Dewayne Williams is a man who wears many hats.
The longtime Parks and Recreation Director for the City of Hernando has built a ministry of tearing down walls that separate people of different races and ethnicities, ideologies and beliefs and uniting them under the banner of Jesus Christ.
In 2014, Williams was named as the Executive Director of Restoration Now, based in Olive Branch, which serves DeSoto County and the greater Mid-South community.
Restoration Now is serving DeSoto County by helping individuals and families who are homeless find homes, preventing families from becoming homeless, and preventing children from going into state custody. Individuals can help provide a homeless person with a safe, dry place to stay with a year-end tax deductible donation.
Williams said many people living in Mississippi's fastest-growing county are shocked to learn that poverty and homelessness exists, even in a relatively affluent county like DeSoto.
"Homelessness in DeSoto County looks different than it does in Memphis," said Williams, who also helped to establish West End Ministries, which serves the historically African-American community of West End in Hernando and beyond. "We don't see people sleeping up under bridges, or on sidewalks or in doorways. In DeSoto County, homeless people live in cars, in abandoned houses and in the woods. We had a lady in DeSoto County who was homeless and living in her car. She would move from parking lot to parking lot. She came to one church and the church told the police not to bother her or try to remove her, that she could stay there. That church showed compassion."
Williams said that church, Christ Presbyterian, went a step further and helped the woman find a permanent, safe and warm place to live.
"My thought process is that for a homeless person, finding shelter is not often enough," Williams said. "We also work with Child Protective Services which refers clients to us. We have two to three churches that work with us to find homes for the homeless. We work as a mediator between churches who want to help people. We have presented a long-term plan with these different churches to help folks get out of whatever situation they are in. They sign up for a relationship for one year. We try to be comprehensive. We don't want to just write a check. We provide for their physical and psychological needs, as well as their theological and spiritual needs."
Showing compassion and mercy to others is a commandment of Jesus Christ.
Williams said an upcoming conference on compassion is designed to focus on uplifting and attending to the needs of the community.
Restoration Now is the host of "Compassion Conference 2018," which is set for March 3, 2018 at First Baptist Church, 3505 Goodman Road West, in Horn Lake.
The guest speaker is Dr. Brian Fikkert, Professor of Economics and Community Development and the Founder and President of the Chalmers Center for Economic Development at Covenant College. He is the co-author of the best-selling book "When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor … and Yourself."
To register or to learn how you can help, visit the Restoration Now ministry's website at restoration-now.org to donate a tax-deductible contribution.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252