A guest post by Jim Noble, pastor of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Dream Center and owner of Rooster's Wood Fired Kitchen and The King's Kitchen. It's a cherished opportunity when God opens the door for you to combine your love, passion and calling into one life. The Lord has called Anne to use her gift of painting to give back to the community at large. He has called me to reach the homeless in Charlotte through the open doors of my restaurants, in particular the King's Kitchen. When I first opened the King's Kitchen in 2010, my wife Karen and I had a goal: feed the hungry on the streets of Uptown with 100% of the proceeds from our non-profit restaurant. We knew the need would be great, but the Lord quickly opened our eyes to the enormity of the hopelessness, despair and brokenness in our backyard. The King's Kitchen had been able to employ a handful of otherwise non-employable... Recovering addicts, chronically homeless, formerly incarcerated, we fed meals out of the back door of our kitchen, and our dining room transformed into a sanctuary six days a week (as the church I pastor on Sundays and as the home of a Monday-Friday Bible study). I felt God calling me to continue doing more for these friends and neighbors. As our ministries, outreaches and discipleship program expanded, I was introduced to the powerhouse father-son pastoral team Tommy and Matthew Barnett, who had founded the Los Angeles Dream Center more than 20 years ago and have since developed a network of affiliate Dream Centers in metropolitan areas throughout the country. After sharing my heart and the vision God planted in me as well as describing the ministry of the King's Kitchen, the LA Dream Center team told me that what was being born in Uptown Charlotte already was a functioning Dream Center, and we received the invitation to become a new network affiliate. We officially launched the Charlotte Mecklenburg Dream Center in January of 2015 with a team of staff and volunteers dedicated to the mission of Giving Hope to the Hopeless. The Dream Center has partnered with the King's Kitchen to further our original goal of feeding the hungry and helped extend its reach through partnerships with local businesses, non-profit organizations, and churches to offer services providing clothing, food, housing, financial training, job training, medical care, discipleship and employment as part of our yearlong Restoration Program.
In the past year, we have stood in awe as God has opened door after door ahead of us. In 2015 alone, we served more than 21,000 meals. In 2016, we are seeing a weekly average of 60 volunteers team with us at our weekly Friday night street ministry, Adopt A Block program and Sunday afternoon meal service. Volunteers have joined us from local businesses, church congregations and small groups.
We launched our initial Adopt A Block program in the J.T. Williams neighborhood of Charlotte with a goal of bringing hope and the transformative love of Christ to one of Charlotte's most at-risk neighborhoods, believing that they would discover a sense of community pride, fellowship, and union in Christ. God is surely moving in the neighborhood. We are committed to serving its population every single Saturday, rain or shine, and in the past four months, we have seen people leaving their homes for the first time in 20+ years, laughing together, playing together and bringing their children to join in safe, family-friendly activities. In recent weeks we were invited by the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department and the Billy Graham Evangelical Association to expand Adopt A Block to include the Reid Park neighborhood in West Charlotte. We are excited to see God move in both of these neighborhoods as churches, volunteers, and neighbors join together to radiate Christ's love.
Homelessness is not an "us" and "them" problem. It does not discriminate. It doesn't happen only in "other cities." Homelessness, chronic poverty, addiction, crime, are OUR problem... as believers in the body of Christ, we are called to uplift and care for the least of these. Our love for the kingdom is equally non-discriminating, and it's more powerful than the despair and perceived hopelessness in all-too-many neighbor's lives.
I invite you to learn more about what the Charlotte Mecklenburg Dream Center is tackling in Charlotte here, and I invite you to join us in volunteering, donating and prayer.