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He finds ministry to at-risk kids after walking the streets of Selma

SELMA, Ala. (BP)–Driving home from church late one evening three years ago, Ralph Derryberry saw a familiar sight coming toward him on the side of the road.
It was the same black man who for weeks had been walking the streets of Selma, Ala., sometimes standing for hours on street corners and often seen talking with kids.
Having led an “Experiencing God” discipleship group that night, Derryberry was tired and continued driving, unaware of the impact the man would soon have on his life and on many others.
“He had no job, no car … he was starving to death,” Derryberry recalled.
Winston Williams, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, had ended up in Selma after 23 years in Michigan, where he had first played soccer for a small college, earning a degree in history during which an interest in Selma had been sparked.
The two men’s lives soon intertwined when Williams contacted First Baptist Church, Selma, Derryberry’s church home for more than 60 years, for financial assistance.
However, the church and some of its members were the ones who ended up receiving the greatest blessing, Derryberry said.
“We just seemed to click,” said Derryberry who, along with his fellow “Experiencing God” participants, was looking for someone to help with an interracial ministry they had begun for at-risk kids in a nearby apartment complex.
When the Selma group found out about Williams’ situation and his background as a former staff member of Youth for Christ in Detroit, the group began to realize the opportunity God was placing in front of them.
“We had prayed for someone so long,” said Claire Ralston, a longtime First Baptist member, “and he (Williams) seemed to be the one God was giving us.”
Another answered prayer came when other churches of various denominations in Selma offered their support in helping finance and staff the ministry effort.
The program, sponsored by Selma Christian Ministries and based on John 5:15-19, meets every Monday and Wednesday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. to offer the children Bible study, music, recreation, crafts and refreshments. There also is a Bible study and sewing group for adults.
The program’s volunteers have ministered to as many as 250-300 people a week, Ralston estimated.
In addition, Williams and company led a youth rally every Monday night in May, which culminated in a baptismal service May 29 in a nearby creek.
Perhaps most importantly, the outreach has given Derryberry, Ralston and many others the opportunity to interact one-on-one with the kids, investing themselves into many who would not otherwise receive spiritual guidance.
Derryberry spoke of a troubled fifth-grader with a reputation for stealing whom he immediately felt led to mentor. The boy had been abused by his alcoholic mother and placed in the care of an aunt, who also had a drinking problem.
“He never had anybody say, ‘I love you,’ to him before,” said Derryberry, who brought the child home to cook out, go fishing and teach how to swim.
But he’s quick to point out that, “It was never me (doing those things) … It’s him (the Lord) that does it.”
Taking a kid to school after he missed the bus, going shopping for a young girl’s prom dress — these aren’t what most people think of when talking about ministry, Williams reflected. But meeting the immediate, physical needs of the children must take place before the spiritual aspect can be dealt with, the ministry leader said.
And through the faithful few who have chosen to take that step of faith and truly experience God, lives are being changed, Williams said.
“I cannot in words describe the joy and the miracles we see every day.”

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  • Jason Skinner