Title: AU students visit “Church on the Street”
It was a recent one-week experience that deeply touched Alyssa Duty's life, as she and 14 other Anderson University seniors went to the "Church on the Street," in Atlanta, Ga., a ministry that serves hundreds of homeless people, including drug addicts and prostitutes. Duty walked away from the experience really understanding that "we are all children of God," and the need for Christians to serve "just as Christ has called us to do." Pastor Kurt Salierno runs the ministry. "We didn't know what to expect, and we were really shocked when we got down there," said Duty, as she saw numerous people sleeping on the street. "I was overwhelmed."
It was the first time in her life that she was able to put "a face and a name" to homelessness. Duty and her fellow social work colleagues spent mornings fixing up a homeless shelter, and in the evenings they served meals to those who came to the shelter hungry. The seniors also went to the parks and parking lots where many of the homeless people would congregate, and handed out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
They also played checkers, took time to talk and get to know the people and be involved with the "Church on the Street." Friendships formed, and Duty also spent time giving words of encouragement and reminding several of God's unconditional love.
"Just letting them know that God loves them and that someone actually does care," she said, without being too preachy.
The week was the fifth annual senior social work trip, and AU professors, Rudy Pyle and Sharon Collins, from the university’s social work department, accompanied the graduating seniors.
"People come to us because they think we're having a party, because we're so loud and enthusiastic," said Salierno with a smile. "They think we're having a drunken brawl, and they show up and find we're singing about Jesus."
Salierno said his church has saved countless numbers of people and has helped many make positive changes in their lives.
"I see miracles that I don't see in the local church, and I see blessings that happen on the street," he said, including drunks becoming sober and drug addicts giving up crack.
Andy Odle, a seminary student at AU, is passionate about the ministry and has worked three years with the "Church on the Street" with Salierno. He enjoys seeing people who devote time volunteering with "Church on the Street" go home to their communities to serve the hungry and homeless.
After the seminary, Odle plans to stay involved in the street ministry.
Both Salierno and Odle believe "Church on the Street," as a Church of God ministry, should also be on the streets in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and other large cities.
"There's a great need," said the pastor.
---Theresa Campbell is a reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin .