Next month, a conference is planned in Memphis aimed at showing people ways to be like the Good Samaritan spoken of in Luke 10.
Called the Compassion Conference, the gathering at Independent Presbyterian Church, 4738 Walnut Grove Road in Memphis, is the second of its type presented by the non-profit Christian organization Restoration Now, of which Dewayne Williams of Hernando is the executive director.
The organization’s mission is to bring services and other groups together to do crisis work in the community.
Dates of the conference are Friday, April 5, starting at 5:30 p.m.- 9 p.m. and continuing Saturday, April 6 from 7 a.m.-4 p.m.
Restoration Now continues to be the “hands and feet” of Christ in how it helps connect those in need to those who can provide.
“We work with people who are materially poor,” Williams said. “We’re about showing people the love of Christ.”
Williams said the goal is not just to offer a helping hand or fulfill a need for a handout. It is by assisting in that need that those in need may also be shown the love of Christ or be supportive in their faith walk through their struggles.
“They may be dealing with finances, emotional things and just help them become successful and self-sufficient,” said Williams. “The main thing is that we want people to see and hear the Gospel, so that if they are not believers, maybe they will become believers. If they are believers, we hope to disciple them as they grow in Christ.”
The process involves receiving a call for help, then moving forward. First, a plan is developed and then a call to contacts who can help out is made.
“They come to us, we evaluate these individuals and do an assessment on them,” Williams explained. “We come up with a comprehensive plan, so we’re holistic. We deal with their physical, social, psychological, and theological needs. Once we come up with that plan, we go to a church and present the plan.”
Williams said the church is then asked if they want to work with the person and the family. If so, connections are made and with a compassion team work to fill the need and support the person and family through their challenges to reach a goal.
On the other side, Williams said Restoration Now understands there are churches who want to help, but don’t know how.
“The other thing that we do is that we train churches on how to show compassion,” he said. “We’ve learned that churches for many years have outsourced this kind of work of serving the poor, or just write a check. We want to do more comprehensive and relational types of things that we know will work better for them as individuals both in the short term and long term of building that relationship with them.”
Recognizing needs, reaching partners and repairing communities is the goal of Restoration Now.
“We just partner with churches and partner with organizations and nonprofits in order to get this done,” said Williams, “We have a book full of resources and nonprofits we can go to or places we can go to.”
Williams points out the Biblical message in their work, referring to words in Luke 10 regarding the Good Samaritan.
“The Samaritan saw the man in need and set him on his own horse,” he said. “That’s key for us, that we set people on our own horse. When I see someone in need, I won’t push them off onto someone else and say, ‘that’s somebody else’s responsibility.’ I need to put that on my own horse.”
Keynote speaker for the April conference is Michael Rhodes, a professor at the Memphis Center for Urban and Theological Studies, or MCUTS. Rhodes is the Director of Community Transformation for MCUTS.
Issues to be discussed will look at crisis intervention, prison and poverty, mental health and poverty, training and development, along with a public square session on how a business or municipality and government officials address poverty. DeSoto County Schools and Shelby County Schools representatives will talk about what they do for children in poverty.
More information may be found on the organization’s website, restoration-now.org.
Williams challenges people of faith to start putting people “on their own horse” and not push them off on others, saying, “All ministry is mercy ministry.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.