5 tips for better volunteering in 2017

volunteerIt’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.

Fortunately, there’s a way for everyone to serve those in need. You’ll need to get creative, and you just might have to get your hands a little dirty!

5 tips for better volunteering in 2017

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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]

Bill Robinson has been a cafe volunteer, Champion, classroom facilitator, clean machine volunteer and more!

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]

Champion and RePurpose Volunteer Steve Little helps Michael with a RePurpose project.

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]

The Clean Machine provides shower and laundry services to Mobile’s homeless community.

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]

Ransom Ministries’ office is located at 320 S. Craft Highway in Chickasaw.

Needs list 

Clean Machine

  • Large bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash (no bars of soap, please)
  • Razors
  • Towels, washcloths, scrubs
  • Cleaning supplies

Ransom Cafe

  • 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. 🙂

Office supplies

  • Copy paper
  • Cardstock
  • Envelopes
  • Stamps
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Paper plates and plastic utensils
  • Plastic cups
  • Cleaning supplies


RePurpose supplies (crosses)

  • Pallets
  • Scrap wood
  • Wood glue
  • Paint
  • Sandpaper
  • Paintbrushes
  • Nails
  • Hangers and wires





Thanksgiving 2016

Thanksgiving by the numbers: 

  • 1,174 served (in cafes and through deliveries to the community)
  • 85 volunteers
  • Six locations
  • $720 donated
  • 60 turkeys donated (thank you Second Generation Painting, Heavenly Homes Cleaning, and Travis Buckley Drywall!)
  • 400 pounds of ham donated (thanks Honeybaked Ham!)
  • 300 cupcakes donated (mmm Flour Girls!!)
  • Countless stories of connection between strangers and God’s provision — like this one…

For the past three Thanksgivings, Race Gentry and his family have served on Thanksgiving  at the Ransom Cafe location in Theodore. Each year, Race leads the team that goes out into the community to deliver plates to people who are working or home alone. The first year, he met a man who told him he was dying and asked for prayer. He visited the man again last year, and again this year! The man was able to share how God healed him. Race also visited many others he’d met in years’ past — what a gift to look forward to checking in on and praying for the same people each year. This year, Race took a little notebook and wrote down prayer requests for each person he encountered so he can pray for them throughout the year and check in again next Thanksgiving!

Thank you to everyone who volunteered, donated and ate with us this year! We are thankful for our Ransom family!

Baton Rouge flood relief 2016

RansomTrifold_CM_Clean Machine8x10.jpg

When God brought us the Clean Machine in the summer of 2013, we knew that in addition to providing a much needed service to our homeless friends, it would be a good tool to have in the event of a natural disaster.

So when word came that the recent flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana had brought devastation that some say was worse than Hurricane Katrina, we prayed and asked God if we should go. We knew within hours that we should.

Soon after we posted our supply needs on Facebook, we were overflowing with laundry detergent, dryer sheets, cleaning supplies, trash bags, and more!

Then, Matt’s truck (that we needed to pull the Clean Machine) broke down. We thought we might have to postpone or cancel the trip, but Fincher Timber loaned us a truck! So Matt headed out with loads of supplies, not exactly knowing what to expect.

Jeffrey, one of our ReProgram graduates, came to help with flood relief along with co-graduate Allan Schackai, who is from Louisiana.

Total devastation. That’s the only way to describe Baton Rouge after the flooding. Mountains of belongings lined the streets. Businesses were destroyed. Homes were uninhabitable. People were in shock.

Baton Rouge is not in a flood zone, so the vast majority of business and homeowners did not have a flood insurance policy. It seemed so hopeless and overwhelming.

But in interacting with people one-on-one, we discovered that hope survives even the most dire of circumstances and God truly does comfort the brokenhearted.

The stories below are snapshots of our time in Baton Rouge, told from Matt’s perspective. All names have been changed.

John and Cindy

Each day, we left in the morning to find people who needed their clothes washed. We found John and Cindy in a neighborhood where some homes were flooded and some were perfectly fine. There was even a man near them working in his yard. When we arrived at John and Cindy’s, John was having a rough moment. He was sitting on a cooler wondering out loud how they would ever recover. I noticed he had a lot of LSU stuff, so I started talking to him about football and assured him I’d make sure I took care of his LSU clothes, fold them and put them on top. Just that little bit of interaction made him smile — it was amazing to see his attitude change because of something so small.

