Christina is like so many other single moms in Oklahoma these days. She is trying to carve out a good life for herself and her children, including 10-year-old twins.
Christina, however, faced other challenges that many did not. After being addicted to substances years ago, Christina found herself homeless and jobless. Fast forward to today, and she now has a stable living situation, goes to church every week, and is on her feet again.
How did God bring about this transformation? It’s thanks to a ministry called Heart and Hand Ministries, a nonprofit organization founded in 1997 by then-pastor Steve Kern and leaders from Oklahoma City, Olivet.
Christina and her twins now live in one of several apartments on North 10th Street near Olivet in a tough downtown Oklahoma City neighborhood. These properties are owned and operated by Heart and Hand.
Heart and Hand’s goal is to meet “the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of homeless women and their children in the Oklahoma City area. The ministry provides families with crisis housing, including rent and utilities, as well as food, clothing, medical care, counselling, education, job training, job placement, and more. with the aim of leading them to spiritual and financial freedom and the possibility of accessing property. .”
Kern, who retired in 2019 from Olivet, explained how Heart and Hand got their start. “Years ago the Lord gave me and others the burden to reach people in our neighborhood with the love of Jesus,” he said.
Since its founding, Heart and Hand has served some 1,400 children and mothers like Christina, recently baptized in Olivet. The average length of stay for a mother is six months to two years, before the mother completes the Heart and Hand program and finds work.
The Heart and Hand property and ministry to mothers is overseen on a day-to-day basis by Kathy Pauwell, who was herself a ministry recipient.
“Kathy does an amazing job with these mothers, helping them get back on their feet,” Kern said. “It’s a testimony to what God can do, that she was once here as a resident and now serves here.”
Heart and Hand properties include the Millie Bradley complex, a cluster of four adjoining homes. The complex was named in honor of Kern’s mother. In total, the properties can accommodate and support three to six families simultaneously.
Heart and Hand operates entirely through donations made by individuals and churches to the ministry, as well as proceeds from the Heart & Hand Thrift Center located at Council Road and NW 23rd Street in Oklahoma City.
In this large thrift store, which was once a grocery store, shoppers will find stacks of books, rows of well-maintained furniture, clothing of all types, sportswear and much more. They will also notice the presence of the Lord on the faces of staff and volunteers.
Since its inception in 2003, the Heart & Hand Thrift Center has dedicated 100% of its profits to helping the ministry of single mothers. Many staff and volunteers have found the Thrift Center to be a home away from home and even a mission field for some.
Valerie, a Heart and Hand volunteer, sees the impact of the savings center firsthand, greeting customers with a smile, saying “I love volunteering here.”
Kern and others saw God’s provision and blessing in this savings center, noting that more volunteers are now needed to continue Heart and Hand’s ministry. For more information, call 405/470-0431.
Through donations of items to the thrift store, volunteerism, financial support and prayer, Kern hopes the Lord will continue to prosper the ministry. And thanks to the thriving ministry, other single mothers facing homelessness, like Christina, can get back on their feet. And fulfillment will allow these women to see the love of Jesus from Christians who serve with their hearts and hands.