Homeless ministry Acts of Bravery certainly had a brave start. While on his way home from a night shift at work, Dylan Coert was approached on a Port Elizabeth street by a homeless man who feared he was dying. Coert led the man to the Lord and called an ambulance. The time was 2am.
Stirred by the experience and convicted that God was calling him to do something for homeless people, Coert felt he had to share the experience with somebody. At 2.30am, in the pouring rain, he knocked on the door of Tim and Michelle Reddy, who were friends and leaders of a community (home fellowship) he attended through the Storehouse Church.
The couple got up and listened to their friend and during that early morning meeting they decided that instead of meeting at home for their next community gathering, they would cook a pot of food and take it to the place — a park in Newton Park — where Coert had been approached by the desperate homeless man.
“That was a Friday morning, and the next Wednesday AOB [Acts of Bravery] started. That Wednesday we just pitched up and cooked food at the park where the encounter happened and we started interacting with the homeless people.”
The brave and dramatic start of AOB took place three years ago.
Today it takes a different kind of bravery for the couple who both work and are parents to two teenagers, to keep pressing on with the street ministry that has developed and which they still lead.
“There are weeks when Michelle and I are broken physically and spiritually but we still pitch up there because we feel the Lord has never given up on us, so why should we give up on these people. Being consistent is a key ingredient in the process,” said Tim.
The process, as Tim and Michelle see it, is to serve the homeless people good, nutritious, warm food on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, to share God’s word with them and to simply love them – with the goal of “restoring them to the Father’s love”.
They also have a greater vision to establish a restoration home where they can live with people from the street, ‘father and mother’ them, expose them to God’s love daily, reunite parents and children, train people in various skills, and restore broken people who have lost the ability to love because of their involvement with drugs and abusive relationships.
“It is a long term vision and a big vision and we feel that the Lord can provide a smallholding somewhere where we can have a restoration home,” said Tim.
At present they do need more people and businesses to contribute towards the cost of feeding the homeless people they serve in the Newton Park area. Anybody who would like more information can contact Michelle at 084 614 7276 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A key to the growth and sustainability of AOB over the past three years has been the many people that God has provided to help with the ministry.
Michelle used to do all the cooking and washing up and together with their small team they shouldered the burden of taking chairs and tables and sound equipment to the park or adjacent car park for the feeds and services.
But now various businesses support the ministry by contributing towards food costs, and in a recent breakthrough the MES shelter, has taken responsibility for the Thursday evening feeds and storing and transporting chairs and provided a place for cooking food. Others help in areas such as ministry, cooking and serving. Their church provides spiritual covering and administrative support.
There are too many helpers to name everybody. But there are two standout testimonies of people who seem to have been led by God to play a big part in AOB.
Reggie Treadway lost his job in Cape Town and ended up sleeping in his car on a PE street for about seven weeks. Tim and Michelle saw him and reached out to him and introduced him to the MES shelter. He could not find work but he became a volunteer at MES and now controls the Thursday feed.
“He is such a blessing and he has a heart for the people — he feels the Lord has led him there and he wants to be there,” said Tim.
And then there is Oom Koos and Lorna Clayton, a couple from Cape Town who lived in New Zealand and ended up living in PE – around the corner from where the AOB feeds are held — because their daughter’s studies brought the family to the city. They had a heart for the homeless people, connected with AOB, and have become an integral part of the ministry, with Oom Koos leading worship.
“God is really amazing — it is as if He sent them here specifically to be involved in AOB,” said Michelle.
Tim and Michelle have had the joy of seeing several people leave the street and return to normal, community life. But those are the exceptions.
“I think for me the biggest challenge after three years is to see people’s lives that have not changed and I often question God about it and He tells me that we are called to do what we do and He will work in the hearts of the people – and that just sustains me from week to week, or it would wear you out,” said Michelle.
“Until the Lord provides an alternative for us to get them off the street, all we can do is spread His love and show consistency. So for me that is the biggest challenge is to leave them [homeless people] there on a weekly basis, literally to wallow in their own lifestyles.”
A number of homeless people do make verbal commitments to accept Jesus during ministry times, Tim said.
“We do not always see the physical change but we believe that there is a spiritual change because the war is a spiritual war, and our vision is to restore them to the Father’s love and to a sense of dignity,” he said.
Another key to persevering in their calling is the fact that their daughter, Tiannah, 18, and son, Joel, 16, are both very involved in the ministry.
“When you are called into a ministry in which your spouse and your family are on board with you, it makes it just that much easier. Our united vision has been one of our saving graces. The other thing is just grace. Tim and I both have stresses in life — we have the same issues everybody else has — but we just draw on God for our strength and I totally believe that when you put your hand to the plough you never pull out until God says so,” Michelle said.
The past three years have been an equipping time for them, Tim said.
“We have learnt some harsh lessons in life but I believe we are in a better place now to handle ministry because the ministry has given us more than we could ever give back,” he said.