In May of 2014, Fairhope United Methodist partnered with Ransom Ministries to open a Ransom Cafe location in the heart of downtown Fairhope. People questioned the need for a Ransom location in such an affluent area—who would show up?
But Ransom Cafe’s mission has always been bigger than just feeding hungry stomachs. It was obvious the first few weeks of the Fairhope location’s existence God has something special planned. College students, grieving church members, widows and even a couple of homeless visitors began coming to the cafe regularly. They originally came for the food, but returned for the community.
“I wondered at the beginning if we were serving who God wanted us to serve,” says Mary Beth Gibson, who has volunteered at the cafe with her husband Robert since the beginning. “But I know we are. We always have several people in need, and we also have mid-pew America coming in to volunteer. I feel like we are on the right track.”
Over the past four years, leadership of the cafe has shifted from Ransom’s staff to the church’s key volunteers. Ransom Ministries’ vision of starting cafes and eventually turning them over to churches has been realized over and over again. Like several other locations before them, volunteers from Fairhope UMC have embraced their cafe ministry and made it their own.
The cafe in Fairhope is now appropriately called Community Cafe, and in addition to serving an average of 20-40 people every Friday in the cafe, volunteers deliver over 30 meals each week to sick or homebound members of the church. Leftover food is delivered to first responders.
Many of the same people who first visited the cafe four years ago still eat every week at Community Cafe. It’s become an important part of their lives and serves as a social and spiritual safe haven for many.“It’s been amazing to watch it change and watch the personality of the group evolve to include so many people from all walks of life,” Mary Beth says. “When you feed people, it’s about so much more than nutrition. It’s really all about love.”The staff at Ransom Ministries appreciates Fairhope United Methodist’s commitment to serving their community and sharing the gospel through food and relationships. Thank you to Jennifer Myrick, Robert and Mary Beth Gibson, George Nelson, Margaret Sorensen, George and Susan Hoad, and all of the other volunteers who make Community Cafe in Fairhope a thriving ministry.
Pictured above: Kimberly at Ransom ReProgram’s Meet & Greet Night
Kimberly is one of those people who lights up every room she walks into. She has a smile that goes from ear to ear and a laugh that invites you in. Warmth and light radiate from her- You can tangibly feel it.
It’s hard to believe that just a year ago she was struggling to keep that light from being snuffed out. Snuffed out from the darkness that is addiction.
Kimberly has struggled with addiction for over 10 years and has been in and out of treatment centers for the majority of that time. With each new stint at a treatment center, would come some sort of relief from the bondage of the pain she had been carrying with her since her father died of ALS in her teens, but she would eventually give in to the uncontrollable craving and be in over her head once again, succumbing to the lure of the drugs once more.
With each relapse came more pain and the darkest days became a norm. She didn’t know what she was living for, couldn’t see past the pain, regret and shame. And then she came face to face with God Almighty.
In January 2017, she arrived at the Home of Grace for Women in Mobile, AL by divine appointment. This was her time- appointed by God. A faith-based treatment center focusing on the renewing power of God, the Home of Grace helped give Kimberly a fresh start and firm foundation in the Lord.
After graduating from their program we met Kimberly and she began our 8 week job skills training class called ReProgram. While most counseling and treatment focuses solely on behavior modification, we know from God’s word, that the only way to a new life is to renounce the old. This produces God-given results. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is anew creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” This is what will produce a firm foundation and lasting results.
Through the tools of our ReProgram class, which include career assessment, job preparation and resume building and reinforcement of identity in Christ, Kimberly has gone on to be employed by Ulta Beauty, a nation-wide cosmetic, skincare and fragrance company and is on a fast-track course to management with them.
In Kimberly’s own words, “ReProgram was a game-changer for me. This program and it’s facilitators changed my life. It taught me skills to obtain and also maintain and excel at a job with my God-given talents. It taught me that life is not about hand outs anymore but about what I can do to be a good employee and in turn help others. ReProgram has literally saved my life in so many ways and I am eternally grateful. This has been the key to maintaining my sobriety!”
On January 3rd 2018, Kimberly celebrated 1 year of sobriety! We love you and are so proud of you- May the Lord continue to bless you in all that you do!
