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From Alabama to Detroit to Topeka, he now leads multifaceted ministry

TOPEKA, Kan. (BP)–At 33, Dee Ann Thompson never expected to be living in a group home, hundreds of miles away from her children and all alone to fight a deadly disease. Her rocky past behind her, her future uncertain, Dee Ann struggles to face each new day.
“My past got in the way of my relationship with God,” Thompson is quick to point out. “But today I have a renewed relationship with Jesus. For a long time I felt I was not worthy to have a relationship with God.”
Negative influences and bad choices have Dee Ann wondering what life will be like next year, next month, even next week. Diagnosed with Hepatitis C, Thompson is trying to assume a normal life while living in Oxford House, a group home in Topeka, Kan., where Thompson found herself following her release from a chemical dependency treatment center after serving prison time for drug possession.
“Cocaine took me to hell and back,” Thompson said. “But now I don’t worry about my past. I have to draw my hope from God.”
Dee Ann’s life is getting on track, thanks to the work of Kenneth Perkins, pastor of Clay Street Baptist Ministries in Topeka. Clay Street is actually Oxford House and many other ministries under one roof, all focusing on telling people about Jesus by helping them where they are in life, no matter what their circumstances might be.
“We are taking the Great Commission to a higher level by saying whatever your problem is, it is not too great for God,” Perkins said.
“When I met Dee Ann, it was so sad, she was so broken,” he recalled. “I saw her and immediately knew she had a God-sized problem. The lady I see sitting here now is someone that God has worked hard to put her life back together,” the pastor said while sitting next to Thompson on a couch in Oxford House.
“We helped her pick up the pieces and gave support to her,” Perkins said. “God has a calling on her life. She is sharing and ministering in our support group. I see her life as a ministry. There are consequences, but she is doing her best to live for him.”
Thompson recognizes her difficult situation. But she smiles and finds words that console her weary mind. At the same time, her words are helping other people understand that Jesus offers something better than her present circumstances.
“It’s hard to believe that I might die now after all I’ve gone through,” Thompson said, tears welling up in her big, brown eyes. “But if I do die, I will die clean and sober, but right now I have to live each day as if it were my last.”
“The devil meant to destroy Dee Ann’s life, but God is using her life now as an example of how to depend on him day to day,” Perkins said.
“Living day to day is real to her, especially with an incurable disease,” Perkins said. “Clay Street Ministries is about rebuilding lives, those lives that have been shut out and put out, and with God’s help will all be put back together.”
Perkins draws from his personal experiences in his ministry of putting lives back together.
He was born in Detroit, after his father decided to remove his family from the civil rights violence of Montgomery, Ala., in 1966. Ghetto life in Detroit was an improvement over the violence and death threats for an African American family highly involved with Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement in the South.
The change initially was good for him and his six brothers and three sisters, but eventually inner-city life began to take its toll on the young Perkins.
“At times, inner-city life grew on me with temptations of drugs and gang life,” Perkins said. “In the seventh grade with my older brothers in college, I was challenged. I felt afraid, inferior, with no gang and no support.”
His life could have taken dramatic turn for the worse in junior high when he took a gun to school for protection, but luckily never had to use it.
One afternoon Perkins encountered a cross-eyed, funny-looking young man of about 17. Neighborhood kids were teasing the young man because of his awkward appearance. “He seemed to be a person with disabilities because of his appearance,” Perkins said.
Perkins thought the young man was having trouble seeing, but when he approached the teenager to ask if he was OK, this funny-looking youth began witnessing to him.
“I had an identity problem and I was trying to be a man at the age of 13. But this young man led me to the Lord,” Perkins said.
As the two built a friendship, Perkins soon discovered just how intelligent the young man was and how much Scripture he had memorized even at such a young age.
“As I grew in the Lord, the compassion [God] gave me needed to be used, so I started working for the Lord,” Perkins said.
Perkins used his compassion and patience as a police officer in Detroit. His career was going well, but he realized he needed to be involved in the Lord’s ministry full time. So he followed his pastor to Topeka and began ministering in his church.
Before long, Perkins was on his own and became pastor of Clay Street.
Clay Street Baptist Ministries focuses on the spiritual, education and physical needs of individuals. The spiritual needs are met by helping lead people to a personal relationship with Jesus, group Bible studies and prayer, and discipleship as new believers grow in their relationship with Christ.
From an educational standpoint, the ministry is helping people read, earn a high-school-equivalency diploma or find employment by teaching them the skills needed to find a job. Responsibility training builds character in individuals, teaches parenting skills and how to manage a household as well as abstinence sex education.
Physical needs are being met as the ministry focuses on child care, transportation issues, constructive use of leisure time, support through mentoring and addictive behavior support groups. Ongoing food, clothing and shelter needs also are prevalent each day.
A powerful aspect of the ministry is PALS (Prayers Answered, Lives Saved), an outreach to help people with addictive behavior through a Christian-based support group. Men and women who for years have fought drug and alcohol addiction are finding relief from their addictions through a changed life in Jesus and a supportive group of other Christians and former addicts.
For Carl Myles, a former addict who now helps Perkins with the once-a- week support group, life without Jesus nearly killed him. Myles tells the group of his former problems and how he overcame his own addictive behavior.
“I first had to admit I had a problem and had to accept it also; that made it easier to do something about it,” Myles said.
“Are we all sick and tired of being sick and tired?” Myles asks the group. “I thank God he whipped me long enough so that I was ready for a better way of life.
“When alcohol and drugs made me think I was ready to give up my life, God came into my life,” Myles relates to the group.
Following Myles’ testimony, addict after addict readily recounts success stories of changed lives and a brighter future, thanks to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Perkins steps in at the end of the group session and reminds everyone of the importance of coming to the point of realizing how powerless they all are without Christ.
“You must come to a point where you realize you are yoked up with the wrong thing,” Perkins says.
“My sin’s father is Satan. When I marry sin, I am going to have in-law problems,” Perkins tells everyone.
Perkins admits his ministry is unique and can be very tough at times, but he feels called to work in such conditions.
“We must be willing to work with the mentally ill, the homeless, second- and third-generation welfare families if we are going to be the last-days church. It’s not a shirt-and-collar kind of job, but I like it.”

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  • Steve Achord