HUEYTOWN, Ala. -- Mike Gordon drove around the mobile home park for a year before he ever took one step out of his big red truck.
There was poverty. Drugs. Gangs. Prostitutes.
But that wasn't why he never stopped.
"I was just waiting for something to happen," said Gordon, minister of outreach and evangelism for Valley Creek Baptist Church in Hueytown, Ala. "About three years ago, God put this community on my heart. And about a year ago, I started driving through it and praying over each home in there."
Then one day, something happened -- Alabama heat.
"It was really hot, and there were some people outside," he said. "I had a cooler of soft drinks in the back of my truck."
He decided to stop and offer a drink to some kids and their parents. The kids were happy about the drinks, and the adults were happy to get to ask the big question.
"They said, 'We've seen your truck ride through here -- What are you doing?' I told them, 'I've been praying for y'all,'" Gordon said. "That opened doors for people to let God work a little bit."
He kept riding around and talking to people, and the next thing he knew, people began to let him into their homes and lives, to pray for them and to talk about God. One day he found himself at the hospital supporting a family whose daughter had overdosed on heroin. Another time a family alerted him to the needs of two boys who didn't have enough clothes.
"I began to share with our church family some of the things God was doing," Gordon said. "And they said, 'Wow, He's doing that there?' I felt confirmation to go forward and start doing more with this community, and so I just started asking God what we could do."
And God put hot dogs on his heart.
"I felt like we should go out there and cook some hot dogs," he said. "I didn't even have a grill, so I put it out there to the church family and got a huge response."
A group from Valley Creek Baptist went out, grilled hot dogs and served chips, sodas and sweet tea. The church's youth played with the kids and wrote Bible verses on the roads with sidewalk chalk. And still more people from the neighborhood asked why they were all there.
"We continue to tell them we just want to love them, and we've been praying for them," Gordon said. "They open up, and we can plant seeds a little further into their hearts."
The church started grilling out there the third Saturday of every month. But it didn't stop there.
For Thanksgiving, a different family from Valley Creek adopted each of the 117 families in the trailer park neighborhood and surprised them by delivering food for a Thanksgiving meal to their door. A few of the families, when they opened the door and received the groceries, broke down in tears.
The members of Valley Creek were amazed at the response, Gordon said.
"We are growing a lot as a church and realizing that Christ isn't for us to keep -- He's to share and give away," he said. "This has been exciting and wonderful for us."
The adults in the park also signed up 85 children for Valley Creek's shoebox Christmas, their own local version of Operation Christmas Child just for that community.
"It has nothing to do with us -- it's all God doing it," Gordon said. "Jesus asks us to be His hands and feet. We should be compelled to act, but sometimes we refuse because of the type of neighborhood it is. This isn't something spectacular we are doing -- it is simply us trying to allow Christ to use us in the way He asks us to."
As a result, three people have come to know Christ as Savior, he said. Several are coming to the church regularly. One was baptized Dec. 2.
Valley Creek pastor Kevin Blackwell said the area is downtrodden and diverse and faces a whole lot of problems, but God is moving there -- and He's impacting the church in the process.
"We looked at our community and said, 'Where would Jesus be?'" Blackwell said. "We felt like this neighborhood is where Jesus would be.
"We don't want to just minister to people like us -- we are asked to minister to the least of these. We don't want to be one who talks about it -- we want to be doing it. I would encourage other churches to look at these types of areas around them and catch a vision. That's where people are hurting, and we know the Healer."
Grace Thornton is assistant editor of The Alabama Baptist (www.thealabamabaptist.org), newsjournal of the Alabama Baptist Convention, where this story first appeared.
Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net