(Photo: Keeping Hope Alive)
A grandmother of seven with a heart for children and the poor leads a ministry that has created two "sidewalk churches" geared toward the homeless in Charlotte, N.C.
Freddie Power, founder of Keeping Hope Alive (KHA), told CP she started the church services for the homeless after she was invited to visit the site of a church built by evangelist A.G. Garr, where she says she felt the presence of the Lord. After the visit, Power and some friends decided to meet there each week to worship, and they did so for nine months.
After taking time to pray about what they were supposed to do there, Power says God told her to purchase food and distribute it to people in the community. During their first weekend of outreach, 22 people gave their lives to Christ. The same happened the next time they did the outreach. Among those who were saved through their early efforts was a man who was once "the biggest drug dealer in the area," Power said.
After successfully ministering to the community twice, Power asked God for further direction: "I said, 'Okay Lord, tell me now what you want me to do.' And He said, 'I want you to start a church for the homeless...Put up plastic chairs and I'll bring the people.'"
The homeless and other members of the local community have been gathering nearby to worship on weekends since 2008. Since that time Power has also started another outdoor service for the homeless at another location in Charlotte.
"When I go, the first thing I do is hug them all, and just tell them I'm so glad they're there because I love them so much," said Power.
Typical services also include Bible teaching and encouragement. At the end of each service, those in attendance receive the gifts of food and prayer. Power says some people who were once homeless members of her congregation have found jobs and moved away, and one in particular even went to college.
Most churches depend on their attendees to support them financially, but Power says she simply relies on God to provide the money for the food her ministry gives away each weekend. She spoke about one time in particular when she was sitting in a restaurant, asking God to provide the money for her to purchase the food needed for the next Sunday, when suddenly a man she knew walked up to her and threw $80 down on her Bible.
"I don't raise support. I don't ask for money. I just pray," she said.
Power founded KHA in 1992 after a woman, who was concerned about the impact drugs were having on young people, invited her to teach the Bible to a group of children at a local youth center. The ministry, which officially became a nonprofit in 1998, has since seen 10,000 children give their lives to Christ, Power says.
In addition to reaching out to children and the homeless in the U.S., KHA has also ministered to children at orphanages in 10 different countries.
Power has been called a "modern-day Mother Teresa" by some, CBN.com reports, a label she says is "an honor." The 69-year-old also says she still wants to do a great deal more to help others.
"My whole thought process every day is [thinking about] how to help little children all day long. And so I can't even imagine just sitting down, not doing anything," she said.