Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
October 7, 2018
Mercy House making a huge difference
It’s not hard to find. Get off I-85 South at the intersection of I-85 and I-65 on to the Day St Exit. Keep on Day St to the first traffic light and turn left on Hill Street. Stay on Hill Street about a half mile and turn right on Mobile Road. Take Mobile Road a few blocks to Council Street and turn left. About one hundred yards on your left, you will see the sign: “Mercy House.” The address is 2412 Council Street, Montgomery, AL 36108.
The only other Mercy House I have ever heard of is the one in Jerusalem that John mentions in his gospel. John says it is beside the Sheep Gate, a pool with the Hebrew name of Bethesda, which means “house of mercy.” Under the porches of Bethesda were usually many infirm people waiting for the troubling of the water.
Now Montgomery, or West Montgomery, has its Mercy House. And like the house in Jerusalem you will find many people nearby, not sick people but people needing help. They need help because the Washington Park Community is a low-income, poverty-stricken, disenfranchised and marginalized community. Most of the people who live there are either unemployed or underemployed so the food supply in homes usually runs out between pay periods.
Mercy House is the vision of two men, one white and one black. I mention that because it’s important. People need to know in this day, when racism is still very much alive, there are black and white people working together as tightly knit as brothers. Bryan Kelly, the founder of Common Ground Ministry located near the Mercy House, found in Ken Austin a man with a heart for the poor, his own people, in that impoverished community. Together, focused on the holistic transformation of the Washington Park area, they have made a huge difference. Many residents there have found not only help for the basic needs of life but also hope for the future.
Last Tuesday Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange graciously affirmed the Mercy House ministry with his presence at a ribbon-cutting. Dozens of other people joined Mayor Strange in cheering for the Mercy House as its leaders launched into a new 501(3)c nonprofit ministry with Ken Austin as executive director.
Ken’s remarkable leadership has enabled Mercy House to partner with several churches, Maxwell Air Force Base and several local agencies to connect people with the help they need. This includes Family Guidance, Parenting Assistance Line, Alabama Coalition on the Aging, One Place Justice Center, Lighthouse Counseling, Motherly Care, COPE, Job Corps, Dress for Success, Hope Inspired Ministries and Community Action.
Mercy House is open every day to serve people in need of food or clothes. The food pantry currently serves about 50 families each week with emergency food needs. Daily hot meals are provided to elderly and homeless people. Mercy House also has two full bathrooms with showers available for the homeless and others. Washing machines and dryers are available for use.
Austin, pastor of the nearby New Walk of Life Church, says the Mercy House is “the go-to place for latchkey kids to stop in and get a snack or a meal after school. These children count on the Mercy House on holidays and school breaks to bridge the food gaps. Soon we will have a recreation area behind the Mercy House for children to enjoy a safe place to relax and play.”
Over the last two years Mercy House has served over 4,000 nutritional boxes of food to families in need. Each box contained enough food for an average family of five members to have breakfast, snacks and dinner for a week. In addition, the ministry has served 12 families a week through the Montgomery Public School Backpack program.
If you are looking for a legitimate ministry that connects people with help for life’s basic needs, Mercy House is it. You can contact Ken Austin at email@example.com or at the Mercy House, P. O. Box 10035, Montgomery, AL 36108.
An Air Force veteran and a resident of Montgomery for 35 years, Ken is embarking on a challenging new assignment – to use the Mercy House as a base for transforming the culture of the Washington Park Community in West Montgomery. His dear wife, Thomasina, who is on the faculty at Alabama State University, is by his side every step he takes.
I have written this because I believe the Mercy House deserves all the help we can round up. And I believe in Ken Austin. He has become more than a friend; he is like a brother to me. He even lets me preach in his church. So, with whatever time remains for me, I am on his team. We could use some more players on this team so call Ken or me if you want to sign on. If you do, you will likely be saying what we say almost every day: “God is at work in West Montgomery! Hallelujah!” + + +