Frank Allen is a missionary to the poor in the Norfolk Tidewater area. Here is one day in his life!
The call was not good news. A major community volunteer resource agency had to cancel volunteer relief promised. The man-power counted on to unload four trailers backed to the temporary furniture warehouse in Portsmouth would have to sit unloaded, and eight more trucks were on the way – with no volunteers to unload. The items must be unloaded by hand and hand-stacked. The trucks cannot wait; the donations come from agencies that depend on quick turnarounds, or they will not donate in the future. The volunteer crisis is a delicate dance between those who give – man-power and commodities to the poor. Frank is caught in the middle.
The bookkeeper just send another note – they had the worst month in their history. The need is about $18,000.00 to close the fiscal year in the black, and make payroll with their Spartan staff. Barring a miracle, tomorrow, he will have put a note in the envelope that normally contains a check, gather the staff for prayer and a pep talk. This has only happened four times in 21 years. He prays that they will understand, stay with him for the cause.
As important as – payroll, trucks that need to be unloaded, and a whopping deficit, right now, he has to be off to the soup kitchen to prayer with an Anglican pastor, a friend, who will be preaching and praying for the poor tonight at the ministry center.
Frank has been at this work for 21 years. He calls this season the ‘best and worst’ the two-decade run – in the analogy of Dickens, ‘a season of light and of darkness, a spring of hope and a winter of despair.’ In the two decades, countless thousands have been helped. Lives have been saved, as well as souls. In the last eighteen months, some dramatic conversions have occurred, hard-core sinners have experienced life-change and are now growing in faith. Unlike the convert in the typical church whose salvation experience resets the sails of life, and the church benefits by their time, talent and tithe – not here. These folks bring brokenness, no pocket of wealth or tangible resources. Many of the problems that put them on the put and started their downward spiral still persist. The inner man is now alive, but these converts need massive amounts of discipleship to stay on what Frank calls ‘the highway of holiness.’ And the ministry needs resources to assist them.