Today is Sunday, August 20, 2017
Ellayna Bolich, 7, daughter of evangelist Jeremiah Bolich and his wife Karenda, is served a plate of baked beans and ham at the nightly Cross Style Church dinner for the homeless, volunteers and friends (they all sort of blend together). JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post
Demonstrating their Christian fellowship and brotherhood are Cross Style Center residents Ricky Martinez, left, and Chad Martin, right. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post
Local caterer Penny Hudson, who serves as a volunteer cook at the nightly Cross Style Church dinner, has just pulled a tray of nicely browned hot biscuits out of the oven in the church kitchen. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post
After serving other guests at the nightly Cross Style Church dinner, Joel Horner (affectionately known by everyone present as simply "Joel") gets a plate for himself from volunteer cook Penny Hudson, left, and Neeta Muktikar, right. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post
Going through the serving line at the nightly Cross Style Church dinner are Regina Denison, left, a student at the Cross Style School of Practical Ministry, and school alumni Stephanie Waltz, center, and her husband Gage, right. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post
Robert Worley, who says he celebrated nine years of sobriety in March, enjoys his meal at the nightly Cross Style Church dinner and says the church's senior pastor, Stephen Manley, helped him change his life. JOHN BUTWELL / The Wilson Post

Wilson's Silent Homeless

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Editor's Note: This is the second of a series on homelessness in Wilson County.


Homeless adults face a different set of problems from homeless children. For one thing, since they are no longer minors, so no one is legally responsible to help them. Also, there are fewer programs which directly benefit homeless adults.

One of those programs is Compassionate Hands, and another is the Cross Style Center.

Operated by Cross Style Church on Trinity Lane off West Main, Cross Style Center "is a transition place, a place for the homeless, for inmates, for street people," said Sean Patrick, a minister at the church. "It helps them find jobs, apartments, and links with people. We just pour the love of Jesus on them."

The program officially lasts about four to six weeks, he added, but it forms friendships and connections that can last a lifetime.

"It's about how to get people transitioning from the streets, back to being productive citizens," Patrick added.

City's only men's shelter

The Cross Style Center on Lester Avenue is the only shelter for men in Lebanon. It serves a population of men who are recovering alcoholics or drug addicts, as well as ones who have spent time in prison.

Some of the men at the center benefit from My Next Step Resource Center as well. The center offers job seeker training, the use of computers and a telephone for job hunting, resume preparation, job referrals, and classes in life skills, cooking, and budgeting - and many of the classes are also taught at the Cross Style Center.

One example of what can happen when a man in trouble finds Cross Style is Joel Horner.

When he came to the church five years ago, he says he had no direction. He was living day-to-day, mostly on the street.

"But Jesus had a place for me," Horner said. That place was a job maintaining Cross Style Church and the center, for other men with problems like his.

Now his skills are put to daily use in rebuilding the old church at 111 Lester Ave., where the Cross Style Center is located, into a refuge to rebuild lives.

But Horner is quick to point out, like others connected to the center, "the credit isn't for me. God changed my life. I'm just the hands."

The next step will be to help remodel two more houses across the street so women and families in need of help can be served.

Nightly meals feed hungry

Each night, Horner shares a meal with a group of people at Cross Style Church on Trinity Lane, too. That's another piece of Cross Style's practical ministry.

Some of the people who come to eat wouldn't have supper otherwise, and others are there because they have no one to share their evening meal with.

"I celebrated nine years of sobriety in March," Robert Worley said with pride. Another man offered to shake his hand, saying he'd been sober that long, too. Worley's gentle smile lit up his face.

"I drove a friend of mine out here a while back, and Pastor Manley asked me to stay," he said. "I've been coming ever since."

Life 'turned around'

Another dinner guest was Robert Sprague, an ex-felon. "I'm not proud of what I did in the past," he said. "I wasn't living the right way, but I did a lot of thinking while I was in prison. Now I want to turn my life around."

Sprague said losing his father a couple of years ago really made him think about what he had been doing.

"About two weeks before he died, he told me, 'You're smart. You can go places.' I decided I wanted to better my life. I don't want to be nobody. I want to be somebody," Sprague declared. "I had to get back on my feet to fall on my knees. Now I'm finally doing something to get back to my home and family."

Thanksgiving for all

The men living at the little white church on Lester Avenue minister to the neighborhood as well as to each other.

"We're serving the neighborhood over there," said one of the participants, Steve Wood.

"We're having Thanksgiving dinner for anyone in the community who wants to come. Some don't have family to have dinner with or don't have much money, so we're having dinner."

