November 7th, 2010
12:39 PM ET

Homeless church fights to hang on

Editor's Note: CNN's John Murgatroyd brings us this report from Atlanta, Georgia.

Atlanta’s Urban Foursquare Church is facing a problem that many of its parishioners already deal with: homelessness.

Pastor Mark Anthony Mitchell started the church in Lakewood, one of Atlanta’s poorest neighborhoods.

“We’re about the heartfelt needs of the poor and underclass,” he said.

Mitchell rents an abandoned church that is for sale. The congregation is months behind in the rent and facing eviction.

“Here we are living hand to mouth,” Mitchell said. “We give out more than we receive.”

Rosa Arnold runs the church’s four-day-a-week preschool for about 55 3- to 5-year-old neighborhood children free of charge. She said the children are not only taught how to read and write, but also to love one another.

“I just have to believe that this is not the end of what God wants me to do for these children,” Arnold said. I don’t believe he brought me here to just leave me and to leave these kids.”

The kids get a breakfast, lunch and snack, and some take home a little extra. “They ask for seconds and thirds because they don’t want to be hungry when they go home,” Arnold said.

The church also feeds about 100 of the neighborhood hungry twice a week. Willie Mosley Jr. started the church’s Miracle Made Mentor program, but also cooks breakfast. “It’s a small thing to cook my grandmother’s biscuits for the people,” Mosley said, “but knowing I put another element on those biscuits, it puts joy in someone else’s heart, which takes them out of their hopeless situation even for that moment.”

While the help is a welcomed gesture in Lakewood, Mitchell has loftier goals. The pastor wants to address the issue of criminal rehabilitation and fatherlessness. “How can they become a priest, a protector and a provider if they aren’t given a second chance to work and to take care of their kids and to take care of their wives?” he said.

Mitchell, at one time a drug dealer, graduated from Harvard with a master’s degree in theology in 1997.

“I can be anywhere with my degree,” Mitchell said. “I’ve been blessed to be a blessing. I’ve been given a second chance. And I have a real affinity for felons because I’m a felon.”

“I’m taking what I’ve learned on the streets and what I’ve learned in academia, and to me it has to be real, on the ground,” Mitchell said. “If it doesn’t work here in Lakewood - this gospel that we’ve talked about - if it’s not empowering people, then to me it’s not a gospel.”

And his message is resonating with his flock. Angela DesAustels started attending the Foursquare church when it opened its doors 2 years ago. DesAustels served time in jail for drug possession. “Without this ministry, I might still be on those streets, using and going to prison and doing what I was doing,” she said.

Mitchell compares the Lakewood neighborhood, and many like it across the United States, to countries receiving aid from American missionaries. “All we have to do is go across the train tracks, and we have Third World situations,” he said. “If we put the same effort here, it would free us up so much.”

So Mitchell continues to pray and hope for some way to save his church. “I want an urban-suburban connection,” he said. “I just want to live out Acts 2:32, those who have gave to those who have not so nobody lacks.”

“We have not come this far for God to leave us,” Mitchell said to some members of his congregation. “We’re not going out without a fight. Amen? Amen.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Georgia • Houses of worship • United States

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Carla

    I meant to say not *JUDGEMENTAL

    November 8, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  2. Carla

    Reality...Well,that is his right. I guess he is trying to show love to the man that was accused of engaging in H-o-m-os-e-x-uality.

    Overall, he is clearly not judgemwntal, and remembers where he came from.

    The man is doing wonderful things to help others, like feeding poor children, and helping addicts.

    He has my support.

    November 8, 2010 at 11:33 am |
  3. CW

    @ Reality

    Well there He/She is.....the one the only scholarly Reality.....ALWAYS HATING ON CHRISTIANITY....AND ANYBODY THAT IS A CHRISTIAN. You know a lot about the history propaganda that tries to discredit THE BIBLE....go ahead and spread your own perception. One day....you'll get your chance on Judgement Day to explain to God "why I didn't believe in God". Its my hope and prayer that you'll have a Damascus Road experience like Paul...who was once called Saul...you remind me a lot of how he used to live his life until God Shook him.

