Feeding ministry shares Christ, provides hot meals for those who need help

When Patricia Edwards started coordinating WEMO Café, she never expected just how much a homeless man named Troy would become a part of her life.

She never expected he would find purpose there, find Jesus there — and pass away there during one of their normal lunch shifts.

And she never imagined she would be the one whose voice was most prominent at his memorial service.

“A couple of years ago, Troy found us — someone on the street had told him about us,” Edwards said of WEMO Café, a ministry run by West Mobile Baptist Church.

Every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the volunteers of WEMO Café serve a hot lunch to anyone who comes through their doors at the Hangar, the church’s youth building. Anyone can eat, whether they can afford it or not. Volunteers are available to talk to diners, to pray with them or to simply socialize. The church also offers those who come a hot shower and clean towels, if that’s a need. If a person has money to contribute for lunch, a donation box is available. If not, everyone is welcome to eat anyway — they just ask for a little help with wiping down tables, folding towels or washing dishes.

And during the lunch, someone from the church comes and leads a Bible study.

“It’s a great ministry. We want to give people a hand up, not a handout,” Edwards said.

That’s exactly what happened with Troy.

From helped to helper

“We took him under our wing, he began to serve and he got saved,” she said. “We just talked about Jesus and the relationship we have with Jesus, and over time he came to trust us. Every Thursday, he had a purpose there at WEMO Café.”

He became a regular part of the volunteer staff, helping put out towels and even sparking the idea for a library.

“I asked him, ‘Tell me what as a homeless person your needs are besides your basic things,’” she said. “He told me that homeless people read a lot but don’t have access to many books, so I started going to the thrift store and buying lots of books.”

Troy even came along with Edwards and her husband to serve at events at West Mobile Baptist like Trunk or Treat. There, he was just her friend Troy, a man with a purpose, not merely “that homeless man” living on the street.

“He was like our family,” Edwards said.

So it came as a shock to all of them the day he experienced a heart attack at WEMO Café. Emergency responders came, and he was pronounced dead after he arrived at a local hospital.

“We were the ones to let his family know,” she said. “It was absolutely in God’s timing that he was at the café, because if he would’ve been in his tent, it would’ve taken us days to go looking for him, and if he would’ve been at Walmart, no one would’ve known who he was. He was with people he knew loved him.”

Edwards wrote a letter to his family, sharing a little bit about who he had been during the past two years and what God had done in his life.

When Edwards and her husband went to Troy’s memorial service, the person officiating read her whole letter aloud.

Meeting needs

“It was a comfort to the family to know where he had been and what his life had been like,” she said. “They didn’t know if he was a Christian or not or that he had served the Lord and served others.”

And she learned more of his story from his family too. Before moving to the streets of Mobile, Troy had been a supervisor at a shipyard, but then several members of his family died within a short span of time. The grief had been too much for him.

In Mobile, God found Troy, Edwards said.

“We sure do miss him,” she said. “It broke our hearts, but the last two years he was a part of something, and he knew Jesus.”

Kevin Cobb, pastor of West Mobile Baptist, said WEMO Café has been a great way for the church to meet physical and spiritual needs.

“It is a ministry that requires significant investment of time and resources,” Cobb said. “But it is a way for us to be the hands and feet of Jesus to people who desperately need us to pour into their lives, and we get to do it right here on our campus.”