MATthew 6 Ministry: Helping the Homeless

February 18, 2013

Below is a Q & A with Rev. Diane Baldwin, pastor of Georgetown-Chunchula United Methodist Church, about their new MATthew 6 Ministry. 

Q: Tell us what the MATthew 6 ministry is and the meaning behind the name.
MATthew 6 is a ministry that centers around the needs of the homeless in our community and beyond. Many homeless find themselves on the streets or in makeshift shelters. Our mission is to provide some basic personal items that provide some comfort and relief from the outside elements and lack of facilities. In doing so, we also strive to surround them with the love of our Savior, Jesus Christ and provide reassurance that He is with them and will provide for them.

We provide homeless care kits which include a handmade prayer MAT crocheted out of plastic bags by the ladies of our church. The prayer MATS are large enough to sleep on and provide some protection from moisture and bugs. When not in use, the MATS can be rolled up and carried using a shoulder strap which is also included. The rolled up MATS also contain a large blanket, hat and gloves, toiletry items, insect repellent, a bible, flashlight and other assorted items according to the season. When the kits are given to individuals, they are also given food.

The name MATthew 6 comes from verses 31-33 of Matthew 6 which provide assurance of God's provision when we seek Him first. We hope that the prayer MATS provide a reminder and reassurance of God's love and provision each time a person uses it.

Q: How did this ministry form and where did the idea come from?
One of our members, Tonya Rostas, learned how to make the mats from a friend. She brought the idea back to our congregation and taught several of the other ladies how to make them. Each MAT is prayerfully made with approximately 600 plastic bags.

Q: How has your church and community embraced this effort?
The church immediately embraced this ministry. Although we only have about five ladies who actually crochet the MATS, there are many others who are also involved in the ministry. Many families save their plastic bags to be used in the mats. Others, including a number of our youth cut the bags into strips and create the chains needed in order to crochet them together. Still, others pray over the MATS and participate in blessing them before they are assembled into kits and given out.

This ministry has also allowed our church to extend our ministry beyond our local community and to join with others in surrounding communities to distribute the MATS.

Q: What has been the feedback from those benefiting from this ministry?
The initial feedback from those who received the MATS was incredible! During distribution of the MATS, there was an opportunity to hear the stories of those who live under bridges or in tents and the struggles that they face everyday. There was also time for discussion about Jesus and His saving grace. Ultimately there was an opportunity to form new relationships and to continue to include those who received the MATS in our daily prayers.

After initial distribution of the MATS, there was one left over which was placed in the trunk of a car. Several weeks later while parked at a downtown gas station, one of the ladies overheard the conversation of two homeless men who were huddled up near the building. One of the men was telling the other how all of his belongings had been stolen and that he had nothing to keep him warm. It was a cold night and the woman remembered that she had homeless care kit along with the MAT in her trunk. She approached the men and offered the items along with a hot cup of coffee. The man was ecstatic and graciously accepted the items. He spend a great deal of time speaking to her and rededicated his life to Christ that evening. He also asked her to remember him in her prayers and to come back and see him sometime. He saw Christ through her that evening and hopefully feels His presence each time he lays on the MAT or curls up in the blanket.

Q: If someone wanted to contribute to this ministry, how can they get involved?
We encourage others to get involved in this ministry. If you would like to learn how to make the prayer MATS or how to start this ministry in your church, we would love to help you. We will be giving instruction on how to do this during annual conference Mission Day on June 4th. We welcome you to sign up for our project when you register for annual conference. We also invite you to come out to our church and learn more about this wonderful ministry!

Q: What are your short- and long-term goals for this ministry?
We will continue to crochet the MATS and provide them to as many people as we can. Our long-term goal though is to spread this ministry to other churches and organizations so that this ministry can touch a greater number of people. Although the MATS are the central focus of this ministry, Jesus is the essential part of this ministry. Our ultimate goal is to reach the homeless with Christ's transforming love and to form lasting relationships in His name.

Q: What else would you like the conference to know about this ministry?
This is an easy ministry to start and does not require much in start-up costs. Churches of any size can successfully start this ministry.