    November 8, 2010 at 9:05 am |
    • Reality

      Christian Economics and Greed 101:

      The Baptizer drew crowds and charged for the "dunking".

      The historical Jesus saw a good thing and continued dunking and preaching the good word but added "healing" as an added charge to include free room and board. Sure was better than being a poor peasant but he got a bit too zealous and they nailed him to a tree. But still no greed there.

      Paul picked up the money scent on the road to Damascus. He added some letters and a prophecy of the imminent second coming for a fee for salvation and "Gentilized" the good word to the "big buck" world. i.e. Paul was the first media evangelist!!! And he and the other Apostles forgot to pay their Roman taxes and the legendary actions by the Romans made them martyrs for future greed. Paul was guilty of minor greed?

      Along comes Constantine. He saw the growing rich Christian community and recognized a new tax base so he set them "free". Major greed on his part!!

      The Holy Roman "Empirers"/Popes/Kings/Queens/Evangelists et al continued the money grab selling access to JC and heaven resulting in some of today's richest organizations on the globe i.e. the Christian churches (including the Mormon Church) and related aristocracies. Obvious greed!!!

      An added note: As per R.B. Stewart in his introduction to the recent book, The Resurrection of Jesus, Crossan and Wright in Dialogue, ( Professors Crossan and Wright are On Faith panelists).

      "Reimarus (1774-1778) posits that Jesus became sidetracked by embracing a political position, sought to force God's hand and that he died alone deserted by his disciples. What began as a call for repentance ended up as a misguided attempt to usher in the earthly political kingdom of God. After Jesus' failure and death, his disciples stole his body and declared his resurrection in order to maintain their financial security and ensure themselves some standing."

      Some of Paul's money gathering activities some of which resulted in buying the Gentile entry into the then mostly Jewish version of Christianity:

      Paul claimed almost total independence from the "mother church" in Jerusalem.[12] and yet was eager and diligent to bring material support from the various budding Gentile churches that he planted to the mother church at Jerusalem.

      When a famine occurred in Judea, around 45–46,[24] Paul and Barnabas journeyed to Jerusalem to deliver financial support from the Antioch community.[25] According to Acts, Antioch had become an alternative center for Christians following the dispersion of the believers after the death of Stephen. It was in Antioch that the followers of Jesus were first called "Christians."[Ac. 11:26]. This act basically "greased" the entry of non-circu-mcised Gentiles into Christianity.

      "Paul collected the money from his four provinces, Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia but, for obvious reasons, of propriety, had representatives take each province's own contribution".

      November 8, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
  4. Reality

    Keep in mind that Rev. Mitchell is a disciple of "Bishop" Eddie Long.


    November 8, 2010 at 7:30 am |
    • ANGELA

      Also It matters not where you come from But WHERE YOU ARE GOING, God Has used Donkeys, Dreams, Writing on the wall and many other such miracles to change lives Why NOT EDDIE LONG, The message God sends will go to whom he desires no matter what the matter of transportation

      November 8, 2010 at 12:08 pm |
    • Jennifer

      What does his association have to do with helping out kids that need food? And if you read his quote...he said he honors him as a spiritual father...out of loyalty. And further says, as the bible does "honor your mother and father" not "honor your mother and father if they are good" That says to me that he honors him for what he has done for him personally but does not necessarily say he agrees with the current issues.

      November 8, 2010 at 3:32 pm |
    • Reality

      Hmmm, Eddie Long, Tiger Woods, RCC priests, Jewish rabbis, Boy Scout leaders, Bill Clinton and on and on- when does the s-exual misconduct end and the miracles begin?

