Church feeds, ministers to homeless every month
By Shanderia K. Posey
The holidays are an ideal time to help those less fortunate.
But for one local church, helping those in need is a monthly operation of service.
Each month members of Vision Outreach Church and Ministries, located at 2893 Terry Road in south Jackson, along with Pastor Sandra Vaughn Rucker prepare and give meals to those less fortunate – particularly those who are homeless or living in group homes in the capital city.
Last Saturday, about 30 members including children handed out canned drinks, bottled water and plates with spaghetti, green beans, corn, a roll, and a chocolate chip cookie to those living in group homes on Rose Street.
From there, members went to Smith Park in downtown Jackson, the Opportunity House, and Poindexter Park to give more food along with blankets and comforters to the men. Whenever food is leftover from those stops, plates are taken to the train and bus stations.
For nearly four years Vision Outreach has made the monthly outings in an effort to not only feed people but to minister to them and share the love of God with them.
“God placed it in my heart when He planted me in the church. I have a heart, and I have a heart like Christ. I want to be able to help somebody,” said Vaughn Rucker.
“This is what ministry is all about. It’s awesome that He has given us four walls to preach in, but it is marvelous when He tells us in his word that we must go out into the highways and byways and compel them to come. Expressing and showing love will bring them in.”
Latest statistics on homelessness in Mississippi from the point-in-time count that took place Jan. 25 of this year show that there are more than 1,600 homeless households in the state with some living in emergency shelters, transitional housing or on the streets – unsheltered.
As for homeless individuals in Jackson, Heather Ivory, business administrator and grant writer for Stewpot in Jackson, says on any given night there are 500-700 homeless people in the city.
Church members prepared 200 plates of food for last Saturday’s outings. Since they go out so frequently to be a blessing to the hundreds in need, there’s no need to make a huge announcement when they arrive at the different locations each month.
When they arrived at Rose Street Saturday, no one was really around initially to accept the food. But after a few minutes, one by one men walked up as word quickly spread that Vision Outreach had arrived. When accepting the food, they were each told “God loves you and God bless you” by church members.
At Smith Park, Vaughn Rucker got a chance to talk with Nathan Jefferson, a man who she’s gotten to know quite well since the church has been helping the homeless. Jefferson is grateful for the food and love the church members offer monthly.
“I couldn’t ask for nothing better,” Jefferson said. “A lot of these guys need exactly what they (church members) are doing. I always tell them, they might get something they might not like but look, they (church members) don’t have to do this. God puts this on their heart to come out here and do this. (He) provides for them so that you can have … so you can’t question that.
“I’m very grateful for everything He (God) does for me. I’ve been at the top, and I was so arrogant. He put me down here on this ground and made me realize what life is really about, how you can struggle just to get what your getting.”
“It would be rough (without this help) cause they come out all the time, not just the holidays.” Jefferson expressed how it’s been a constant struggle for him to keep a roof over his head, but “that smile on her (Vaughan Rucker) face does it. I love her to death.”
Charlie Robinson and his wife, LaKeshia, have been members of the church for almost four years and participate each month.
“We like to see smiles on people’s faces, and we like giving back what God gave to us,” Charlie said. “We have a lovely pastor. She leads us in the right direction. She gives us that tough love, that’s what matters the most.”
“It’s gifted in our hearts to take care of the people that’s not fortunate like us,” LaKeshia said. “It’s so much happening around us; people robbing and killing, and it just hurts my heart. But we as people of God have to look out for one another. We do this because it’s generous. When I’m down our pastor always lifts us up. We love her to death. We got her back all the way.”
During next month’s outings, church members will also give toiletries in Christmas stockings to the men in addition to food and blankets.
“I just feel in my heart that we as people of God need to reach out to God’s people. It’s very, very simple in that when we are called, we are qualified,” Vaughn Rucker said. “If we can just reach out and touch somebody when we are feeding or somebody wanting to know who Jesus is in the pardon of their sins, this is what this is all about.”
Before leaving Smith Park, the pastor said a heartfelt goodbye to Jefferson.
“Alright Nate, be good, know that we love you now.”
She’ll probably see him next month.