Evangelist takes Gospel to homeless shelters
TRENTON—The homeless, those who find themselves with no place to go except a rescue mission, remind Earl Nance of little sparrows.
“They’re without a home and not very many people seem to care,” Nance said.
The Trenton man feels a calling to share the Gospel with those who seem to have reached bottom. But he said the Lord has also showed him that he’s really no different than the people to whom he ministers.
“These people are kind of like sparrows and so am I,” he said.
Every month, Nance travels to four or five homeless shelters in the Midwest to preach. Nearly every service, he leads people to make decisions for Christ. In the first two weeks of April, he’d already seen 14 decisions.
“There’s a lot of people salvaged from this,” he said. “It’s an exciting and precious thing.”
Nance, 62, began to develop a heart for the homeless years ago when he was on staff at a church in Kansas City where he worked with the children’s and bus ministries where he ministered to people who had suffered hardships.
“For one reason or the other, it’s not always their choice. A lot of them, it’s just been choices they’ve made,” Nance said, quickly adding, “But we’ve all made choices. The Bible says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Nance began to preach at City Union Mission in Kansas City. As he saw people saved, he began to believe evangelism was a gift he’d been given. He became a full-time pastor but maintained an outreach for the homeless through the years.
In 2006, he realized that in order to have more results, he needed to go more places. That’s when he launched Sparrow Ministries. The name is derived from his work as a craftsman building birdhouses.
The first night he preached at a shelter in St. Louis there were 15 professions of faith.
“When you step out and do this, you wonder if it’s you or the Lord doing that and you’re looking for confirmation. That was confirmation!” he said.
Nance is pastor of Ravanna Baptist, a rural church in northern Missouri. His monthly schedule takes him to shelters in Salina, Kan., Kansas City, Des Moines, Iowa, and St. Louis. In the winter, the shelters can have more than 200 people who attend the chapel service. Unlike the typical church service, most of those attending are probably lost, he said.
The thing the residents want more than anything else, he said, is contact with another human being.
“I really try to establish God’s love for them as an individual, that they’re created in God’s image,” Nance said. “You can see the light come on when they realize there is hope for them.”
Each of the missions has a rigorous follow-up program, so he’s confident the converts are getting the Bible study and support they need.
Recently, the Missouri Baptist Convention began to provide monthly support to Sparrow Ministries through the men’s ministry program.
“Earl’s giftedness seems to be in reaching these folks and we want to help him if we can,” said Danny Decker, men’s ministry, church and community specialist with the Convention.
With the Convention’s help, Nance hopes to expand the circuit work to missions.
Even with the added support, Nance said there are still financial needs, the biggest of which is transportation to the various shelters. Another is prayer for the homeless people to be open to receive the Gospel.
“The door is wide, wide open. I hope the people will get excited about it, too,” Nance said. “We serve a God of second chances and they have a chance, too.”