Community on the Interstate

I met a family who was on their way to the beach when the interstate flooded. Thousands were trapped on the road for more than 24 hours. Their daughter has autism and they also had an elderly grandparent with them. Instead of panicking, all the people who were trapped on the road pooled their resources and their food, and they made the best of it.

cm_louisiana8Mark and Lynn

One morning as we were driving around trying to find clothes, we stopped and spoke with a family who said they were already taken care of, but they knew an elderly couple down the street who really needed help. When we arrived at their house, Lynn was in the back laying on a cot because her legs were hurting. They had been trying to clean out their own house because a crew came by, quoted them $600 and then didn’t come back for days. When they returned, they said they’d charge them $2,400. Mark and Lynn had just moved to Baton Rouge from Florida, and they couldn’t afford that.

When I told Mark I wanted to do their laundry, he asked what we were charging.

“Nothing — we just want to help,” I said. He didn’t believe me. After I assured him it would be free, he allowed me to pray for him. This retired military guy had these huge tears in his eyes and was just so grateful. It was great to help him and restore a little bit of faith after he had been so disappointed.

cm_louisiana9Gumbo: Coming Together

Coming together over food is common in Louisiana, so I wasn’t surprised when someone started making a giant pot of gumbo at the distribution center. As I sat there looking at this pot, God showed me that the Kingdom of God is like a big pot of gumbo — all the ingredients by themselves are OK, but they’re so much better when they come together. The whole is better than the sum of its parts. That truth was, and always is, on display during disaster relief efforts, but why isn’t it like this all the time? Why don’t we always so selflessly work together?

God’s desire is for the body of Christ — all its different parts — to function as one unit. We all need to serve our communities together, not just in times of tragedy. We need to leave our territorial tendencies behind and seek God’s kingdom above all else. God intends us to be there for each other no matter what color or socioeconomic level or denomination. He has called us to come into unity with each other… ALL THE TIME.


“I’ll never forget this summer”


Each summer, Ransom Ministries hosts groups of teenagers who want to learn more about living a life of service to God and others. They come from all over the country to spend a week at a time in Mobile doing a variety of service projects along with daily devotions, worship and share time.

We rely on college interns to provide the extra help we need to pull off our camps… all of our normal operations continue, and we are also responsible for up to 40 teenagers 24/7!

One of our interns, Allie, spent the summer with us and was integral in helping organize and implement activities for each camp. Her enthusiasm, passion and humor was a breath of fresh air for us all summer! Here’s what she had to say about her experience!

Ransom_AllieRansom Ministries became part of my life five years ago when my church drove all the way from Little Rock, Arkansas to participate in the ministry’s summer mission teams. My church was one of the first mission teams Ransom hosted, and we’ve been coming back ever since.

I loved all the activities we did that week — it was truly a week about loving God and others. At the time, I was struggling with my faith, didn’t feel very loved and was starting down a dark path. But the Ransom team took me under their wings and poured love and God’s word into me. Since then, I have been a camper, a chaperone and now an intern. I decided one week wasn’t enough time to spend at Ransom, and now as my internship is coming to an end, I can’t help but feel that a whole summer wasn’t enough either.

When you work with kids, there is a certain kind of responsibility that comes with it. That was the hardest part for me — realizing a lot of the kids will look up to me in the same way I used to look up to Ransom’s interns. When I was a camper, I met an intern who helped me through a rough time and whom I know will always be there for me. We still keep in touch.

My youth director told me before I left that my role has changed from receiving to giving. I was no longer the one being poured into. This summer, my job was to pour into others. That struck home for me. This summer was about how God used me to help others’ faith grow. But even though I came here to serve others, God used service to help me grow, too. That’s why I loved this internship so much. In letting God use me, it did make my faith grow. With every kid that “got it” or every person we made smile, He showed me His love, and that only made my love for him grow more and more.