      November 8, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
  5. Carla

    I have forwared this information to all my email contacts. Here is the link should anyone wish to make a donation:

    November 8, 2010 at 6:42 am |
  6. Carla

    Reality, Perhaps that is true, but it never hurts to have extra help when you are struggling for such a good cause. I admire anyone who strives for betterment of themselves and hmanity. Feeding little kids who otherwise would not eat (or have very little), and helping those who are trying to live a better life, are right at the top of my list when it comes to "love your neighbor"!

    We can all afford a few extra pennies to know a little child has a full stomach. Love at its best! 🙂

    November 8, 2010 at 6:28 am |
  7. Carla

    God Bless You Angela on your recovery and best of wishes to you and the ministry! Thank you for the email information, I will go there and send this out via email to all my contacts.
    You and the ministry will be in my prayers.

    November 8, 2010 at 6:22 am |
  8. Reality

    If the pastor would check, would he not discover that taxpayers already provide these services through various local, state and federal agencies??

    November 7, 2010 at 11:54 pm |
    • ANGELA

      You are right so long as you have no felony drug convictions, I know because I am permanently disqualified and they don't give out hot already prepared meals, they don't offer encouragement, They DON'T SAY I WILL GIVE YOU A HAND UP SO WHAT THEN? Due to some very serious illness and I don't mean HIV/AIDS I am having to go on disability but they want me to have a payee 11 years since a conviction, Makes you want to Go to the streets and do it for yourself, also if you have no transportation how do you suppose the people get to the agencies to get help even a van ministry requires funds? Please enlighten me with all these wonderful EINSTEIN ANSWERS How do you run without funds?

      November 8, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
  9. Angela

    As a product of this ministry and being grateful that they were there when I needed them, I am the addict changed on the video and when I got clean I became a F>R>O>G this means to FULLY>RELY>ON>GOD this is what this ministry is doing each and every day I am available to speak and let you know what we are doing and what has been done if any of you are interested and yes you can share this via e-mail when looking at the blog copy and paste the address to the email and the link will take them directly to the story We are all grateful for your support many thanks again from a F>R>O>G who was changed and helped by this ministry. GOD BLESS

    November 7, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
  10. Carla

    Wonder if I can spread this story via email?

    November 7, 2010 at 8:56 pm |
    • Angela

      As a product of this ministry and being grateful that they were there when I needed them, I am the addict changed on the video and when I got clean I became a F>R>O>G this means to FULLY>RELY>ON>GOD this is what this ministry is doing each and every day I am available to speak and let you know what we are doing and what has been done if any of you are interested and yes you can share this via e-mail when looking at the blog copy and paste the address to the email and the link will take them directly to the story We are all grateful for your support many thanks again from a F>R>O>G who was changed and helped by this ministry. GOD BLESS

      November 7, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply

      November 7, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  11. Carla

    C'mon people...help the children! Forget the beliefs or no belief, this church is doing a wonderful thing. I made a donation, and you can do it thru PayPal. At the end you will get a recieipt and an email name for your donation. Poor little children need food. Dig in those pockets! 🙂

    November 7, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
  12. Carla

    What an uplifting story! I would like to donate as well...thanks Honestanon! I am on my way to your link.

    November 7, 2010 at 7:42 pm |
  13. honestanon


    November 7, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
  14. Linda Swan

    I, also, was very moved and am interested in sending a donation. How can I do this and be certain that my donation is going to this church? Thank you

    November 7, 2010 at 2:46 pm |
  15. Jean Nemer

    I was very moved by this church's plight and would like to contribute. Where do I send a donation?

    November 7, 2010 at 1:50 pm |
    • Gary

      Send it to me Jean.

      November 7, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
    • tkcamper

      the video flashes the website http://saveurbanchurch.com
      there's a donation button on that page.

      November 8, 2010 at 11:59 am |
    • You Idiots

      Close the doors, burn it down and collect the insurance money. Then build a new one...come on your americans figure it out.

      November 9, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.