As you drive around down-town Louisville, do you notice the homeless people? Are you aware of the homeless among you who work odd jobs for businesses downtown in order to have enough food for a day or to buy medicine or to ride a bus to go to the Doctor? Does your brain tune out the dozens of homeless cooling off in the waters beneath the bridge during the heat of the summer or those who spend time in the library checking email, looking for jobs or just trying to get out of the weather? Many of them go unnoticed. Many of them are forgotten…not just by society but by family and friends.
A Kentucky Outreach ministry has worked the past several years to reach these forgotten… on behalf of the Lord. Working from a small town, reaching into bigger cities like Louisville Kentucky and Nashville Tennessee, The Forgotten has sown seeds in big ways.
Instead of expecting the homeless to come to them, those in The Forgotten ministry go TO the homeless…meeting them right where they are. No judgments, no lectures, no hell, fire and cell-block talk. Food, water, Bibles, backpacks, hygiene items, socks, clothes, bikes, insect repellent, lotion…whatever the personal needs are, The Forgotten works to provide these items and bring them to the homeless.
Charlie Blacketer and Jason Bradshaw, Outreach Leaders for The Forgotten, wear their hearts and intentions on their sleeves as they head to Louisville each week and to Nashville as frequently as their schedules allow. I recently interviewed Blacketer about this unique mission-minded outreach:
“We do what we can do. It’s hard to keep track of all the homeless because they come and go but we do what we can do. We have to trust that what we give them in God’s name is honored and have faith that God will use it even if we don’t see the end result.”
“Giving out backpacks filled with toiletries and basic necessities might not sound like much but what we do differently than a lot of people is we go right to where the homeless live. There are a lot of great homeless ministries around so I’m not knocking them; we’re just called to be a little different and hopefully reach those who aren’t being reached. We go under the bridges, into the woods in the Tent City, in the library and on the back streets. Sometimes we get into difficult circumstances but for the most part we’ve met some really awesome people who are just in need of God’s love.”
There have indeed been success stories over the years. One such success included connecting with a deaf homeless man in Nashville a few years ago, bringing him off the streets and taking him home to Kentucky with them. As those in the ministry assisted him they found out that he had years of Social Security funds he’d never collected and they were able to secure his money for him, put him in a home and reunite him with his family. With much time, effort, love and friendship, this man now helps minister to others.
Though this Outreach has brought several men and women off the streets, assisted them with housing and job placement help, bringing people off the streets and putting them back into the average suburban life-style is not the goal of The Forgotten. Make no mistake about it the goal is to reach people with the love of Jesus Christ. Whether it’s through a cold bottle of water on a 95 degree day or a hot cup of soup in freezing temps; with it comes hugs, hand-shakes, conversation and prayer.
“Many of the homeless we see are the ones who won’t go to the mission for help and they steer clear of most ministries because they don’t want to be judged. We’ve seen homeless who wouldn’t let anyone pray with them, come to their knees and pray with us. And we’ve even baptized some. A lot of the guys out here just want to be listened to and to know that someone cares.”
When I asked Blacketer what his greatest challenge was with The Forgotten, his response surprised me. Thinking that pounding the pavement, dealing with people who may be drunk or other such issues might be what he said… I was wrong. His response was deeper than that:
“The biggest challenge for our Outreach is keeping people motivated. We get people who want to come along with us just because they’re curious and that’s fine. But keeping people motivated to stay involved, to pray regularly and to donate is the biggest issue. This isn’t the kind of ministry where you can always take pictures and see results or give numbers of who has been helped or bring up someone to give a personal testimony of how they were reached. So, when people don’t have something tangible to look at, it’s hard to keep them motivated to pray and give.”
With that in mind, throughout the course of this past summer, I asked Blacketer to take pictures, with the permission of those being photographed. And on a long, hot 96 degree summer day, this writer also went with The Forgotten to Louisville and interviewed several of the homeless down-town. With their permission, I also took several photos. The culmination of this summer’s photos and a few from previous years has allowed me the opportunity to put together a video show-casing a little bit of what God has been up to via the dedicated hearts and lives of those serving Him through The Forgotten. (See video link to the left of this article.)
Some weeks it’s a caravan of helpers with loads of clothing, volunteers to cut hair, backpacks filled with personal care items and food. Other weeks it’s just Blacketer and Bradshaw handing out sacks of burgers bought at a downtown fast food place…but their diligent hearts keep them going back.
“The homeless have taught me that we’re all pretty much the same. Many of them really watch out for each other. They’re our brothers and sisters too. Any of those ideas I used to have in my head about what the homeless were like are long gone. I’d like to think I’m a bit wiser now but I’m not so sure. What I do know is that I’ve been taught that I can’t do a darn thing without Christ. All I can do is show them Christ and let Him take over. And that’s what I plan to keep on doing as long as God leads me.”
Blacketer would also like to eventually help support and seed other homeless ministries who are reaching into their communities around the country.
If you’d like more information on how to donate money, supplies or time to The Forgotten ministry, contact Charlie Blacketer at 502-598-1118 or send email to: Charlie.firstname.lastname@example.org. The Forgotten is a part of the outreach ministries program of End The Cycle, Inc. and you can find them at www.endthecycle.org.
For more detailed stories about The Forgotten, check out future articles as I share my experiences with the homeless in the upcoming series, “Homeless in Louisville”.
Other resources to help the Homeless in Kentucky: