It was never his plan, never his desire, but for six years Ellis Johnson called the streets of Austin home.
“Six years on the street humbled me a lot,” Johnson said in a telephone interview from his new home in Austin.
Johnson, like many of his peers living on the street, made bad choices, burned bridges and alienated anyone who might have been willing to lend a hand. Alcohol and drug abuse led to a two-year prison term in the 1990s and another “mistake” landed him on the streets in 2008. But the persistent compassion of Christians serving Austin’s homeless reminded Johnson someone cared. He knew there was hope.
For Johnson, help came to him through Austin’s Mobile Loaves and Fishes (MLF) ministry, which takes food and basic personal care items to the homeless. Beginning in 1998 with five St. John Neumann Catholic Church parishioners who set out to meet the needs of Austin’s homeless, the ministry is now duplicated in five cities in four states. In Austin, 11 catering trucks make daily runs to one of the 150 “places of need” as designated by MLF staff.
Eight years ago, Lake Hills Church saw no need to reinvent the wheel by creating their own hunger relief ministry, so they partnered with the MLF network of churches and local businesses feeding Austin’s homeless.
Whitney Wiseman, missions director for Lake Hills, a church in the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, manages two of the catering trucks and 750 church volunteers who serve monthly. Each day 10-20 volunteers meet at the church in far west Austin to make sandwiches for 100 sack lunch meals and load them into the trucks, which are then driven to various locations.
The hungry on Austin’s streets know that the white trucks with their silver catering bays mean more than a meal and a new pair of socks. Like so many feeding ministries across the state, MLF transformed itself to meet needs that lingered long after a person’s hunger was sated. During one distribution, Johnson met MLF co-founder Alan Graham, and his life was changed.
“I told him I needed to get off the street,” Johnson said.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Bonnie Pritchett/Southern Baptist TEXAN