Gerri Captain does whatever it takes to serve the young mothers and their children living in poverty here.
LAKE CHARLES – Gerri Captain does whatever it takes to serve the young mothers and their children living in poverty here.
Director of Grace Ministries in Lake Charles, an outreach ministry of the Carey Baptist Association, Captain is instrumental in providing many services for local families, including a children’s learning center, a youth outreach center, a women’s ministry and a women’s and children’s clothing boutique. Over the years, “Whatever it takes” has become her motto.
“We don’t have a warehouse with furniture, but if I get a family who needs furniture, I get on the phone until I find some,” Captain explained.
Sponsored primarily by the association and its churches, the ministry began in April 2001. The Louisiana Baptist Convention also contributes a stipend to Grace Ministries.
The ministry provides tutoring at its children’s learning center for children up to 12 years old. If a child cannot receive tutoring at the center, then Captain arranges for the tutoring to take place elsewhere.
“Whatever works for the tutor and the student,” said Captain, who busses children to and from the learning center in the ministry’s van. Students from McNeese State University, retired teachers and some high school students provide the tutoring services.
The ministry also ensures each child receives a high protein snack during tutoring since many get little or no evening meal. Even those students who do not attend the center get the snack, Captain said. The tutor simply brings the snack along.
Summer activities at Grace Ministries are varied, including Vacation Bible School; reading camps and math clubs that offer remediation in these subjects; field trips; sports camps; a boys’ day; a girls’ day; youth camps; and a Back-to-School Day, when the ministry provides children with school uniforms and school supplies.
Also available at the center is a Laundromat where workers wash and dry school uniforms while the children are there, Captain said.
“The families are so needy, in not only material things, but support,” Captain said. “I work with families where no one in that family has ever graduated from high school. The moms have very little parenting skills.
“Tomorrow I’m meeting with a group of ladies, and we’re planning a spring cleaning workshop,” she continued, explaining that many of the families have trouble with cleanliness and personal hygiene.
“They can’t buy cleaning supplies with food stamps,” which contributes to the problem, Captain said. “There are so many children and adults in the home; they’re mixed families, with mom, children, aunt, brothers, etc. Those things are very difficult to deal with.”
Holidays offer an added challenge for young mothers with poor planning skills who are unprepared for days when their children are home from school.
“This week our kids are out of school for three days,” Captain said. To help out, Captain creates holiday baskets full of items—like a can of spaghetti and meatballs—that could be a meal for a kid, she said.
“Yesterday I passed out pizza,” said Captain who often goes into the neighborhoods, making sure none of the children are getting into trouble.
Another vital part of Grace Ministries is the “Coca Cola House,” so called for it’s Coke decor. Connected to the learning center by a covered patio, this building provides teens with a place for Bible study and tutoring as well as other activities such as ping pong, computer and video games, board games, and billiard. The building also serves as the home base for the ministry’s sports programs.
Grace Ministries also provides single mothers with a Bible study class and fellowships that might involve crafts or focus on a special event such as a baby shower, Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day, Captain said.
Partnering with other agencies, the ministry provides guidance to women seeking employment by helping them negotiate issues concerning childcare, transportation, appropriate dress and other matters.
The clothing boutique, another part of the ministry, not only provides women and their children with quality clothing, but it also introduces the mothers to God’s Word.
“Whenever we open the clothing boutique, we always have a Bible study with lunch or some type of refreshment,” Captain said.
Every year the ministry also tries to adopt at least two housing units in Lake Charles, she said. Last year, the ministry provided blankets, gloves, coats, and snacks for the children in two units.
Doing whatever it takes to meet the needs of those around her also includes prayer, Captain said. One of her prayers is that the parents whom she mentors “would be willing to give as much as it takes to rear and provide for their families even with the obstacles they face.”
“Most of the kids and their parents want a change but they can’t see how; it just seems so impossible,” Captain explained. “I pray the same prayer as Elisha in 2 Kings 6:17 ‘
open their eyes so they can see that our God is a strong deliverer.’”