Senior spends summer ministering to homeless

Release Date: August 28, 2009    

A book Kiana Bullard read two years ago has shaped her activities for two summers and opened her eyes to the lives of the homeless.

Bullard, a Wayland Baptist University senior from Borger majoring in Spanish, credits the book Under the Overpass by Mike Yankoski in sparking a curiosity in her own life and homelessness and ministering to this special population. During the summer of 2008, she spent time at City Church in Amarillo, a multi-faceted ministry that serves the homeless and less fortunate in the Amarillo area.

“I wanted to find out more about homelessness,” she said. “Through the book, I saw the genuineness and honesty of the people and I wanted to explore that. I was looking for an internship with a ministry to the homeless, so I Googled it and this program came up.”

The program was in Louisville, Ky., in the Jefferson Street Baptist Center. Specifically, she was one of 12 students in the Hope Program, aimed at young adults who spend from a summer to a year ministering to Louisville’s homeless in the inner city and being a part of their community. The seven girls participating, including Bullard, lived in a house near the shelter, while the five young men lived in the shelter itself.

“Jefferson Street has a day shelter and temporary housing for folks that are dealing with addictions, where they take classes for basic needs and skills and learn about being men or women of God,” she added. “The residents do chores and pay a small fee to live there as they transition back into the community.” 

Bullard said the day shelter provided a place for the homeless to receive and send mail and use a phone while they applied for jobs, housing or assistance. They served breakfast, provided a laundry facility, passed out toiletries and towels and held a daily Bible study about basic Biblical principles. The afternoon also featured a time where volunteers would help guests look for jobs, find their families or apply for assistance.

The students’ main role was to assist at the day shelter during their regular hours, then spend their evenings getting involved in the community. The girls often visited neighbors and helped them clean, trim trees or do other things, prayed with them and just built relationships. On the weekends, they’d cook a meal and invite the neighbors over to continue to build relationships, in hopes that a door would open to share about their faith.

Bullard said she went into the summer expecting to help people and show them a better way to live. Instead, she said, they taught her a few valuable lessons and challenged her own faith walk.

“I spent the summer really learning about grace and seeing how Christ offers grace to us time and time again, when it doesn’t make sense. We’re supposed to offer people the same grace, even when we knew they would mess up again,” she said. “Grace is one of the defining characteristics of a Christian. Being able to offer grace helped me see the unity of the body and how we could do so much together.”

Bullard said she remains interested in ministry to the homeless as well as using her Spanish language skills and is hopeful she can use those together after graduation.