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Homeless ministry offers new start in the mountains

KUNKLETOWN, Pa. (BP)–Snow had fallen in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania as a small group was studying “Experiencing God.”
“God is at work all around you,” Grover and Melinda Fletcher told men who had come to the “Potter’s Place,” an outreach to the homeless, jobless or addicted.
“All you have to do is wait.”
Then came a knock at the door. Two people in a truck needed help after sliding off the road. Grover and the men went out for a look while the passenger walked in. She was an 18-year-old girl with a beer in her hand.
She had been for a ride with a married man.
“She was very lost and searching for more than someone to pull out their truck,” Melinda said. “They had to stay until we could take them home.”
Melinda explained the gospel in private. The girl was interested and wanted to know more. She returned several days later and became a Christian.
“They got to see God moving,” Melinda said about that night’s Bible study. “He brought those people to our door.”
The Fletchers are Mission Service Corps volunteers with the North American Mission Board. Two families donated 33 acres to Southern Baptists, and the New York Metro Baptist Association sponsored the new program.
Metro pastors wanted an outreach for homeless people. The compound is 100 miles from New York City and another 100 miles from the Philadelphia airport. But much of the ministry is local, Melinda said.
Participants agree to a 20-week program combining Bible study, career development, a 12-step alcohol rehab called “God Help Me Stop” and problem-solving.
“This is a re-creation ministry,” said Melinda. “We love them right where they are.”
The outreach’s name came from the Old Testament Book of Jeremiah where the potter refashions the clay. Grover is a third-generation contractor who graduated from seminary at age 53.
“It’s not a rehab, and it’s not a detox,” Melinda explained. “These men will be dealing with this (addiction) the rest of their lives.”
They’ve had five in the program so far. One spent four years on the streets of New York City.
“The only thing I was living for was to drink,” the man explained. “I didn’t want to face reality. I thought it was too harsh.”
He had an associate’s degree from college and worked for a grocery chain several years. But his alcoholism led to joblessness. He ended up collecting cans and sleeping in parks. A small welfare check helped.
“Most of the time I made enough to get something to eat or drink,” he said.
Cold weather was a problem. The man used plastic or cardboard for a shelter in the park. But the rain came. And it snowed. The man got sick and needed help at the hospital. Doctors said he was drinking himself to death.
“I asked him (God) for help,” he said.
A Lutheran priest knew the man and suggested the Potter’s Place. Nine months have passed. The man now has a job, attends church and recently got a driver’s license and car.
“My life has never been this happy,” he said. “I’m at peace with myself.”
The program begins with an interview and probation period.
“If they don’t want help, we can’t help them,” said Grover.
That’s followed with a survey of job skills and personal work project. Grover builds something with each man to put “God’s truth and their hands to work,” he explained. Some of the projects have been a chicken coop and fire pit. One man even helped put up a new workshop.
“It’s a wonderful place,” said Johnny Rodriquez, a member of Middle Creek Baptist Church, Kresgeville, Pa., who attends the Fletcher Bible study, which is open to anyone in the area.
Rodriquez dropped out of school in Puerto Rico and never learned to read. He’s now married with children and works as a garbage man.
“One day I’m going to be able to read the Bible,” he said. “That’s my dream.”
A woman from the Bible study tutored him but had to stop when his work hours changed. He’s praying for another tutor now.
“I’m patient,” he said. “That’s one thing I learned at the Bible study.
“You have to be waiting for what you want.”

    About the Author

  • Clay Renick