“Our job is to restore people’s relationship with God. Our job is to evangelize just as we are doing now. That is our job. That’s our focus and that’s what separates us from other churches,” Ramsey said.
The programs started on Friday with the church handing out school supplies such as backpacks to families in need. Ramsey said they handed out 100 bags and school supplies to families that came in on a first-come, first-served basis. The community’s reaction was overwhelmingly positive, Ramsey added.
“They love it. They say it was needed,” he said. “A parent said yesterday, ‘Thank you so much for supplying school supplies because I had no money due to the economy.’”
School supplies were only one aspect of a larger program. Friday night the church’s youth were able to express themselves through song, dance or poetry and later heard a performance by a spiritual rapper. A motivational speaker was on hand as well to talk about personal courage, leadership, respect and accountability.
Saturday’s program included talks on sexually transmitted diseases and abstinence for youth, and mortgage refinancing, stress management and voter registration for adults. A showing of “The Lorax” was planned for Saturday evening.
Ramsey believed the talks, supply handouts and available HIV testing were additional ways for the church to use its resources in improving the community.
“It was important so that we could keep our children educated,” Ramsey said about the STD and pregnancy talks. “So we can fight against that and educate our young people that they can wait until they get married.”
Rev. Annie Carter has worked with HIV positive people for more than 20 years and this was her first year with St. Luke’s health ministry. She believed the free testing offered was very important for church members and their community.
“It’s extremely important, especially in the African-American community. We comprise only 12 percent of the population, but [in] 50 percent of the recent tests done African-Americans are HIV positive. It’s extremely important that they get tested and know,” she said.
In addition, the church holds free testing events at least twice a year and holds a week of prayer for an AIDS cure in March. St. Luke also celebrates world AIDS awareness in December.
Even though much of the outreach program were related to the poor economy through foreclosures, mortgages and school supplies, Ramsey did not think the economy was the main reason to hold outreach and health ministries.
“The church has always been a bridge-builder for the youth. The economy didn’t have anything to do with it. I think it helped us to push even harder to basically maximize what we were doing, because the churches have always been there,” he said.