back on their
feet." When you are able to get someone off the streets, their world is
The center began operating a permanent supportive housing facility in 2004
for formerly homeless men with a dual diagnosis. This ministry provides 11
efficiency apartments, a community room, laundry facilities and support
services to men who have demonstrated a lasting commitment to maintaining
stability and sobriety. Permanent residents pay rent and a nominal fee for
"These men are able to use services that are easy to access and that meet
their needs, including case management and treatment," says Randy. The average
stay in transitional housing is 9 to 12 months and the average stay in the
permanent housing facility is 17 months.
"The stereotype of a homeless person is a dirty rough alcoholic, but they're
some of the best people I've ever met," says Randy.
In 2005, the Center began a unique partnership with Sojourn Community Church in
Louisville to respond to a variety of needs at the shelter. "Here is an
opportunity to be faithful in your own city," pastor Daniel Montgomery told his
church members. "Our goal is to provide a mercy ministry here, not a disconnect
like a mission trip, but ministry connected with the local church."
Church members worked several months to renovate a vacant apartment on the
top floor of the center for live-in missionaries. After months of prayerful
planning, Randy, Daniel and Jesse Eubanks, a member of Sojourn Community
Church, launched HOPE, a one-year live-in program for four missionaries,
"These men live and serve among the homeless, giving approximately 20-25
hours a week in practical service," says Jesse, volunteer director of HOPE.
"They eat with the residents and work alongside them." Duties assigned to HOPE
missionaries include serving in the Day Shelter, custodial work, coordinating
volunteers, writing grants and speaking to churches. Plans are in place to
increase the number of participants in the program to six.
"Homelessness is a very humbling place to be," says HOPE missionary
Luke Groce who is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in
Louisville. "It's a dangerous, difficult and sad place with very
psychologically adverse effects. These people are jaded and broken.
Homelessness is definitely not a choice for the overwhelming majority. Some of
their choices may have led them here, but that doesn't change their needs. None
of us has it all together, outside of Christ."
Despite the challenges at the Center, HOPE missionaries witness changes in
the residents as they receive help. "The reward is when you see hope arising in
a person's eyes, when you find someone you know is stuck and their need is met
or you see relationships grow and see folks grow in their interest in Christ,"
Randy has great plans for expanding the programs at Jefferson Street Baptist
Center to include job readiness, ESL, GED, literacy, additional Bible studies
and discipleship classes. He's hoping to one day have a fleet of vans to
transport homeless clients to and from work. "Sometimes I'm tempted to worry
about finances, but God reminds me He is the one who provides."
And He does provide using the gifts Southern Baptists give to the
Cooperative Program and the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering®. Southern Baptists
support 80 centers like the Jefferson Street Baptist Center across North
America. The AAEO supports missionaries like Randy who work day-in and day-out
to transform the lives of those who visit their centers. Missionaries like
Randy are called by God to move out of their comfort zones to live as witnesses
for Christ. While one may work with homeless, another works with surfers,
another with Asian Indians and another with migrant workers. God uniquely gifts
each missionary to serve in a particular area and with a specific people group
or population segment.
Of course, the amazing work done by missionaries wouldn't be possible
without the support of Southern Baptists. Through the hands and feet of
missionaries, Southern Baptists are going to all the peoples of North
For more about NAMB missionaries, go to www.namb.net or www.anniearmstrong.com.
*Name changed for security reasons
Shirley Cox is a writer and Mission Service Corps missionary living in
Mount Vernon, Kentucky.
A Southern Baptist Convention entity supported by the Cooperative Program and theAnnie Armstrong Easter Offering® ©Copyright 2013 North American Mission Board, SBC