Profiles in Mission Part 1

Rev. Cliff WarnerCliffNotes

For the next two weeks, we will present profiles in mission from people of our community who are world-changers right here in Austin. Our first interview is with Steven Hebbard, director of the Karpophoreo Project.

Tell us about your ministry.
The Karpophoreo Project is a hard word to say and a hard work to do. The word literally means “to bear good fruit and good deeds.” We attempt to do this in the context of Austin’s homeless community while also working specifically with a community of chronically homeless men and women who have received a home through Mobile Loaves and Fishes’ Habitat on Wheels program. We bear our fruit literally by building gardens across the city in the under-utilized landscapes of empty city lots, church lawns, and yards. We also bear it figuratively through hospitality events such as our foodie-loving Stone Soup Breakfast where a community of formerly homeless provide a free breakfast for any volunteers who come.

Two of our core values at Christ Church are Changed Lives and Changed World. Share a story that shows how God is at work changing lives and the world as you join Him in mission.
Two middle aged homeless brothers moved into our RV community about 5 months ago with their dad. For the most part they kept to themselves. The three of them took care of each other, a trying thing as the father had several debilatating illnesses and the younger brother suffered from mental and physical disabilities resulting from a car accident that led to their homelessness. Two months after their entrance into our community, the father died, leaving a gaping emotional hole in the lives of both brothers. As a ministry of incarnational presence, we wanted to do something to help; but, as an empowerment program, we didn’t want this to be just another charity project. Working with caring individuals across the city, KP connected about 12 families with 7 residents from our community who hosted these families in their RV’s kitchen. Together, they prepared two weeks of meals for the brothers. Each night a different group would walk the dinner over and deliver it to the brothers’ door and express their concern and condolences. These volunteers and the formerly homeless brothers and sisters of our community became a gateway of healing for these brothers, who had no family in the area. They couldn’t believe they were important enough to have that many people caring for their needs. Today, the brothers are regular attenders to our weekly Dinner and Bible Study, processing their grief in the context of a community.

How can everyone at Christ Church be praying for you and your ministry?
We are a jobs program with real work that needs to get done. We are a relational ministry that is lived in the context of a population that has experienced the full brunt of inhumanity that Austin often shows towards its homeless population. It is our belief that real work and real purposes can create meaningful places for people who have not known what it is to be worthwhile to anyone but their brothers and sisters on the street. They suffer from disease, disability, addiction, and habits of unhealth that often throw them back at the very moment when opportunity knocks the loudest. They fear transformation for the way it strips them of all their self-sufficiencies, making them feel, effectively, naked before the stare of mainstream society. We who live in and work regularly among the community suffer as they suffer. With difficulty we try to muster optimism and throw the spotlight ahead to the next garden harvest, farmers market, breakfast, or Bible Study. But we also get stripped of our self-sufficiencies and are naked and powerless to effect the change we want to see. Only God can do the impossible.

How can we connect with you and your ministry?
KP is trying to develop a regular garden maintenance and harvest schedule to complement our regular weekly events in the community (like our Stone Soup Breakfast and Bible Study). We would love it if people from Christ Church were willing to volunteer regularly for one or more of these events for at least 4-8 hours per month. It is relationships that bear the most fruit in helping change lives. We think a regular commitment to one of our activities will help relationships form around the common purposes of those events. Some are on weekdays, others weeknights or weekends. Interested volunteers can send an email to Jen@mlfnow.org.