Jackie is a “Serve-ivor.” Spell it out, Come on… That’s it. You’ve got it! Just like the pronunciation of the original word- Survivor. She says that through serving and being the hands and feet of Jesus, through Service Work, that is what gives her the strength and determination to keep along this journey that God has laid out for her. And she is faithful. Jackie has been volunteering with us at Ransom Café since October 2016 and when I sat down with her to interview her for this story at Christ United Methodist Church, she told me that she was indeed a “Serve-ivor.” Allow me to set the scene for you: She narrowed in her eyes at me and beseeched me to nod in understanding. I did, but she then enquired as to what my understanding of the word means. Having met Jackie on several other occasions, I already knew a little of her story and background and so I nodded in agreement and told her I absolutely believed she was a survivor! At that point she leaned in and locked eyes with me and said “Serve…” I serve Him, therefore I am a “Serve-ivor”!
Jackie has dealt with much loss and trauma over the past several years. Her husband passed in 2009- She has lost two of her brothers to cancer. This happened 4 weeks apart to the day, 4 years ago. She lost her Mother and Sister 2 years ago, 5 months apart. I believe what the Word of God tells us in Romans 8:28– “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Through all of the pain of Jackie’s loss, the Lord has taken the depth of that pain and understanding and made her a Spiritual Mother to many. Her niece is just one of many who call her “Mom”. She does have a younger brother who survived Leukemia and she thanks the Lord every day for their relationship and his life. Just recently the Lord sat Jackie down and laid a scripture on her heart that made her really reflect on His Goodness, Mercy, and Power. “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
Besides volunteering with us here at Ransom Café, she enjoys crocheting and I had the pleasure of receiving a gift from her- A hand knitted scarf.
“I love to help people! And I am very resourceful when it comes to helping others.”
We invite you to come out, have lunch with us and meet Jackie and our other faithful volunteers!
We have been featuring stories of people who are the very breath of this ministry, who have inspired us beyond measure. Holly Prine has truly been such. What a blessing and such an inspiration to have had her Intern with us here at Ransom Ministries. In her own words, Holly describes her experience working alongside the ReProgram students.
“It’s an exciting day at Ransom Ministries. By the grace of God, tonight we will have graduation for four students who have completed the ReProgram class and who all have found employment. It has been a pure joy to walk beside these new friends and learn life from them. My internship has been a refining process. For some time now, I have wrestled with my “calling.” I’ve come to realize that my calling is not found in a specific career field, rather my calling is to a deep relationship with the Lord-growing in a love and advocating for the things He is about, and warring against the things He despises. This isn’t clear-cut, and it may not always look appealing: however, I do know that wherever He leads will be good, because He is good.”
This internship was most definitely a divinely appointed assignment for Holly- and for us. When we are called in to service, wherever that might be, and with whomever that might be with, there is always a greater purpose in mind. And isn’t that precisely how God works? It is about Obedience. The refining process she made mention of is what in fact sanctifies us, bringing us closer to Him, and aligning us even deeper under His mighty wings.
When I met Holly, what struck me was how much she loves the Lord and desires above all else to be obedient to His will. Every conversation we had, gave glory to God and His sovereign Lordship over her life. The Lord will bless you mightily Holly!
Philippians 3:12- “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
India Lett almost lost her life in a harrowing episode — but God wasn’t done with her yet. A modern-day miracle changed the trajectory of India’s life forever.
India grew up in Mobile as the youngest of six. High school was a rough time for India. During those years, her parents lost their house, and she got romantically involved with a guy with whom she thought she could see a future. At 15, she found herself pregnant, alone and struggling to find somewhere to sleep at night. Being on the streets is difficult under any circumstances, but being pregnant makes it almost impossible.
India’s situation left her unable to finish high school or obtain her GED. Things started looking up when her parents were able to rent a house in Prichard. From the outside, the house looked great, but the reality of what was inside was subpar. Her family had the upper room of the house, which was without a bathroom or running water. While they may have had to sleep on the floor, they finally had shelter.
One of India’s older sisters was able to get a place of her own and allowed India to live with her to make their parents’ situation easier. While her living situation was better, India’s trials weren’t over yet. Because of a lack of accountability and full freedom, she made decisions that left her in a more difficult place than where she started.
While her son’s father was in prison, she befriended a man who was more interested in her than she was him. The man who she thought was her friend did not handle her lack of interest well, so he decided to act on his anger and began shooting at her sister’s house. Scared, India and her sister abandoned the apartment and found a new place to live.
When the man found their new place, he broke in and attempted to assault India. India was not going down without a fight, and before here sister was able to intervene, he shot India in the hip area. India fled as quickly as she could while her sister made sure the attacker didn’t get away. Because the new apartment was on the second floor, India had to travel down a flight of stairs to get to the car.
