This year’s holiday season was made a bit brighter and more joyful for many thanks to Enlighten the World Ministries, a non-profit with a mobile crisis center led by Pastor Thomas Miles, a man with a mission — to serve and assist individuals and families in need throughout Sampson and the surrounding counties “with a big dose of hope and love.”
“Our mission is to help the less fortunate and families in crisis in our communities by providing some of life’s necessities such as food, clothing, blankets, and personal hygiene products,” shared Miles. “Our ministry is basically a mobile church, spreading the love of our Lord Jesus Christ wherever God wants to take us. Currently, we serve every second Saturday in Wallace or Roseboro, and every fourth Saturday at the Clinton Community Church, feeding and clothing, on average, 850 people per month.”
Up and serving for three years now, the ministry brought back its Holiday Helping Hands Project this Thanksgiving and Christmas, an effort which turned out to be massive, featuring a Christmas Angel Project, a canned food drive, and numerous distributions of food, clothing, and toys.
“It just keeps on getting bigger and bigger every year,” he noted.
The project kicked off on Nov. 1 with the ministry distributing the names of needy children and families connected to Sampson County’s Partnership for Children program.
“We had served their clients back in the summer,” Miles said of the ministry’s relationship with the local Partnership, explaining that Partnership officials had shared with him that they usually put up an angel tree during Christmas but didn’t think they were going to be able to do it again in 2013 given the lack of support the previous year.
“We have a great following and I thought that was something we could do for them,” he continued, pointing out that the he chose not to put the angels on a tree but instead had individuals and families sign up for and take responsibility for the angels.
“The problem with them being on the tree is that people pick them up and then never do anything with them so we had them sign up” for angels, he said, adding that he even made phone calls to ensure the no angel — representing a child and their needs — that was adopted was forgotten.
Enlighten the World Ministries had no trouble finding generous people to adopt the angels from the Partnership with support coming from those in Clinton Community Church, Roseboro Penetacostal Freewill Baptist Church, the Directorate of Human Resources at Fort Bragg, and many other area citizens.
Community involvement was “absolutely instrumental in the success of the project,” shared Miles, praising his church, Clinton Community Church, for “really stepping up” and donating money and toys to the project.
The congregation of Roseboro PFWB Church also left a lasting impression on Miles. “We serve from there and they’re always eager to help. I usually don’t have to do anything because the whole congregation comes out and helps serve and distribute food, clothes, and toys. It’s so neat to see people who are willing and have such a compassion and a heart for giving back to the community.”
“Some say that people are turning cold-hearted now, but this is definitely a sign that people are not cold-hearted,” he added.
Later in the month, on Nov. 23 and 24, workers in the ministry served Thanksgiving food and distributed clothes to over 800 people in the community.
“In addition, we distributed 100 turkeys, 50 of which were donated by the Sandhill’s Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation,” noted Miles.
And following Thanksgiving, there wasn’t time to slow down.
“The need is so great, especially during the holidays,” stressed Miles, noting that while some may say the economy is getting better, “it’s really getting worse, at least in our region. Sampson and Duplin counties are having major issues in food, security.”
“In the month of November alone, we served 1,067 people,” he added.
Feeling the burden of so much need in the community, Miles and his ministry kicked their efforts into high gear in December, distributing Christmas Angel gifts on Dec. 6 to 97 children who attend the Partnership’s program and giving each of the children’s families one of the 240 turkeys that were donated by Prestage Farms.
Similar efforts continued over the weekend before Christmas when the ministry partnered with Harrells Christian Academy 11th grader Garrett Carr and other students and staff to distribute food that had been collected by the school through a food drive organized by Carr.
“It was amazing,” said Miles of the food drive. “To see kids want to help so much was amazing. Garrett hoped to get 1,000 cans (of food) donated but he well over quadrupled that goal. They got about a ton worth of food.”
“He (Carr) wanted to distribute the food in the community but had never done anything like that before so we helped,” he continued. “We distributed some to 80 families within the Harrells community. What was left over was donated to Open Door Ministries in Elizabethtown and also to our ministry.”
That same weekend, on Dec. 22, the ministry also partnered with the youth of Clinton Community Church and the Juntas Club of Clinton High School to distributed gifts, which included an entire Christmas meal with either a turkey or a ham, to 17 more underprivileged families in the community.
“We don’t have four walls like most churches. We just go out into communities that need assistance and open our doors,” said Miles, pointing that much of the food the ministry distributes comes from Second Harvest Food Bank in Fayetteville where they can get a lot of a little. “That’s how we can feed so many with so little. Five dollars goes a long way.”
And Miles is hoping that stretching dollars will help expand the ministry’s services and reach in the community in the new year.
“We also do disaster recovery efforts,” he shared, recalling how he and other workers went to Goose Creek, an island off the coast of New Bern, after Hurricane Irene struck to assist with rebuilding a church and a few houses and to help distribute food and clothing to those affected by the storm. “We’ve been in contact with the Red Cross and have agreed with them to be the on-site disaster recovery team for Sampson County,” adding that “I just have to finish my training” before the ministry can respond on behalf of the Red Cross.
“I want to start helping people find jobs too. I help people some now but it would help if businesses would let us know when they have jobs available and give our folks an opportunity. I’d also like to start offering computer training,” said Miles, who also works as a computer engineer at Fort Bragg. “I’ve got a couple of computers. We just need a place to hold the computer training which would be offered for free to help make people more employable. We have all the talent; we just need some of the logistics taken care of.”
With big ideas for how the ministry can make a positive and lasting difference in the community, Miles knows that it will take compassionate, generous people to make those dreams comes true.
“Unfortunately, it takes money to be able to do these things, so if people have it on their hearts to help the community it would really help us help more and more people and expand our services,” he said. “Whether a dollar a month or more or whatever they can afford, it all helps out greatly.”
If interested in giving to Enlighten the World Ministries, donations can be made on the ministry’s website www.enlightennc.org, on the ministry’s Facebook page, or by sending donations to the ministry’s office, 75 Knight Lane, Autryville, NC 28318. Donations of food and clothing can also be dropped off in the donation box at the office or at Clinton Community Church. For $20 a month, businesses can be sponsors of Enlighten the World Ministries and have their logo featured on the back of the ministry’s trailer.
For more information about Enlighten the World Ministries and its efforts, please call 910-495-3595 or send an email to EnlightenWorship@gmail.com.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at email@example.com.