The moment I remember most from this summer was how one of the campers who was going through a lot and having a rough time was still so full of love and caring for others. The campers were making bracelets to give away in hopes of showing God’s love, and this girl comes up to me and very shyly asks if she could make me a bracelet. It was so meaningful to me, and I have yet to take it off.

If this summer has taught me anything, it’s that God can use you to do amazing things if you just let go of yourself and let Him. When I was 16, Ransom Ministries saved my life, and this summer I got to give back to them and see that same change in others. I will never forget this summer, the people I met or all the things I’ve learned.

For more information about mission teams or internships, visit RansomMinistries.com.


What WILL Jesus Do?


Remember the oh-so-popular WWJD bracelets from the 90s?

“What Would Jesus Do?”

While the sentiment of these bracelets came from a good place, asking this question often leads to a thought process that negates the reality that Jesus is alive and accessible to us through the Holy Spirit. When we ask “What Would Jesus Do,” we put pressure on ourselves to fix people’s problems and give them all the right answers. But only God can do that.

We are not Jesus’ substitute here on earth. He is still alive and active here. We simply exist as His ambassadors and serve to point others to a living God who has the power to change and heal hearts.

So often in ministry or in our daily lives, we focus on the RIGHT, black-and-white response rather than the humble, grace-filled one. We box the living, all-knowing, all-powerful, relational Jesus in, thinking we can always know how He would handle each and every situation and neglecting to ask Him what He would have us do specifically in the moment. So when we don’t know, we so often just don’t act.

“I’m not sure what I should say to that homeless person, so I’m going to keep walking.”

“I am not fully clear on how I should interact with my family member who doesn’t know Jesus, so I’m going to stay silent.”

“Is having a positive relationship with a person living a sinful lifestyle wrong? Not sure… gonna play it safe and let that one fizzle out.”

But what if, instead of asking “What Would Jesus Do” in these situations, we stepped out in faith and wondered with anticipation, “What WILL Jesus Do” if they could just know Him?

“Hi, no, I can’t give you money, but how can I pray for you?”

“Hey, I love you and I want you to know Jesus. If you ever have any questions about God, I’m here for you.”

“Regardless of your lifestyle, I know He wants a relationship with you. So please don’t be afraid to approach God. I know if you have a real relationship with Him, He’ll work on your heart like He’s worked in mine.”

Sometimes the Holy Spirit does prompt us to give a hard word of truth to a friend or family member or someone who we’re serving. But that word always has to come from a place of love, relationship and a desire for that person to know Jesus and experience His grace. Knowing Jesus changes everything. If someone doesn’t know Him, we can’t expect them to change.

We believe in a sovereign, living God who has all the ability to work in someone’s heart. We cannot forget that as we interact with others. When we let go of the responsibility of being God, we get to watch him work. Don’t worry about knowing what Jesus would do. Just get people to Him…. and wait to see what He WILL do.

You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. –2 Cor. 3:3-6


ReProgram: finding God-given purpose

Ransom_ReProgramLogoIt’s the last week of our third Ransom ReProgram class. We are so proud of our students, who have worked so hard and persevered through tough roadblocks to get where they are today. As of today, 12 students are graduating on March 24, and three of them already have jobs! 

But the most powerful aspect of completing Ransom ReProgram isn’t about getting a job — it’s about learning to embrace your identity in Christ.

As we have gotten to know each of these students over the past eight weeks, we’ve learned how special God made each of them and have seen the labels the world has placed on them melt off as they realize the unique gifts and interests God has placed in their hearts. It’s so important to us that each student leaves knowing who God made them to be — not what the world has told them they are. 

We recently attended one of our students’ graduations from Home of Grace, a Christ-centered drug and alcohol recovery program. Each woman walked in carrying a large poster board with their old identity written on it: “Bound by the chains of sin and addiction,” “Imprisoned by fear and addiction,” and then picked up a new poster: “Freed by the blood of Jesus,” “A new creation.” We loved this visual picture of the life changing power of a relationship with Jesus.

At ReProgram, we seek to help our students discover even more about their new identities: what am I good at? What are my interests? What makes me tick? What is my purpose? What am I created to do?

So often the world reserves these kinds of questions for people who seem to have it all together, but we want our students to have access to hopes, dreams, and the tools they need to walk in obedience to God’s call. This is the only path to true, deep healing. A job might last for six months, but a God-given passion lasts a lifetime.

