“The Ministry of Availability” is the strikingly appropriate phrase Travis Adams uses to describe his work with the homeless.
I spoke to him after he had taken the evening Anabaptist service at Bloomsbury Baptist church in central London in May 2013.
Travis is a young American guy who obviously enjoys talking to people, and this is just as well because from 10 to 4 every day the church has an Open Doors policy – anyone can come in for a cup of tea/coffee and a chat with Travis.
“We try to create an oasis, a kind of safe space away from the chaos of the streets. I meet and greet the men and women who wander in. I get to know all of them and we try to help with resources. If they want somewhere to sleep we try to find somewhere for them by networking with both secular and religious organisations. I know people in all the charities. We even have our own hardship fund for extreme cases; for example if someone has had their benefits cut off, or the power company has cut off their lights. In John’s case he was drunk again and got beaten up so badly that he was in hospital for two days; we helped him get to rehab by paying his transport costs.
“I just shoot the breeze and I’m here every day . It’s a Ministry of Availability.”
When I asked Travis about what motivated him to do this work, he said
“I grew up a member of the Southern Baptist Convention in Arkansas where the emphasis was on doctrines and dogmas. I didn’t find God in that. When I went through a crisis in my life where I felt like ending it all I received support from people who knew me and were prepared to spend time caring about me. I felt I experienced God through those people. I didn’t get comfort from people preaching at me or judging me, or someone quoting a bible verse at me and leaving, but from people who sat and talked and wept with me. Those people loved me directly, and now I just try and mimic that behaviour.”
Travis didn’t mention it but he has also set up a scheme whereby the church buildings are open to the homeless one night a week throughout the winter. Over 20 homeless men and women are accommodated and fed two hot meals by unpaid church volunteers. The money for the food comes from the church collection plate. Other Camden churches take the people in on the other nights of the week. Young members of the congregation are being encouraged to take over Travis’s work because…
Travis’s visa expires next month and he will have to go back to the States.