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Apr 24 2012

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Church in the shade reaches the homeless and down-trodden

Most of us enjoy a picnic in the shade. We look upon it as an enjoyable outing to be savored, but others have no choice–they are homeless. Shade Tree Ministry’s Clay Perkins prayed for the Lord’s will on how to help and witness to the city’s darkest side. Every time he took his words of faith to the less fortunate he had perfect weather, and shade was a blessing for his congregation. The Easter “sunrise” service started at 11:00 a.m. because this is the time his target parishioners can easiest attend. He meets them where and when is best for them, and he is not the only one.

He had such helpers as Dr. August Wallace from Texas State Optical and his wife Hellen, who is part of Mobberly Baptist’s Carroll Sunday School Class. There are additional workers from various churches.

“Do not talk about churches here,” said Perkins. “It is not about denominations. It is about Christ. It is about relationship with him. Jesus Christ and your fellow human beings.”

Perkins’ stated purpose is simply to reach people for the gospel, just as Jesus Christ charged his followers to “go forth and share the Word among all nations.” The ministry feeds its congregation physically and spiritually. In the spirit of “faith without works is dead,” Shade Tree sees to various needs, and has grown from an attendance of 25 to 350.

Two members, Ron Mercer and Paco Castillo, started out as homeless gentlemen who attended and received many blessings. Apart from food, they receive a break from the monotony of a homeless existence, and words of encouragement from a new church family.

“No one chooses to be homeless,” said Mercer. “Things just happen.”

He lost his job and was forced into retirement.

“My bills piled up and up, and that was the end because I could never catch up,” he said.

Still, the 71-year-old Mercer refuses to give up hope. He expects his situation to improve, and does not want to appeal to his children and grandchildren.

“They have their lives to live, and I do not want to be a burden,” he said.

His friend Castillo was crippled by a hit-and-run driver. He hopes to qualify for disability so he and Mercer can rent an apartment. He had not eaten for several days before attending the Shade Tree service. He looks for what he received there to sustain him for several more days.

“We do not worry about not having food to eat,” he said. “We get by one day at a time.”

Castillo  does receive social security, but it is not enough to get him off the streets.

“Heck, it is a hard life to live on the streets, now I know,” he said. “I did not think that it would happen to me.”

They sat in the shade and were told that even in this dire situation God has not forgotten them. They prayed for themselves and others, and listened to testimonies. Then everybody sat down to a served hamburger meal. The participating churches next handed out 75 bags of ladies’ toiletries and undergarments, and another 75 bags of such items for men. Amen.

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