TEMPLE— Jim Hornsby wears many hats.
From feeding the homeless to providing weekend backpacks for students, to organizing volunteers, to sponsoring an outreach ministry with prisons, Hornsby and his volunteer staff are reaching people for Jesus.
Hornsby is executive director of Churches Touching Lives for Christ—a cooperative of congregations working together to meet the physical needs of individuals in order to introduce them to Jesus.
The group originated 25 years ago when pastors and lay leaders from seven churches in Bell County asked, “What can we do?”
They found their answer in Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 25:34-46, where he spoke of ministry to “the least of these”—the most vulnerable and powerless.
Organizers built the ministry on four objectives:
- To provide an atmosphere of spiritual encouragement for those who come, regardless of need.
- To help individuals access Temple-area helping agencies.
- To serve as a central location for the accumulation and distribution of food, clothing and other goods.
- To provide opportunities for church members and other volunteers to minister in the name of Christ.
Today, more than 30 area churches representing a dozen denominations, support the ministry, along with businesses and social service organizations that are part of its network.
Seven days a week, more than 150 people—most of them homeless—gather at the ministry’s headquarters on Avenue G in Temple to receive a hot meal. People who live on the streets have the opportunity to shower, as well as eat. Counselors are available for anger management and financial help.
“Mental health is a big problem,” Hornsby said. “Data shows that 65 percent of our clients have mental health issues. Many can’t read or write. Education is part of our program so that they can deal with this handicap.”
To help students who live in food-insecure households, Churches Touching Lives for Christ makes available weekend backpacks filled with nutritious food. Each week, 410 children in seven Bell County school districts receive weekend backpacks.
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Support from Texas Baptist Hunger Offering
As a partner with Bell Baptist Association, Churches Touching Lives for Christ receives funds from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering to help support the ministries that provide meals for the homeless and food-filled backpacks for schoolchildren.
Churches Touching Lives for Christ also sponsors a food pantry specifically for people with physical disabilities. Individuals who are confined to a wheelchair or need oxygen maintenance can visit the food pantry the second Thursday of each month.
The ministry also provides clothing, toiletries and Bibles for ex-offenders who are involved in a 90-day rehabilitation program for substance abuse after their release from prison.
Every day, about 200 families receive assistance at Churches Touching Lives for Christ. A volunteer staff seeks to respond to their needs.
“It warms my heart to see the volunteers work with our clients,” said Retha Snelson, who has worked in “everyday operations” at the ministry for six years.
“It is such a loving atmosphere with everyone trying to help meet the needs of those we serve. I know God is in every aspect of our ministry when I see people leaving our building with a big smile on their face.”
‘What can I do to help?’
Churches Touching Lives for Christ requires about 35 volunteers daily to meet the needs of clients. Tasks range from filing, computer work and general office chores to heavy work such as transporting food.
To serve more people, Churches Touching Lives for Christ has developed a data base that includes information from other agencies in Bell County.
“Now I can check this program and see when people got help last,” Hornsby said. “This will allow us to quickly identify those with both temporary and emergency needs.”
Hornsby understands the situation of people served by this ministry.
“I was a homeless Vietnam veteran and after the war came back to Waco,” he said. “Exposed to Agent Orange while in Vietnam, I have numerous health issues.
“I found a God who loves … making me want to love others. I prayed and asked him, ‘What can I do to help?’ We serve an awesome God!”
Carolyn Tomlin writes for the Christian market and teaches the Boot Camp for Christian Writers.
This is part of an ongoing series about how Christians respond to hunger and poverty. Substantive coverage of significant issues facing Texas Baptists is made possible in part by a grant from the Prichard Family Foundation.