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A look back

Hope Award winners from the past: Where are they now?

ESCAPE: Women pray during A Way Out Bible study. Photo by Alan Spearman/The Commercial Appeal/Landov

A look back
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Hope Award winners from the past: Where are they now?

As our coverage of contenders for our 2014 Hope Award for Effective Compassion continues, we wanted to see what’s happened to men and women involved with five of our 77 past finalists.

Since WORLD gave A Way Out (Memphis) its top award in 2008, the program to help women escape strip joints has continued its 17-week intensive life skills classes, and many graduates have gained jobs and families. The first four paragraphs of the story reported on Megan Kane’s past and her aspirations to become a medical missionary. She’s following through by earning a nursing degree in 2012—and she’s married a minister.

The background of many women being helped has shifted. Executive director George Kuykendall has worked with county officials to encourage enforcement of the Adult-Oriented Establishment Registration Act, which has turned some of Memphis’ roughest strip joints into closely monitored “bikini clubs.” A Way Out now helps more women who have escaped from human trafficking and have no desire to return to the industry. They don’t have to face leaving behind the money and attention that strippers receive. Instead, they need time and grace to recover from extreme abuse and brainwashing.

Rock Ministries, our Northeast Region winner in 2010, is still a place residents of Philadelphia’s impoverished Kensington neighborhood come to learn to box in a ring instead of fighting in the streets. The ministry’s boxing team is winning awards under the coaching of Rock alumnus Johnny Rivera and Ethiopia’s former Olympic boxing trainer. The ministry has also expanded its youth programs to include girls’ kickboxing, a drama club, and a rap group.

Founder Buddy Osborne, who co-founded Rock Ministries after spending five years in prison for racketeering and after becoming a Christian, has also developed “The Lost Coin,” an outreach to female addicts and prostitutes based in a nearby building formerly used by heroin addicts. Osborne started a Calvary Chapel that’s filled to its 200-person capacity on Sundays, and police now keep drug dealers away from the once notorious corner of Kensington and Somerset.

Although the press is less interested in writing about homelessness during the Obama administration than when Republicans are in the White House, the needs are still great. One Denver shelter, Joshua Station (a 2007 finalist), now hosts 32 families that typically stay for two years. The ministry teaches job and life skills and has a legal clinic that gives free representation and counsel. The relationship of material and spiritual help engages executive director Jeff Johnsen, who sometimes looks at other organizations and wishes he could provide more material help—but he then realizes, “There are just some forms of compassion that are more effective than others. We’re more about having hard conversations with people.”

David Spickard, president of Jobs for Life (Raleigh, N.C.), a 2006 finalist, also emphasizes teaching: He hopes to “prove in a community that the church has the answer for poverty and unemployment,” which includes teaching the poor about God’s design for work. He sometimes has a hard job convincing well-meaning church members about the importance of spiritual counseling: “It’s a lot easier to give away clothes on a Saturday morning.”

Some of the ministries we’ve profiled have learned from hard experience what not to do. In 2006 a Nebraska shelter we profiled, Crossroads Center Rescue Mission, took a small amount of government money—but it quit taking funds last year. Executive director Jerry Bumgardner said, “There’s so many restrictions when it comes to government funding,” and those dollars prevented volunteers and employees from openly speaking of Christ: “We’re not holding back now.” Even though Crossroads was receiving enough private donations at the time to keep going, Bumgardner said it was frightening to give up government dollars—but, “The Lord has really been blessing us.”

Taking every space captive

The last of the anti-Christian Roman emperors—Diocletian—built his retirement palace in Split, Croatia. The massive project, finished around A.D. 300, took 10 years to build. Large parts of it still remain, serving as the nucleus of this Adriatic coastal city. Tourist ferries and buses dump visitors nearby. They join the approximately 3,000 people who live within the palace walls, making this UNESCO World Heritage site a living city rather than a mere ruin.

The repurposing of the palace began in the centuries after Diocletian’s death when Christians turned his mausoleum into a cathedral and transformed Jupiter’s temple into a baptistry. Over the centuries residents built houses inside the Roman walls, creating a rabbit warren of narrow streets and stone structures.

Now modern shops, bars, and restaurants occupy ground-level space and apartments occupy the upper levels. Window boxes of flowers and lines of wash hang from railings. Grocery stores and real estate offices vie with souvenir shops and gelato stands. Street performers dress up as Roman centurions and Diocletian to amuse tourists, who pay to visit the cathedral and the basement of the Roman palace. For Americans used to seeing historic sites preserved as museums, Split offers an alternative. —Susan Olasky in Split, Croatia

Vote for the winner of the 2014 Hope Award for Effective Compassion.

Rikki Elizabeth Stinnette Rikki is a World Journalism Institute graduate and a former WORLD contributor.


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