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Letter: We all should light the way to help homeless
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In May, I had sensed the call of God to go minister to the homeless. At the time, I didn’t know where I was going to minister. I had been diligently seeking a closer walk with the Lord since the summer of 2015. I had also desired to experience more of God’s great love in my own life. As a result of my personal quest to obtain a closer relationship with the Lord, I accepted the challenge and surrendered to go minister.

As I started seeking God’s answer to where I needed to go minister, I kept walking up on and overhearing what seemed like random conversations about the homeless “under the bridge.” I pondered the question, “What bridge?” for a few days then I goggled the words “homeless, Gainesville and bridge” all in one search.

That’s how I found Marie’s picture. I was amazed. I had been seeing this lady walk the streets as I was driving to the school that I taught at for about 2 years. I had been praying for this lady silently in my car each time I saw her. I don’t know why I prayed for her. I just did. I certainly didn’t know she was homeless: without transportation, maybe, but homeless had never entered my mind.

I went to the bridge. I started to work. I was shocked. Our neighbors under the bridge were dehydrated, dusty (like unpolished furniture) and dying. That’s what I saw that day.

Later, I told everyone that would listen to me about the homeless. That’s when the pastor at Sabbath Chapel and his wife joined my efforts. We went almost every Sunday morning to take breakfast, share scripture, songs, praise, prayer, encouragement, fresh water and trash-hauling service. We grew to love the people. They became our family. The pastor baptized Mitchell at Lake Lanier.

Our ministry ended when Gainesville city officials decided this month to clear the encampment under the bridge. Looking back, I thought about how I had used the words referring to the bridge as becoming a “lighthouse.” Doesn’t a lighthouse shine the light to a safe passage home?

If indeed it does, then the lights have been turned on for a community to help the homeless return safely home. A productive and safe passage back into a community that values the lives of others is being made for the homeless that will leave their past hurts behind and move forward into a better way of life.

Missions are reaching out. Individuals are reaching out. Sure the journey is long and endurance is put to the test. But lives matter. One rebuilt life can be a powerful asset to our community. One life can have a domino effect and spur others to rise to the occasion.

This is a call to the church. To aid the homeless back into production in the county does not require increased tax revenue. It requires increased compassion and helping hands. We can’t buy a poor person out of poverty but we can help them learn lifelong skills that will empower them to become productive individuals. We can light the way.

Paula Williams
Gainesville

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