MEET KALI RUNIONS: she went willing, spent her summer serving, and learned the important of drawing near to Him.
How did you get connected with the Baptist Friendship House?
I heard about the mission trip through the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. They were offering college students the opportunity to serve during the summer at the Baptist Collegiate Ministry in Martin, Tennessee. I went to an orientation weekend to decide where I would spend my summer. I was chosen to attend Baptist Friendship House in New Orleans, Louisiana.
While serving you worked to meet three kinds of needs. Can you share a little more about this?
The Baptist Friendship House (BFH) meets three needs through serving the community. The first need BFH meets is the physical need. One way the physical need is met by distributing snack packs, which includes non-perishable. Emergency food bags are also available to families in need. BFH also provides clothing to men and women who live on the streets. Dress clothes are saved for people who come in and tell the workers they have a job interview. Scrubs are reserved for sex trafficking victims. Shelter is provided for sex trafficking victims who are trying to escape from their situation. Shelter is also provided to mothers who are in the process of getting a job. Hygiene products are put together in a bag for both males and females. Showers are provided once a week to women. After a woman takes a shower, she is allowed to choose an outfit to stay clean.
The second need met by BFH is emotional needs. Emotional needs are met by support, counseling, and helping individuals increase their self-esteem and self-confidence. The emotional need is met by meeting one-on-one or group meetings. The group meeting starts with breakfast so everyone can focus on their emotions. Next, the meeting starts with the lesson provided on how emotions can affect us, how to deal with them, and how to apply it to their lives. The final step is doing an activity with them to get a connection on a personal level so the trust starts to build.
The last need BFH meets is intellectual needs. Intellectual needs are met by literacy training, GED preparation, job readiness, and helping individuals gain the necessary life skills to better themselves. This goal is used to help women prepare for the next step in their life. I helped move a lady into her new apartment due to the GED preparation. She found a job after completing the course and was able to afford her new place.
While serving there you took part in the backpacking event. Details on this?
The big event I participated in while in NOLA was the Backpack Packing Event and the Back to School Bash this summer. BFH packed 6,000 backpacks for homeless, trafficking survivors, and children. Some of the items that were included in the backpacks included school supplies, hygiene items, and socks for both men and women. The way BFH makes events possible for the community is by people donating, praying, or giving. People often think events are easy to plan, but often people forget about the hard work put into planning, counting, sorting, and organizing. While in New Orleans, I counted multiple items that went into each backpack to be given out to the people.
What does a weekly schedule look like at Baptist Friendship House?
Monday was a day to prepare for weekly activities. Tuesdays are the busiest day of the week due to three events happening throughout the day. The events include teaching the GED preparation class, giving out snack packs and hygiene packs, and letting ladies take showers. Wednesday includes breakfast before group counseling for emotional support. Thursday was used for Bible Study, followed by a meal. After everyone finished eating on Thursday, it was time to distribute donations to the women. Friday was the debriefing day to review everything that had happened during the week. The unscheduled hours were filled with separating donations for Thursday and counting the items for the Backpack Packing Event and the Back to School Event.
How did serving change you long-term?
The way I look at the homeless and sex trafficking victims has changed drastically. These people are just like you and me trying to survive day-to-day. The people just want to be seen as another person instead of someone different. The way I love people has changed due to the amount of love the people struggling in NOLA gave me. My eyes have been opened to the sex trafficking ring. Sex trafficking is not just happening overseas. It is happening in your neighborhood.
The things we need only a daily basis are often seen as a luxury item to the people I served while at Baptist Friendship House. My relationship with the Lord grew while serving two months in New Orleans, Louisiana. I studied the Bible every day because I need the Lord’s help regularly to serve. I have a better understanding of why it is important to stay in the Bible and study daily.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to serve but is intimidated?
I went to a place I had never traveled, but I had faith God would keep me safe. The fear of serving is just human nature doubting your self-worth. Matthew 11:28-30 says: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” You are never going to feel like you are 100% ready to serve anywhere you go, but be willing to let God move in you. The most important thing to remember is to lean on God in these times, stay in the Bible, and God will provide the opportunities.