Christina is like so many other single mothers in Oklahoma these days. She is trying to carve out a good life for herself and her children, which includes 10-year-old twins.
Christina, however, has faced other challenges that many have not. Having been previously addicted to substances years ago, Christina found herself homeless and without work. Fast forward to today, and she now has a stable living situation, attends church each week and is back on her feet.
How did God bring about this transformation? This is thanks to a ministry called Heart and Hand Ministries, a non-profit organization founded in 1997 by then-pastor Steve Kern and leaders with Oklahoma City, Olivet.
Christina and her twins today live in one of several apartment properties located on North 10th Steet, near Olivet, in a challenged inner-city part of Oklahoma City. These properties are owned and operated by Heart and Hand.
The purpose statement of Heart and Hand 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 crises housing, including rent and utilities, as well as food, clothing, medical care, counseling, education, job training, job placement, etc. with the intent of leading them to spiritual and financial freedom and possible home ownership.”
Kern, who retired in 2019 from Olivet, shared how Heart and Hand got its start. “Years ago, the Lord gave me and others a burden to reach people in our neighborhood with the love of Jesus,” he said.
Since its founding, Heart and Hand has ministered to some 1,400 children and mothers like Christina, who was recently baptized at Olivet. The average length of stay of a mother is six months to two years, prior to the mother completing the Heart and Hand program and finding work.
The Heart and Hand property and ministry to mothers is overseen on a day-to-day basis by Kathy Pauwell, who herself used to be a recipient of the ministry.
“Kathy does a remarkable job ministering to these mothers, helping them get back on her feet,” Kern said. “It’s a testament to what God can do, that she was once here as a resident and now serves here.”
The Heart and Hand properties include the Millie Bradley Complex, a group of four houses adjacent to each other. The complex was named in honor of Kern’s mother. Altogether, the properties can house and assist three to six families simultaneously.
Heart and Hand operates completely from donations made by individuals and churches to the ministry, as well as proceeds from the Heart & Hand Thrift Center located on Council Road and N.W. 23rd Street in Oklahoma City.
At this large thrift store, which once was a grocery store, shoppers will find stacks of books, rows of well-kept furniture, clothing of all types, sports apparel and much more. They also will notice the presence of the Lord on the faces of the staff and volunteers.
Since its establishment in 2003, the Heart & Hand Thrift Center has given 100 percent of its profits to aiding the single mothers ministry. Many employees 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 thrift center firsthand, welcoming customers with a smile, saying “I love volunteering here.”
Kern and others have seen the provision and blessing of God in this thrift center, noting that more volunteers are now needed to continue the ministry of Heart and Hand. To find out more, call 405/470-0431.
Through people donating items to the thrift store, volunteering, offering financial and prayer support, Kern is hopeful that the Lord will continue to make the ministry flourish. And through the ministry flourishing, other single mothers facing homelessness, like Christina, can be back up on their feet. And the flourishing will allow these women to see the love of Jesus from Christians who are serving with their hearts and hands.