Wood is a volunteer who decided to become homeless himself for a month so he would know what really happens to homeless people. "He's kind of the house dad," explained fellow Cross Style diner Robert Melvin, whose T-shirt typified the spirit of supportive fellowship: "If opportunity doesn't knock, Build a Door."

"I went to Nashville to be with the homeless," Wood recalled. "Some people come and spend an hour, but then they go home. They don't know how it is the other 23 hours of the day."

'Just the clothes on his back'

So Wood went to the big city with only the clothes on his back. "I didn't take any money or food or extra clothes," he said. "And I stayed a month. I saw the lack of hope, the lack of resources - then I started coming here to church. It was what God wanted me to do, to live with these people because they are his people."

Another volunteer is local caterer Penny Hudson, who applies her cooking skills to ministering to the homeless three or four times a month, preparing the nightly meal at Cross Style. But "in December, I'll start three times a week," she said. Hudson alternates with Eric Meyer, who cooks on the other nights.

Hudson's savory supper Saturday night included ham, baked beans, scalloped potatoes, cole slaw, biscuits and cake. There was enough for seconds for the hungriest.

School of Practical Ministry

Among the diners were Karenda Bolich and her children C. J. and Ellayna. Her husband Jeremiah Bolich is a traveling evangelist, and was away on the road.

"We come on Saturday nights - we're part of the church here," she said. "We come to the meal before, and then go to the service. It's nice to have a night I don't have to cook."

The church is a focal point for training in practical ministry, and it reaches out in several ways, Patrick said. People come from all around the country to the Cross Style School of Practical Ministry to learn how to really help those who need help most.

"We really started the church to start a school for practical ministry," explained Stephen Manley, senior pastor at Cross Style and, incidentally, a Wilson Post columnist. "We started the church, then added the school. We have 12 students now from all over the country. Some come through their Church of the Nazarene connection. Trevecca Nazarene University is also a connection; the church provides a workshop for Trevecca's ministerial students."

Internships, summer programs

One of the first to participate in the program was Stephanie Waltz, who came as part of an internship from Huntington University in Indiana. She worked with the youth ministry, and was back again Saturday night with her husband Gage Waltz. They're working with the Salvation Army now.

In the summer, Cross Style Church has an eight-week Bible school from noon until 1:30 p.m. each day, which includes a hot lunch for all the children who attend and sends each child home with a backpack of food for the weekend.

The church takes referrals for the summer program, from local schools, of children who qualify for free lunch during the school year, and runs church buses to collect the children.

Cross Style is also one of several local churches which help provide backpacks of food for low-income kids to take home from school on the weekends.

Buses bring guests

The nightly dinner at Cross Style is also part of the Compassionate Hands Ministry.

Each night from Dec. 1 through March 15, Compassionate Hands runs church buses to four different locations in the city and picks up people needing a safe place to spend the night.

Here is the schedule for those buses: 5:15 p.m., leave Pilot Truck Stop south of I-40 on Highway 231; 5:25 p.m., leave McDonald's on Highway 231 (775 S. Cumberland St.); 5:35 p.m., leave Next Step Resource Center at 216-B Leeville Pike (beside Journey Church); 5:45 p.m., leave Cross Style Center at 111 Lester Ave.

The buses take the guests to Cross Style Church where volunteers provide dinner for them and help them sign up for a place to stay. Then the vans take the women to one church and the men to another church, where they can sleep.

In the morning, the host churches provide breakfast for the guests and take them to a drop-off site of their choosing within five miles of the church. John Grant, who coordinates the Compassionate Hands program, says they still need some help.

'We still have many needs'

"We're less than a week away from opening, and we still have many needs. Let me know if you can help," Grant said. "We need prayer for a safe winter; funds to purchase additional sleeping mats ($75 each); sheets, blankets, towels, and washcloths; volunteers - overnight, as well as for morning and evening food and transportation; and funds for first aid kits and the medical needs of shelter guests."

The contact phone number for Compassionate Hands is 522-1538, if you feel moved to help.

And that's exactly the way these ministers of all sorts see their job - that they are moved by the Lord to help the homeless in Wilson County.

"We work hand in glove with Jesus," said Sean Patrick at Cross Style. "He's the hand, and we're the glove. Gloves are good, but without the hand, they don't do anything."

Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at cewrites@yahoo.com.

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assistance, Compassionate Hands, Cross Style Center, Cross Style Church, help, homeless, homelessness, Wilson County
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