KNOXVILLE — Every Friday night a small group of Johnson University students heads to downtown Knoxville. While most college students who travel downtown on the weekend are looking for fun at the local restaurants and bars, these students have a very different mission in mind.
Members of Houseless Ministry, a group started by JUTN students, go to downtown Knoxville every Friday night to build relationships with the homeless community.
Nathan Thompson, a JUTN junior, views what Houseless Ministries does as being in the trenches.
“The trenches are what I call being in the dirty and dangerous streets and doing the actual ministry,” Thompson said.
Former JUTN student Evan Giannakas, a 2016 graduate, helped found Houseless Ministries. The work is now being carried on by JUTN students Shae Frazier, Chase Rigdon and Thompson.
Frazier said that Houseless Ministries’ mission is to be like Jesus to the homeless community of Knoxville. He says being Jesus is more than just sharing scripture with people.
“The goal is to not Bible-bash or save souls,” Frazier said. “The goal is to be Jesus by building relationships and love on those people.”
Thompson and Frazier both said their experiences with Houseless Ministries have been unforgettable.
Thompson recalled that a group from Houseless was ministering in downtown Knoxville one night when a man named TJ began weeping. TJ told them about his struggles and said he was thinking about killing himself that night.
“He [TJ] took off his wedding ring, because he lost his wife about a week ago, and handed it to Evan,” Thompson said. “He said, ‘You hold on to this, I am done.’ And Evan began to minister to him and to talk him out of [committing suicide].”
A few months later Frazier, Giannakas and Thompson ran into TJ, who was doing much better.
The group said they do little things to engage the homeless community, such as playing games, handing out food and clothes and giving people someone to talk with.
Frazier said he believes that even the smallest action can have a great impact on the homeless community.
“The crazy thing is how much remembering somebody’s name will do for them and that is something that we just take for granted,” Frazier said.
Houseless Ministries’ members hope the organization will continue to grow and they encourage other students to pray for the organization’s needs.