WARREN, Ark. – HopePlace Pregnancy Care Center in Warren has been ministering to women in crisis for the last 10 years. Director Wendy Curry says the center serves as more than just a pregnancy care center.
“We’re more of a family resource center where we embrace and love on the whole community. We serve lots of different people, all the way from those with unplanned pregnancies to helping the elderly and even those who are homeless, through our food pantry,” Curry said.
While Curry has been able to minster to the individuals in the past, she has noticed a recent growth in the homeless population which means that even more needs to be done.
Matt Overall, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church where Curry is a member, says he too has seen a recent influx in the homeless population in town.
“I think about 20 to 25 homeless folks are in town at pretty much all times now, and they are transient. They kind of come and go,” Overall said.
Curry became even more burdened for those without a permanent home when she saw the forecast of a winter freeze event that would sweep across Arkansas and the rest of the country. She says God convicted her as she sat watching the weather report in her warm living room, knowing that there were people in town who would have no place to go to escape the frigid temperatures.
“We had just built a new house, and there I sat in my warm new house watching this cold weather coming in,” Curry said. “I knew I had to get off the couch and figure out a way to help provide a safe, warm place for people to ride out the storm.”
Curry knew there wasn’t much time to work out all the logistics, but she knew God was in this, so she prayed and got started. She posted a video about the need for this ministry and an anonymous donor contributed $15,000 for the cause. She then began making phone calls to find volunteers, supplies and most importantly, a place to serve as a shelter.
Curry made a call to her pastor, Matt Overall, to ask if the church would be available. Overall, who had been out of town visiting family, said, “When she called me, I was like, absolutely, yes, we can do that. I’m coming back into town, and we’re going to make it happen.”
Overall called the deacons of Immanuel Baptist Church and told them what Curry was proposing to do. He said they all agreed without hesitation. Their response was, “This is what we’re supposed to be doing. This is what the church is supposed to do, and so why would we not?”
“I called her back and was just like, Hey, we’re on board. We’re ready to go,” Overall stated. “I told her that we would do whatever we could to help.”
From there, the ball just started rolling. “We started putting the word out in every avenue that we had available, and the town shared it. Everybody got behind it,” Overall said.
Curry says that within less than two hours of the initial phone call, the church was open, security was in place, cots were provided by the city’s emergency management department and food began coming in from all over. They also had lots of donations of jackets and blankets for those who came to visit the shelter.
Curry was surprised by the number of people that donated who had never heard of HopePlace before. “We’ve been open 10 years. So, it just blows my mind that people don’t know about HopePlace, Warren. We’ve been doing this so long, but they don’t know what all we offer.”
Curry reports that four people stayed overnight. Many others came in just to eat a hot meal because their pipes had burst, or they were without heat. Eighty-one meals were served, not counting the meals provided to law enforcement and other volunteers at the shelter.
The shelter stayed open for six days until the weather got above freezing again. But the ministry did not stop there. Everyone that stayed was gifted with a new Bible on Christmas morning. Mentors were also paired with those who stayed at the shelter. These mentors will go out several times a week and check on the ones who are homeless and make sure that they are eating and have what they need. Curry says they can also come to HopePlace and shower during the week and wash their clothes.
“Our hope is that we can continue to love on them and help them, you know, if they need a driver’s license, or if they need their Social Security card replaced, we’ll help them do that,” she said. “We’re just trying to place them with people that understand and can encourage them to do their very best and set goals. One of the first things we do at HopePlace is help people make a goals list, because this world doesn’t tell people to dream anymore.”
Looking back, Curry says one of the neatest things that she saw God do was in the life of a 63-year-old woman who came to stay at the shelter. As she shared the love of Christ and ministered to this woman, Curry said she slowly earned her trust to the point that the lady shared her real name.
“When the off-duty officers came in to work their shift, they called her by a different name,” Curry said. “I told them that wasn’t her name, but they said that was the name she always gave them.” One of the officers looked up the name on social media and found a missing person’s page in her name. It turns out that her family had been looking for her for five years.
“And so, on Christmas Eve, we reconnected her with her daughter,” Curry said.
Curry encourages everyone to step out of their comfort zone and be intentional about meeting people where they are, to love them like Jesus, and to share the Gospel.
“You know, you can stay in your comfortable bubble all day long, but that’s not what He wants. He’s called us to do more,” she said. “If you can’t serve by giving your time, maybe you can serve by making a pot of soup or giving a donation.”
Pastor Overall is grateful for Curry, and for the many volunteers who came together to do something new and different to minister to the community in a time of need.
“We’re supposed to be the church, right? A lot of times we get caught up in the normal routines of things. But when these things pop up that are out of the ordinary, we kind of pull back a little bit going, I don’t know if we can really do that,” he said.
“But I think that’s what we are supposed to be doing. These out of the ordinary things are often the things where God moves the most and He shows Himself powerfully through. My encouragement to others would be just to be obedient and trust God to work because we don’t know what kind of impact we can have just by being obedient in the moment.”