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Senior adults provide makeovers in Big Easy

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–When Mary Kay beauty consultant Bobbie Hardin did a makeover on a homeless woman at the Brantley Baptist Center in New Orleans, the young woman could hardly believe her eyes. She broke out crying, saying, “I have never looked so beautiful.”

Looking closer into the mirror, she exclaimed, “You can’t see my scars.”

Excited about the woman’s response, Hardin, who has been a beauty consultant for more than 29 years, took the opportunity to share about Jesus with her new client.

“Make-up can hide the scars on the outside,” Hardin said, “but only Jesus can heal the scars on the inside.”

The hands-on ministry — a simple act of doing makeovers — inspired Hardin, who along with 17 other senior adults from Immanuel Baptist Church in El Dorado, Ark., had come to New Orleans to participate in mission projects through New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s Senior Adult MissionLab, a custom-tailored program matching the needs and abilities of senior adult ministry groups with appropriate mission opportunities in the New Orleans area.

“The makeovers weren’t a ministry of outside beauty but one of the true beauty of Christ,” said Toni Wimberly, director of the Senior Adult MissionLab, explaining the far-reaching impact of senior adults who use their years of experience in a variety of missions projects.

“You’ll never know the impact this trip made on myself and the senior adults who went,” said Kay Ruddell, Immanuel Baptist Church’s senior adult ministry coordinator and a women’s ministry student at NOBTS. In fact, the ministry was so successful that the seniors have already booked their next trip — this time with 50 senior adults.

Brantley Baptist Center Executive Director Tobey Pitman also noted that the “ministry of makeup” was a vital ministry for the ladies who stay in the shelter. “The most simple everyday things that we take advantage of are valuable to homeless people who have very little,” he said. “Sample perfumes, lipsticks and other makeup may seem like trinkets to most people, but it is a very effective way to minister to our ladies.”

He added, “These items give them dignity.”

In addition to visiting with the residents at the Brantley homeless shelter, the senior adult group made beds, fixed old towels and sheets, and led the midweek worship service, resulting in two professions of faith.

That same week, another ten senior adults from Central Baptist Church in Magnolia, Ark., worked at another inner-city Baptist mission, the Carver Baptist Center, where they ministered to children in the after-school programs.

The children had such an impact on the senior adults from Central that their lives were eternally changed, explained Lori Story, Central Baptist Church’s senior adult leader. Explaining that the trip was a life-changing experience for her senior adults, she said, “The missions experience opened our seniors’ eyes to the needs in the world and has given them a real heart for ministry for God.”

Moreover, the group’s enthusiasm has also generated excitement in their church at large, she explained, sharing how the entire church has benefited from seeing its oldest members’ hearts soften before the Lord and with each other.

Like Immanuel, Central Baptist Church has already booked a second trip, with more than twice the number of participants expected to come.

In addition to working at the Baptist missions, both church groups ministered to the homeless and the “gutter punks” — wayward teens who congregate on the streets — in the French Quarter. The young, pierced, and colorfully-hair-styled teens, politely addressing the seniors as “ma’am” and “sir,” were receptive to the seniors who approached them.

There was a different reaction to the older folks, Wimberly explained, saying that the normal attitudinal barriers present, when other teens or young adults reach out to them, was nonexistent. The generation gap actually seemed to work in the seniors’ favor, she said.

The response was so strong to the seniors’ outreach that both groups have indicated they want to stay out longer in the French Quarter the next time they come, Wimberly said.

More than that, the experience has shown the senior adults to look for opportunities in their own backyard, said Ruddell.

“God truly used MissionLab to show me that we have a mission field around Immanuel Baptist Church in El Dorado,” she said, obviously excited about the possibilities.

“Lives were truly changed that week for eternity,” she said.

For more information on giving senior adults — and youth — opportunities to become involved in mission work in New Orleans, contact MissionLab New Orleans at 1-800-NOBTS-01, extension 3241 for senior adults, and extension 3364 for youth, or visit online at www.missionlab.com.

    About the Author

  • Shannon Baker

    Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey and editor of the Network’s weekly newsletter, BRN United.

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