Missionaries Help Struggling New Orleans Women Find Hope and Rebuild Their Lives

Homeless, pregnant and struggling with substance abuse, Melanie's life seemed hopeless as she slept under a bridge in Oklahoma City several years ago.

Pictured: Leading Bible studies and teaching budgeting skills are all part of the ministry provided by Baptist Friendship House in New Orleans. Kay Bennett (center) directs the center and is a North American Mission Board Week of Prayer missionary.  Photo by Susan Whitley. 
Then a newspaper article caught Melanie's eye about the city of New Orleans' struggle to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Desperate to rebuild her life as well, she set out for New Orleans and on the path to a divine appointment with LoveLoud missionary Kay Bennett.

"Melanie contacted me and came into our transitional housing program," Bennett recounts. "She got a job, got into college and is working toward her social work degree now. She came to us because she knew she needed help, and we offered her the support she needed to succeed."

Melanie is just one of hundreds of women Kay Bennett is reaching through the Baptist Friendship House in New Orleans.

With a motto to "meet needs through love, action and truth," the Baptist Friendship House exists to serve and support vulnerable women and children as they transition to new lives. The ministry offers housing to homeless women and children as well as life-skill training, from literacy and computer skills to GED and college preparation. 

"Most of the women who come into our transitional program are getting out of a bad situation," Bennett says. "The important thing to realize is that these women often get stuck in vicious cycles of addiction or abuse, and if there's not someone there to help them break the cycle they have a hard time breaking free. Through Baptist Friendship House I'm able to come alongside them and help them get out of the cycle for good."

In addition to the transitional housing program, Bennett and her team host numerous outreach events throughout the year to meet the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the community. At the crux of Bennett's ministry is a desire to reach the whole person, starting with their physical and emotional needs toward seeing them spiritually transformed through the power of Christ.

"We see people that come to us with deep needs, and many have never even heard who Jesus is. If I walk up to that person and start just quoting Scriptures without offering to help with their immediate needs, they'll never hear it," Bennett says. "When they come in and see us simply being Christ to them, that starts building a bridge to share the Gospel and see life change happen."

Bennett has been reaching the hearts of New Orleans through Baptist Friendship House for the last 15 years. Originally from Mississippi, she came to the city more than two decades ago to complete her master of divinity degree at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. She served as a missionary at the Brantley Baptist Center for nine years before taking on her current role at Baptist Friendship House in 1997.

Bennett has developed a heart not just for the women and children of New Orleans but also for the city itself.

SOURCE: Sara Shelton
Baptist Press
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