In 2005, Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters seemed unstoppable, but they stopped a block away from Baptist Friendship House.
NEW ORLEANS – In 2005, Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters seemed unstoppable, but they stopped a block away from Baptist Friendship House.
Kay Bennett was glad, but not surprised. She’d prayed for such a miracle.
Miracles are the norm for Baptist Friendship House in New Orleans, said Bennett, the Friendship House director.
“God shows up and shows out here all the time,” she said.
Women who attended the taping of Beth Moore’s Breaking Free video Nov. 11-15 at nearby Franklin Avenue Baptist Church had the opportunity to spend a morning learning about the ministry of Friendship House and get hands on with ministry projects.
They packed bags with snacks and hygiene items. They created handmade cards and handwritten notes to include in the bags. They “prayer rode” in the Friendship House neighborhood just a few blocks from the French Quarter and the Ninth Ward where much
Katrina damage is still present, because weather conditions ruled out a prayer walk.
LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention sponsored the Breaking Free taping event and organized the ministry activity at Baptist Friendship House.
Looking for freedom
“We wanted to give the women the time and the opportunity to do a meaningful mission activity while they were here for Breaking Free,” said Michelle Hicks, a LifeWay contract worker who coordinated the Breaking Free taping event. “The ministry at Baptist Friendship House fits so well into the meaning of Breaking Free. The women who are recipients of the Friendship House ministry are, in their own way, breaking free from so many things – poverty, abuse, fear and addictions.”
The primary ministry of Friendship House – a ministry of New Orleans Baptist Ministries, Inc., of the North American Mission Board – is providing transitional housing for homeless women and children.
The organization’s mission statement says, “In recognizing the worth and dignity of homeless women and children, Baptist Friendship House seeks to minister to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs, with love through action and truth as revealed in
God’s Word in Matthew 25.”
According to Bennett, “The greatest growth in our homeless population is this demographic. Since Katrina, the housing costs are prohibitive for so many people. A two-bedroom apartment is $1,500 a month. Daycare for two kids is $1,000. That’s $2,500 a
month and that doesn’t include food, utilities or anything else. Most people here could never afford that.”
Home for now
Currently, four families of women and children are residents of Friendship House. Each family unit has its own quarters. All the residents and staff eat together family style, each contributing to the planning, cooking and cleaning.
“We have tables set up so each family unit can have its own eating area,” Bennett said. “But most of the time we just pull all the tables together and eat as one big family.”
Some of the resident children have never had any space or anything to call their own. To give them a sense of ownership of their toys, school supplies and other items, volunteers built storage chests for each room so the children can have a space of their own.
Bennett said that seemed to give a boost to the children’s self- esteem.
“It took us eight years to get the permit to shelter families,” Bennett said. “That was a miracle, because most people told us that would never happen. But we prayed long and hard for that.
“Our prayer now is to be able to buy the building and lot next door where we can offer entire families – moms, dads and children – a safe place of shelter,” she said. “We could do so much more.”
Never mind that the property is not for sale. God could work that out, Bennett said with a grin.
Many ministries, one mission
Ministry to the basic needs of the people helped by Friendship House is what allows Bennett and her staff the opportunity to meet their spiritual needs.
“Ninety percent of homeless women have been in abusive domestic situations at some point in their lives,” Bennett said. “Everyday in the U.S., women are killed by domestic violence. We know that most incidents are never reported.”
Up to Hope, another ministry at Friendship House, is for girls fourth grade and up. “You might could call it Breaking Free teenage-style,” Bennett said. “We work with these young girls on self-respect and their dignity through Christ. This is an investment to
keep them from ever getting into unhealthy and dangerous situations. We let them know that through Christ there is hope for their futures.”
Friendship House volunteers and staff distribute snack packs — self-sealing bags with canned meat, crackers, cheese, and other items — to homeless people living in “homeless villages” around town. They also distribute hygiene kits with soap, shampoo and
They offer sewing classes, English as a second language classes, literacy classes and work skills classes.
Bennett said one of her personal favorite ministries is the “bathroom ministry.”
“There aren’t a lot of public restrooms around here,” she said.
“When a woman comes in and needs to use the restroom, I tell her she is welcome. It’s amazing that when she comes out, she is willing to listen to anything I have to say!”
Bennett recounted a story about a woman who came in wearing a T-shirt with an “extremely vulgar” saying printed on it. Bennett told her she would give her two clean T-shirts in exchange for the one she was wearing. The woman agreed. Then, she asked Bennett what her traded T-shirt said. “When I told her what her shirt said, she was
really embarrassed. She couldn’t read and didn’t know what it said.”
Ministry reminders Pat Allen, a New Orleans resident and member at Franklin Avenue, attended the Breaking Free taping and helped put together food packs and made handmade cards to go in the bags.
“I believe when people see that someone made them a card and read the message that says God loves them and cares about them, it will stay with them,” she said. “People need a word from God and these packs will be a good reminder.”
Bennett said, “We do a lot of ministry here and we talk about Jesus all the time, but we also do a lot of lifestyle evangelism. People down here don’t trust in much, but if they see it, they believe it.”
For more information about Baptist Friendship House, go to http://bfh.lifewaylink.com.