Light of Salvation mission
Volunteers reach out to homeless with food, faith
Elijah Cooper, 16, a member of the Hilliard Church of Christ, serves a meal to Charles Kennedy, 50, one of an estimated 70 homeless people who were served a dinner April 13 at the church building on Avery Road in Hilliard. The event, which was planned by the Light of Salvation mission, also included prayers and testimonials and those attending received Bibles and a bag of personal-hygiene items. Buy This Photo
For the past three years, volunteers for the Light of Salvation mission have visited known homeless campsites in central Ohio every Saturday.
On April 13, they became the hosts for the visit at their Hilliard Church of Christ, 4300 Avery Road, providing the men and women they serve with a meal and personal-hygiene items -- and some nourishment for the soul, too.
The founders of Light of Salvation, Mike and Nicole Hogan, said the April 13 event was inspired by a video, The Invitation, they saw at their church. In the video, a man leaves notes for people inviting them to church and to accept God as their savior.
"We took it a step farther and decided to invite the homeless to come to us to have their bodies and souls fed," said Mike Hogan, 45.
The Hogans are members of Guide Baptist Church in Hilliard. They lead the mission with Shawn and Nicole Jones, who are fellow Hilliard residents and Guide Baptist Church members, and Ward and Lisa Weber, West Jefferson residents and members of Zion Lutheran Church in Columbus.
"It's amazing the people you meet and the stories you hear," Ward Weber said.
The three families, and the mission's 170 volunteers from various denominations, routinely visit six locations each Saturday, beginning at 7:30 a.m. and concluding about 3:30 p.m.
Mike Hogan said he and his family, including 8-year-old Abigail and 7-year-old Joseph, sometimes make a second sweep.
"It's usually about 9:30 p.m. when we're done," Hogan said.
Mike Hogan said the only times Light of Salvation volunteers don't visit the camps are when a major holiday falls on a Saturday.
He and Nicole, 36, founded Light of Salvation in January 2010.
"We had served for another outreach ministry for about a year, but felt called in another direction," Mike Hogan said. "Six months to the day (after we concluded the earlier ministry), my wife called me downstairs to watch a video about the homeless ... and we decided to go out and visit the homeless the very next Saturday."
He posted an ad on Craigslist seeking donations and establishing a meeting place in downtown Columbus to collect the donations.
"I turned the corner and there were 36 people waiting to donate ... and some of them wanted to go with us," he said."I had no idea then where it would be today."
Because the types of food that can be delivered to homeless camps is somewhat limited, the dinner at the Hilliard Church of Christ provided the opportunity to serve salads, entrees and desserts with all the amenities, including silverware and stemware.
Personally inscribed Bibles and books were at each place setting and each person was provided with a bag containing toothpaste, deodorant and other toiletries.
Members of the Church of Christ raised $700 to provide the meal and gifts, and they teamed up with Guide Baptist Church members to serve food and play music.
During the meal, members of various churches made testimonials about their relationship with God, many recounting troubled childhoods and tumultuous experiences as young adults.
Among the approximately 70 people who enjoyed the meal were Charles Kennedy, and his wife, Jacqueline.
Charles Kennedy, 50, said he came to Columbus from Boston and Jacqueline is from Atlanta, although she is a graduate of Linden-McKinley High School.
The two met last year while having breakfast at the cafe at Grant Hospital -- neither were patients -- and they soon married, Mrs. Kennedy said.
"What they do helps us a lot," Mr. Kennedy said. "You never know when you can get these things again."
To illustrate a benevolent act of humility Jesus performed for his disciples in the Bible, the event included washing the feet of the homeless.
Mr. Kennedy said he had worked in construction and the washing made his feet "feel brand new."
For more information about the Light of Salvation or to make donations or contributions, visit lightofsalvation.us.