Joel Crumpton talks to students who came to be trained and equipped for outreach to the homeless in Atlanta.
Homeless ministry opening headquarters in Newton County
As he approached a man sitting in a wheelchair in Woodruff Park in Atlanta, Joel Crumpton was carrying a large cross as part of his ministry to Atlanta's sick and homeless. As he got near, he surprised the man, who was sitting there eating lunch out of a box.
"Whoa, that's a big cross," the man said to Crumpton.
Crumpton asked him how long he had been using his wheelchair, and the man told him it had been a good while.
"I've got good news for you," Crumpton told him. "The kingdom of heaven has come near you."
At that point, he took the man's hand and said, "In the name of Jesus Christ, be healed."
What he didn't know was that the man had lost one of his legs and was wearing a prosthesis.
Immediately after Crumpton spoke those words to him, the man stood up and started shouting, "praise the Lord" mixed in with a few expletives, Crumpton said with a chuckle.
He said it was a miracle because he had been unable to get out of that wheelchair even with a prosthetic leg because of the excruciating pain he suffered anytime he put pressure on it.
As he shouted praises, a crowd began to gather and Crumpton began to preach the gospel.
Sometime later as Crumpton was in the park, he again saw the man, who was now getting around with only the aid of a walking stick to steady him. The man told Crumpton that he had been a cocaine addict and an alcoholic, but when Crumpton began to pray over him that earlier time in the park, the man said, "Something came over me."
Since that time, he no longer had any desire to do drugs or drink and he was getting along fine now on his prosthetic leg.
The testimony of the man in Woodruff Park is just one of hundreds Crumpton can recall from those he and others have ministered to through Rescue Atlanta for the past 23 years.
Rescue Atlanta had to close its doors a month ago because, after the bad economy hit the corporations it depended on for its funding, those businesses were no longer able to provide money for the homeless ministry to operate, Crumpton said.
Still carrying on despite the shutdown of Rescue Atlanta and its full-service facility, Crumpton and his wife, Pat, (they met as volunteers at Rescue Atlanta two decades ago), along with the help of other volunteers and almost half a dozen churches, take food and the gospel to the sick and homeless in Atlanta's parks and on its streets.
"We go to different parks where there are a lot of homeless people," Crumpton said. "We do some radical stuff. It's Book of Acts type of stuff. People who are blind can see; the lame can walk."
For six years, Crumpton has worked through the ministry he founded out of Rescue Atlanta, Broken Pieces Outreach, which serves food to the hungry and trains volunteers to go out and make a difference to those in need.
The Henry County resident is now moving to Newton County where he has decided to open the headquarters for Broken Pieces Outreach and make his training program and facility available for church youth and adult groups and others who want to minister to the homeless.
The new headquarters for Broken Pieces Outreach will not house any homeless people, but rather serve as a training ground for anyone interested in learning how to minister to those homeless in the inner city.
The training facility is expected to open in October and will include a dormitory for men and another for women. Crumpton said he prefers not to disclose the exact Covington location at this point.
Volunteers will be taught about prayer, ministering to the homeless and others, and then they will take to the streets to put what they have learned into action, Crumpton said.
Crumpton and his volunteers go to Atlanta on Tuesday nights and distribute food and share the gospel with the homeless. They go out into the streets on Sundays and preach and minister for two to five hours each week.
Such is the burden God placed on Crumpton's heart many years ago. Born in Birmingham, Ala., and brought up in the Baptist Church, Crumpton said he was converted at the age of 22 -- almost 35 years ago -- in a full gospel type of church.
"I was just a regular church-goer," he said. "I knew God had called me to reach the lost. I went mostly door-to-door ... Going to church on Sundays and Wednesdays was nice, but (this experience) is hard to put into words ... We love it."
He and Pat met 20 years ago when they volunteered with their church at Rescue Atlanta. They were married 18 years ago and Crumpton said they do everything together in the ministry. They have two grown sons and three grandchildren.
A number of years ago, Crumpton and his wife went to Pensacola, Fla., for five years to help with what has been called the "longest running revival in U.S. history."
"It was an amazing revival," he said, adding that they moved from Pensacola to Charlotte, N.C., where he was involved in a prison ministry for seven years. He served with The Father's Heart prison ministry and preached 300 to 400 sermons in a dozen prisons.
Following a mission trip to Mexico, the Crumptons stopped by Atlanta on their way home to Charlotte to visit with friends at Rescue Atlanta. As soon as they walked in the door, they both had the feeling they were supposed to be there.
They came back to Atlanta to serve the homeless and six years ago began Broken Pieces Outreach, which grew out of Rescue Atlanta, Crumpton said.
Tuesday night, the Crumptons were again on the road to Atlanta to deliver meals cooked by ladies at a church. They had a list of places they were going, places where the homeless are known to gather. They were ready to feed 100 with good food and the Good News.
Anyone interested in learning more about Broken Pieces Outreach Ministry may follow Crumpton's blog at www.bpoministries.blogspot.com.
Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Snellville. If you have a story idea, email Karen Rohr, features editor, at email@example.com.