A full three hours before time for church Billy Spaulding’s phone rings and when he answers a teen’s voice asks expectantly “When will you be here to get me?” This story is repeated each Sunday morning and night as children in Bayou La Batre anticipate going to the Hemley Road church of Christ where waiting for them is warm embraces, smiles, food, and unconditional love. Billy recently told me they could have 200 perhaps each time the doors are open if they had the means to round them all up and then to care for them when they arrived.
Recently when well over a dozen of the children who are regular attenders at HR were to graduate from the eighth grade, again the phones rang and rang, and Billy Spaulding and Daphne German assured each excited caller, “Yes, of course we will be there to see you graduate”. Unfortunately, most of the parents of these kids couldn’t, (or wouldn’t) make it to the school.
On Sunday morning the first two pews are packed with bright, eager faces of teens and pre-teens, anxious to sing loudly the praise songs they have been taught, and to praise the God they are getting to know. Just a few adults and one young summer intern are there to help these kids find their way in the world, and hopefully in God’s kingdom. With very, very limited resources, the folks at Hemley Road church in Bayou La Batre have accomplised the impossible again and again but are stretched to the limit. They need other adults to come along side them, they need money for food, (the kids are seriously hungry when they come), and they need emotional/moral support. “When will you be there?”
In a communtiy where poverty is the norm, where adult illiteracy is very high, where substance abuse is also normitave, a small group of believers are loving the people, repairing homes, feeding the hungry, and making a quiet impact on their communtiy for time and eternity. Against impossible odds they have acheived so very much, but the work ahead is enormous. “When will you be there”?
If you personally, or your church or civic group, want to reach out in a meaningful way to the poor, the broken, the truely needy, please consider a generous gift, or even better perhaps, go there and see for yourself how you can make a difference.
“When will you be here?” What will you answer?