Church Under the Bridge Midland: A Different Kind of Ministry
Stop and think for a moment. Think about what it would be like if you didn’t know where you were going to sleep tonight or even if you were going to have anything to eat. The same tomorrow. And the next day. That’s the situation every day for about 300 people in Midland who are homeless and live on the streets.
The Salvation Army, Jesus House, and Family Promise of Midland are among the organizations in Midland and the Permian Basin which help the homeless. They do excellent, valuable work. And there’s also Church Under the Bridge Midland, which held its first church service for Midland’s homeless population in May of 2013.
Church Under the Bridge Midland (CUTBM) meets every Saturday morning on the basketball court behind Amistad Christian Fellowship at the corner of Baird and Washington Streets, one block south of the Salvation Army in Midland. It was founded by Evan Rogers, who was a restless Sunday-only Christian until he volunteered to help with Jesus House in Odessa. When he learned of a homeless man who froze to death in the Midland winter, he rifled his own closets and distributed warm clothes among the people on the street. Eventually Evan realized that the homeless needed more than just the basics for survival; they needed spiritual nourishment as well. He decided to turn the work into a ministry for Jesus Christ.
The setting up of tents, tables, and chairs begins about 8:45. Breakfast is served at 9:30, and then there’s some “hanging out” time until the worship service begins at 10 am. Volunteers are encouraged to get to know those they’re serving. They are not nameless faces; there are some very interesting stories and surprises in their histories. Friendships develop. Lunch is served after worship, and the twenty or thirty or fifty patrons are also given a sack lunch for later, because the soup kitchens aren’t open again until Monday. Rogers says it’s so important to take church to where the homeless are, because they won’t come to a conventional church. They’re uncomfortable in a traditional church setting because of their circumstance, and unfortunately, many regular churchgoers aren’t very receptive to their attendance. Many CUTBM volunteers are initially shocked when a homeless person shows up drunk for Saturday worship, but as Evan says, “The Bible doesn’t set preconditions for worship nor for helping the needy. God listens to drunk prayers just like he listens to sober ones.” Inebriated attendees are treated like everyone else at CUTBM.
One of the reasons Evan Rogers is so passionate about helping the homeless is because he has lived it. When he was growing up, his family was frequently homeless; he says sometimes they’d be “on a bus not knowing where we were going”—a bus to nowhere. But Evan is a hard worker, and he eventually went into banking, becoming a branch manager for SouthWest bank in Odessa (which graciously supported his work with the homeless). However, the fervor for helping those in need was such that he left the bank to help the homeless full time.
There’s a program which CUTBM conducts that gives participants the experience of homelessness. It’s called the 24-hour Poverty Simulation, and it’s patterned after the program which Mission Waco has been conducting since 1986. The group comprises between 10 and 20 people—youth groups are typical participants—and they live on the street for 24 hours. Evan says they usually show up with camping equipment, flashlights, their ever-present smart phones, and other modern comforts for an overnight outdoors. All of that is taken away and stored for pickup the next day; they are given salvaged clothing and blankets—and very little else—for the night. It’s a rude awakening for most participants, and it opens their eyes to one sobering side of the real world. For many it’s a life-changing experience. If you have a group that would like to participate in the 24-hour Poverty Simulation, contact Evan at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
Church Under the Bridge Midland isn’t a one-day-a-week ministry. They go on what they call “night strikes” (which Evan first did with Jesus House) four or five nights a week, seeking out the homeless who need warm clothes, blankets, a meal, and hot coffee on a sub-freezing night, or a meal and cool water on a hot summer night. This is an area in which they need volunteers to help.
The work of CUTB Midland hasn’t gone unnoticed. Evan Rogers was presented with the 2015 Jefferson Award for Public Service, and he hopes the recognition will translate into expansion of the ministry’s reach. Rogers says they need three things: volunteers, donations, and prayer. The ministry feeds on average 75–100 people every week. They provide clothes, survival gear, Bibles, food, water, hygiene kits, and even bicycles to the homeless of Midland. Welcomed donations include sleeping bags, blankets, tents, clothing, and funds to pay for food and necessary ministry expenses.
Church Under the Bridge Midland is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization; all donations to it are tax-deductible. It has an active Board of Directors, and it works jointly with 2:20 Ministries to provide the salary for the full-time CUTBM pastor and other expenses. You can send donations directly to CUTBM, PO Box 71, Midland, TX 79702 or go online to either www.cutbmidland.org or www.220ministries.com to donate through PayPal. You can also contact CUTBM for information about how to donate the non-monetary items it needs to continue its work.
This organization is the real deal. It ministers to the homeless by providing them with essentials for survival—food, clothing, shelter. And it also feeds their spiritual needs. Church Under the Bridge Midland deserves your help.