Members of Enid MB Church (EMBC) in Enid, Oklahoma, are seeing their city in a new light. Through Forgotten Ministries, a local umbrella ministry that assists homeless and impoverished people, they have realized the need to become missionaries in their own backyard.
“There has been a shift from judgement to compassion,” says Karen Jones, a member of the church’s outreach team and Forgotten Ministries board member. “Not that we were really judgmental, but I think there were people not knowing better who felt like if someone’s living like that, it’s their own choice. Our being out there and meeting these people helped us realize that it could be any of us. These things aren’t all someone’s choice.”
“Every town has that population in need”
Forgotten Ministries began about seven years ago by Hennessey, Okla., native Jeremiah Herrian and his wife, Sarah. They had been working on Skid Row in Los Angeles and when they saw that the needs present in LA were also present in Enid, the couple felt called to invest in this Midwest city of about 50,000.
“Eventually what we want to do is introduce Christ, because that’s where the ultimate change is going to come,” Jeremiah says in a video on the Forgotten Ministries website. “We’re not focused on how much money we’re making but how much we’re changing lives.”
One way they help educate the public is by visiting churches to present videos and testimonies about the difficulties these people face, such as sex trafficking.
“That really opened their eyes because a lot of our attendees would never have a reason to go into that situation and realize this is how it is,” Jones says. “I don’t think any of us would have believed it if he hadn’t told us these first-person stories of being there and doing what he could to help.”
This perspective shift is needed everywhere, Jones says.
“Every town has that population in need. We just have to be willing to open our eyes and see it. And if God points us in that direction, we need to be prepared to serve.”
“This is my mission, right here in Enid”
Forgotten Ministry’s motto is “the church has left the building” and the ministry has several project arms, including:
- The Mercy House, a nighttime shelter used during severe cold or heat,
- weekly hot meals served at a local park,
- Five80 Coffeehouse, a pay-what-you-can venue, which also provides funding for the ministry,
- The Oasis, transitional housing for men leaving incarceration,
- clothing ministry, where items are given at no cost,
- after school programs, new this year, and
- a community garden, which is just getting started.
Multiple churches in the area provide volunteers. Members of EMBC primarily help with The Mercy House and the park meals.
EMBC is responsible for one park meal a month. Teri Mendel has been cooking the meals for several years. With the help of another church member, she spends up to four hours preparing the meal the evening before. She then takes it to the park and helps serve it the following night to 50 to 150 adults and children.
“It has made me very appreciative of my blessings,” she says. “It’s just hard to believe that it was right under our noses and we didn’t notice. Now I see those people walking on the street on my way to work, and I think, ‘I wonder where he slept last night.’ This is my mission, right here in Enid.”
Some of those served are originally from the Marshall Islands and are not used to brisk Oklahoma winters. Some arrive without coats or shoes.
“That’s what I enjoy most. Just seeing the faces and the appreciation,” Mendel says. “The fact that we’re giving them something they really need. It’s rewarding seeing what God is doing through us as we spend time, and it’s such little time.”
The youth group, which volunteers somewhere locally each month, has assisted with The Mercy House and the clothing ministry.
“One main focus is humility and selflessness,” youth sponsor David Rader says about their service in town. “The world is too self-absorbed. I’ve noticed it helps them think about the other person more than themselves.”
This has translated into nonchurch time, like when they willingly helped Rader with his own yard work.
“Without hesitation we had kids doing stuff that you probably couldn’t pay me to do,” he says. “They’re realizing the world is a better place if we reach out and show love.”
“God has provided for every need”
In many ways, Forgotten Ministries has helped EMBC understand and meet the needs of their community. Children have learned to be thankful; adults have begun to pray for strangers and members donate generously when there is a need.
“One of our goals is that we are doing what we can to help reach our local neighbors,” Jones says. “This ministry seems to be currently the most effective way to be the hands and feet of Jesus to our community.
“Another goal is that we always have an opportunity to physically serve in mission in front of the members of our congregation, especially our youth,” she says. “There’s just so many ways our young people can learn what’s out there to do once they leave home.”
It has also opened their eyes to God’s provision, as the ministry does not receive any governmental funding, but relies on private donations.
“From the beginning of this ministry, every time when prayer is sent up, it will be answered almost the next day,” Jones says. “I come from a background where I have to plan everything. This ministry is so counter to that because God has just provided for every need as we pray for it. I’ve never seen a ministry that is as blessed by God as this is in such specific ways.”
Jenae Suderman is a freelance news writer. She and her husband, Adam, live in Wichita, Kansas.