When the phone call came asking Rhonda if she’d be willing to volunteer at Jessie’s Place, she saw more than a conventional opportunity to be involved with her congregation at Mt. Canaan Full Gospel Church. She saw God opening a door she was led to several years before.
Rhonda felt called to work with women in need and Jessie’s Place was “the first place thing that popped into [her] mind.” Her previous church hadn’t formalized a community outreach program that included the shelter, however, so the idea shifted to the back burner until the phone rang that afternoon.
“When the mission director asked me to pray about it I told her, ‘Well, I don’t have to pray about it because the Lord already told me to help the women at the Mission,” she said. “I was just so happy she asked me to come.”
Rhonda, and fellow servant Jacqueline, were both a part of Mt. Canaan’s inaugural outreach ministry at Jessie’s Place 11 years ago and the duo, along with countless others in the congregation, have been serving ever since.
“I had gone through a divorce,” Rhonda said, “and my heart just went out to the women and, of course, children also. That’s how I got involved with the Bible studies. I wanted to share my story with them and let them know there was hope. When I began to share my testimony it began blessing so many women. That’s when I knew this was from God and where He wanted me to be.”
Jacqueline embarked on her campaign of serving when the same director asked if she’d be willing to coordinate an uplifting activity with the women at the shelter.
“I wanted to do things that would take their minds off things they might be thinking about and put it on something good,” she said. “I was just going to do it a couple of times, but I got kind of addicted to it. I loved coming here, meeting the ladies, talking with them, and making some new friends.”
Though Jacqueline has been a dedicated volunteer at Jessie’s Place for well over a decade, her relationship with the Jimmie Hale Mission runs even deeper.
“Two of my brothers went through the program at the [Shepura Men’s Center],” she revealed. “One had an alcohol addiction and the other had a drug problem. My whole family served there on Christmas one year and I still donate to the Mission.”
Over time their service transitioned from spiritual nurturing to physical nourishment with the group now providing dinner the last Friday of every month. And you won’t find any run-of-the-mill, cafeteria-style plates being served either. The team’s cooking is spearheaded by a former restaurant owner named Pam who Rhonda described as “devoted to this place and this mission.” So much so, in fact, that Pam ensures the food is cooked and delivered, even if she can’t be there to help serve it herself.
“The meals are always hot and homemade,” Jacqueline said.
Rhonda is no stranger to the kitchen either and often serves as chef when Pam is absent. Rhonda and her daughter ran a local catering service for quite a while and the two now focus on sweets specifically through their desert business in Birmingham.
“I love this work,” Rhonda said. “I’ve tried so many other things, but this is my passion. My heart is always here. I love it.”