People who have struggled with addiction, crime, or poverty are not disqualified from redemption. They can be used for his glory in so many beautiful ways. We are missing out when we silence their voices, talents, and ideas. 

This is the beautiful rainbow that showed up before our students first met their champions.

Mandy, there is a elderly person out there who needs your soft voice, gentle touch, and attention to detail. You will be an incredible caregiver and CNA.

Marques, the dogs and cats of Mobile will be better off having you as their caretaker, and their owners will rest assured knowing you are caring for their pets. Your passion for animals is a gift from God.

Caitlin, you are a great mommy and will be wonderful in the world of customer service. Your humor and fun personality will make someone’s day!

Haley, you will be the most fun, loving cosmetologist. What a great career for someone so passionate about making others feel good about themselves!

Leslie, we can see you being a caring counselor for others who have walked through what you have been through. Whatever you do, we know you will do it with grace and humility.

Sam, you are already doing a great job in construction, and we pray God will give you what you need to also achieve your goals of becoming a personal trainer! God will use you in mighty ways to help others.

Ellis, your humble, gentle spirit has been such a blessing to us. Your awesome attitude paired with your work ethic will make you a great hire for any company!

Stan, you have a servant’s heart. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the restaurant business or working on computers —  you will serve others with joy!

Brian, you are a man of few words who works hard and does what he says he’ll do. We know you will be a dependable driver and will love being on the road one day!

Ray, what a journey it’s been. We are so proud of your dedication to make things right and walk into the life God has for you. Your sweet spirit will be a gift to your employer!

Hargrove, it’s been great to see you grow and embrace the truths we’ve learned in class. We know you will continue to grow and be a great employee.

Shaun, we need more brains like yours! You will be a great computer repairman!

This message isn’t just for our ReProgram students. Every believer has gifts, passions, and purpose. Don’t ever believe the enemy’s lie that you aren’t important. What has God called you to do? 

Ransom ReProgram is an 8-week job skills training program that seeks to provide participants with support services to overcome barriers to employment, helping them move out of dependency and into personal responsibility and self-reliance. ReProgram utilizes the Jobs for Life curriculum, an internationally-recognized job training program that boasts an 80 percent success rate. Participants are paired with a mentor and are taught spiritual principles about work and relating to others. For more information, visit RansomMinistries.com or contact site director Molly Broders at molly@ransomcafe.com.




That logo is cool… what does it mean?


We get a lot of questions about the meaning of our logo, which is exactly what we had in mind when we designed it. When we wear our Ransom T-shirts or hand out flyers, we love telling people the meaning behind the symbols. This gives us yet another opportunity to share the love of Christ one-on-one with the people around us.


We are all called to be salt in Matthew 5:13: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Salt has two uses: to give flavor and preserve. We are called to give flavor to and preserve the culture and people around us by being a positive, involved, Christlike presence in our communities. However, we should also remember that too much salt is unhealthy, so while we must be salt, we should not be overbearing or pushy.


The symbol for salt comes from the Alchemical symbols, which were used to denote elements and compounds until the 18th century.


We are called to be light in Matthew 5:14: “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” We are to shine like a lamp (not a spotlight) so people may see this Jesus we love through our lives, as well as the love we have for others through our interactions with them.


The symbol for light comes from electrical symbols used by electrical contractors. On a set of electrical plans, this symbol represents a source that generates light when an electrical current flows through it. This symbol is personally meaningful to Ransom Ministries because of God’s provision through a job in the electrical industry that allowed Matt to start Ransom.


In 2 Corinthians 5:20, Paul tells us that we are ambassadors for Jesus: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” As ambassadors of Christ, we strive to emulate Him in the way we treat people, love people and carry ourselves on a daily basis. This is why Ransom Ministries exists — we want to be a picture of Jesus’ love for everyone in our community.


The symbol for Jesus is a combination of the first two letters (XP, or Chi Rho) of “Christ” in Greek. The X and the P are superimposed to create what is known as the Monogram of Christ, Chrismon or Labarum. While it was used long ago by persecuted early Christians in the catacombs, the circle around it represents eternity.