Many walk the streets of Washington, D.C., with no place to call home. And, for most, it’s something they never planned or a place they’d never thought they’d be. But life threw difficulties their way — a few bad breaks, too many medical bills, a lost job or maybe a few poor financial choices.
Some have children. Some are looking for work. Some are substance abusers. Thomasville native Eric Bebber, who works among them, believes they all have one thing in common.
“They need someone to recognize they have dignity, worth and positive contributions to offer the world,” said Bebber, on the field staff of the national Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF). “Much of my work involves bringing the homeless and church missions groups together and creating opportunities for them to build bridges, find commonality and help each other live out the kingdom of God.”
Commissioned in 2006, Bebber helps church groups meet humans needs in the nation’s capital.
He plans experiences that engage the average church member with struggling inner-city residents.
“I believe in the power of being the hands and feet of Christ,” said Bebber. “When we step outside of what we are used to, when we meet people who have different backgrounds and stories than us, then God shows us that poverty no longer is an issue — instead, it has a face and a name, and it is a beloved child of God.”
Last July, members of Murfreesboro Baptist Church served alongside Bebber for a week. When they returned home, they started a ministry in their own community called Loaves and Fishes, which once a month prepares and delivers hot, homemade soup to homebound and community members with disabilities.
“Eric challenged us to not to let our mission experience end when we left D.C.,” said Lee Canipe, the church’s pastor. “God showed us a need that fit the gifts of our small congregation. It’s been fun for me as a pastor to watch how members of the congregation who didn't go to D.C. have responded to the ministry that evolved out of that mission experience. It may have started with a small group of folks, but now there are about 40 people involved.”
A graduate of Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology, Bebber sees the ultimate goal of this ministry as inviting individuals and churches to be “the presence of Christ in their own communities. That is where the gospel comes alive,” he said.