When she woke up in the hospital, she found the main nurse crying. Curious, she asked what was going on. The nurse explained that the location of the bullet had just missed hitting a major artery, and that her life had miraculously been spared.
India not only received a second chance at life, but also a second chance as living an abundant one. After she healed from her close call, she began attending church and focused on caring for her young son. She realized God had a plan for her life and decided to life for Him. After enrolling in ReProgram, she found a customer service job at Waite’s Cleaners in Midtown and is now saving to make a better life for herself and her son. She hopes to become a CNA in the future.
Over the next four weeks, we will introduce you to our ReProgram students and share their stories. All stories are written by our intern, Holly Prine.
Mitzie Chapman is an overcomer. Her journey has not been easy, but she wears her tragedies as armor rather than shackles.
As a child growing up in Los Angeles, Mitzie was abused by her father.
Despite this early trauma and some poor decisions Mitzie made in her young adulthood, she decided to pursue a degree in nursing because she wanted better for herself.
This in itself was a hurdle to overcome—when Mitzie was in primary school, she struggled because of a learning disability, and her teachers wrote her off. Mitzie, refusing to be defined by her past, completed her nursing education. While it was difficult, she never stopped believing in herself and her dreams.
“Sacrifice,” Mitzie says, “is a requirement for obtaining what we desire.”
In 2007, Mitzie lost her beloved mother to cancer, and she found herself in a downward spiral due to her grief. In her brokenness, she lost her focus. She fell behind on bills and lost her house. In an attempt to collect herself, she journeyed south to move in with her brother, who lived in Lucedale, Mississippi. When she was stable enough, she moved out of her brother’s house and found a place of her own in Prichard, Alabama.
All was looking up until she lost everything—again—in a house fire.
“But He knows the ways that I take; when He has tried me, I shall be as gold.” -Job 23:10
Mitzie allowed the physical fire to refine her spiritually and chose to praise God instead of blaming him for her trials. She understood that the more we acknowledge and process through our pain, the less painful it becomes, so she pressed on. In efforts to pay her bills, she humbly took a job at Checkers, even though taking commands from people 20 years younger was not easy. She knew she had to be proactive, even if that meant working in fast food. Mitzie eventually began working in the sheet metal industry, but after being laid off, she struggled to pay her bills and lost her house. Then, her brother died and her car was stolen.
When we met Mitzie a few months ago through the Clean Machine, her positive attitude was magnetic. Although she currently lives in an abandoned home with no power or water, her bubbly, persevering personality still shines.
“Suffering makes us look more like Jesus,” Mitzie says. “So I will trust in His goodness and learn to trust the transformation process.”
Mitzie is halfway finished with Ransom ReProgram. Upon completing the course, she hopes to return to nursing.
It’s almost time for a new year, and for many of us, the days between Christmas and New Year’s Day are a time of reflection and planning for the next 12 months. We consider what we need to do differently, what we should let go of, new projects to begin and perhaps even ask God what He would have us do with the next 365 days of our lives.
Helping others through volunteering often makes an appearance on that list.
But how? Churches, nonprofit organizations and ministries are always begging for volunteers, but many people aren’t able to volunteer their time during work hours, some are busy raising children and others struggle with illness or financial hardship. We meet so many people with good intentions who talk a lot about getting involved, but never seem to find the right niche. They end up volunteering once and never return because it’s not realistic to fit traditional volunteering into their schedule. It doesn’t have to be this way!
Fortunately, serving God and others doesn’t always look the same for everyone. God commands Christians to serve the poor and downtrodden over and over again throughout Scripture, so it’s worth considering all the ways you can obey that command — even if life is busy. These tips come from the context of Ransom Ministries, but you can apply these principles to any type of service.
5 tips for better volunteering in 2017
It’s better to do something small and realistic on a regular basis than make a large commitment you can’t fulfill. It’s also better to do something small than to do nothing at all. Check out the volunteer opportunities below to see the ways you can be involved.
Remember that helping people requires relationships. We so often make the mistake of believing poverty means people need money or things, but most people who find themselves in poverty get there by not having a support system. To truly help those in need rise out of poverty, donate yourself, not just your stuff.
If time to build relationships with those in need is not a resource you have, serve in ways that make it easier for those who do. Sometimes an organization’s greatest needs require unglamorous work that no one thinks of signing up to do: organizing storage spaces, cleaning offices, performing computer maintenance, filing paperwork, fundraising and more. Contact the organization you want to serve and ask them what no one on their staff has time to do. This is a great way to serve one time and really make a difference.
