What happens on the streets of Atlanta

When I signed up for TEAMeffort for the summer of 2011, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into. All I knew was that I didn’t want to spend the summer at home and that I wanted to do something that mattered. I could have never guessed what an impact that first summer would have on my life and how it would help mold me into the person I am today.

I had visited Atlanta a few times before that summer on school trips or vacations with my family, but the parts of the city that I spent my summers in with TEAMeffort were the parts of the city that tourists avoided. Coming from a small town in South Carolina, I had never seen homelessness and extreme poverty that closely before, and seeing that changed my life.

The TEAMeffort Atlanta camp partners with a ministry called 7 Bridges to Recovery, a ministry that I continue to serve with today. 7 Bridges has three main aspects: a home for women and children, a men’s recovery program, and an outreach ministry. During the summer, TEAMeffort would come to 7 Bridges four days a week to serve with their outreach ministry under the interstate Bridges of Atlanta and into the Bluff, or the “hood” of Atlanta. The men in their recovery program act as our protectors since the places that we go can be pretty dangerous. Despite that fact, I have never felt unsafe while out with 7 Bridges. I feel more unsafe going to Walmart in broad daylight than I do out with them in the worst parts of Atlanta.

When we go out, we offer every person we see a lunch, a hug, and prayer. We offer the lunch because most of them could use a decent meal, we offer a hug because most of them are seen as outcast of society and are never given eye contact from people much less physical contact, and we offer and prayer because it is the whole point of us being out there. Prayer changes things, and it is humbling to meet so many people who need a lunch but want the prayer more. We still give love and a lunch to those who don’t want prayer because maybe a seed was planted. Over the years, I have been able to build relationships with a few people, and watching them grow closer to the Lord has been such a blessing.

I would encourage anyone who has never served in this capacity to give it a try at least once. It may be a huge step out of your comfort zone, but I can guarantee you that it will be worth it. You go out there to bless others and end up getting blessed in return. What more could you ask for?

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see him naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.” - Isaiah 58:6-8

--Carlee Crawford, summer director in ATL