If you can volunteer regularly, spend some time just listening and learning, even if you have valuable experience and ideas to offer. Imagine starting a new job and immediately flooding your coworkers with ways they should do everything differently. Overwhelming! Instead, learn how things are currently done, and after trust and understanding are mutually established, begin making suggestions.
Donate money. Donate resources. Raise funds and awareness. Some people are called to give their time, and some are called to give money (what we find is that people usually start with one and it eventually leads to the other). If you’re a high-powered executive who works 80 hours a week, you can’t make time to volunteer on a regular basis. But you can provide much needed funding to make an organization’s work possible. If you’re a busy stay-at-home mom, you can’t bring your two under two to volunteer, and you may not have the monetary resources to donate, but you could have your friends and family collect needed supplies. Others have the valuable gift of fundraising! Use your connections and networks to raise awareness for the organization you love to generate sustainable sources of funding and volunteers.
2017 Volunteer opportunities with Ransom Ministries
Weekly/regular volunteer opportunities
Ransom Cafe: volunteer once a week to help us serve lunch at the location of your choice. Help us set up, serve and break down in addition to building relationships with guests and other volunteers. [4-5 hour commitment, once a week]
Ransom ReProgram, Champion: a Champion walks through our 8-week job training program one-on-one with a student. There will be two ReProgram classes in 2017: one starting Jan. 31 and one starting in September. Champions are an extremely important element of the program and are available to their student via phone, text and in person. Champions often help students do things parents would normally help their teenage children accomplish: getting driver’s licenses, opening bank accounts, applying for colleges or training programs, navigating relationships and making life decisions. Champions commit to stay in touch with their student for at least six months after graduation. [relational commitment, time varies depending on needs of student]
Ransom ReProgram, Classroom Facilitator: classroom facilitators commit to attend ReProgram classes for 8 weeks on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. They help the instructor facilitate the class, lead small group discussions, help with computers and build relationships with all of the students. While not as intimate as a Champion-student relationship, classroom facilitators help the class bond together as a whole and enable the instructor to focus only on teaching. [2-5 hour commitment, 1-2 times per week for 8 weeks]
Ransom RePurpose: RePurpose allows ReProgram students to work in our wood shop on Wednesdays and Fridays to make crosses and other items that we sell to the public. Students are paid $10/hour for their work and receive a check at graduation. We need people who can help guide them in creating their products. [2-5 hour commitment, 1-2 times per week for 8 weeks]
One-time/Irregular volunteer opportunities
Ransom Cafe: Provide a meal for a location! Ransom Ministries provides food for four cafes: Covenant Presbyterian (average of 100 people served), Christ United Methodist (average of 50 people served), the Hangar of West Mobile Baptist (average of 40 people served) and First Baptist Theodore (average of 40 people served). You can help tremendously by providing a meal for any of these cafes anytime. [1-2 hour commitment, one time or regular – up to you]
Clean Machine: The Clean Machine is a portable laundry and shower trailer that serves every other week at First Christian Church (Monday) in Midtown and once per month at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Crichton (Tuesday) and First Baptist Church Theodore (Thursday). Clean Machine volunteers have the unique ability to talk with patrons for long periods of time while they are waiting for their laundry to be done. [3-4 hour commitment, one time, once a month or every other week, depending on location]
General office help: Come to our office in Chickasaw and help us clean and/or organize. [1-2 hour commitment, one time or regular]
Ransom ReProgram, community roundtable / employer roundtable: During the 8-week class, one session is devoted to a community roundtable, in which people representing organizations or businesses that can provide assistance to our students present their resources. Another session, the employer roundtable, allows students to hear directly from employers about what kind of people they hire and keep. [1-2 hour commitment, one time]
Ransom ReProgram, resume helper: One of the graduation requirements for ReProgram students is a resume. Resumes are often very difficult for our students, so it’s nice to have one helper per student if possible! [1-2 hour commitment, one time]
Ransom ReProgram, meals: Provide a meal and join us for lunch during one of our 8-week classes! [2-3 hour commitment, one time or regular]
Large bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash (no bars of soap, please)
Towels, washcloths, scrubs
Three-compartment to-go trays
Commercial-size aluminum pans and lids
Salad (can always be added to menu)
Bread (can always be added to menu)
Large quantities of rice, noodles, spaghetti sauce, meat, etc.
When donating food, please call us first at 251-751-0044 to make sure it’s something we can use. 🙂