By Katie Eubanks
From homeless to providing a haven
Twenty-five years ago, Bridgett Macklin was homeless. For nine months, she lived in a Christian shelter. Many years later, after an “encounter with the Lord” at a three-night revival changed her life, God started using Bridgett to lay out the path for God’s Haven, a ministry that’s helping the homeless and reaching kids for Christ.
But first she had to come home from work and tell her future husband that God had told her to quit her job.
“He thought I was crazy,” she says.
For the next three years, Bridgett took sandwiches to bus stations, parks, “wherever we could find the homeless,” she says. That’s the heart of God’s Haven: to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ by meeting the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of people who are homeless or in danger of it.
(Bridgett also married her boyfriend after telling him his other option was to “go back home and stay with your mom.”)
Then they began using two empty houses next to their church to house homeless women and children.
One of those women was Terry Cotton, whose daughters were 2 and 4 at the time. Terry had gifts and abilities — she had worked with children for half her life — but now she was in a tough spot.
“I was really discouraged. (Ms. Bridgett) made me want to do better for myself,” Terry says. “Once I got out (of the shelter), I wanted to be a light to the community.”
In the meantime, God’s Haven grew to include a winter shelter and a children’s ministry.
“God told me to go to an apartment complex and pick the children up,” Bridgett says. “We had 50 to 60 children. We didn’t do any flyers or anything, they didn’t know us — they just saw the church van and we said, ‘Do y’all want to go to church?’”
Now the community definitely knows God’s Haven. The Monday night ministry for ages 5 to 17 will celebrate its eighth anniversary next month.
Every Monday night, God’s Haven picks up kids from local apartments and hotels. The kids get a hot meal, time to play, and the opportunity to hear the gospel. Every fourth Monday, they skate at FunTime Skateland in Pearl. Everything is free. Those same kids also receive sack lunches during the holidays, plus Christmas gifts.
Six years ago, God’s Haven started a six-week summer camp for girls. Four days a week, 120 to 150 girls ages 5 and up arrive at Alta Woods United Methodist Church for Bible study, arts and crafts and other activities, plus a free breakfast, lunch and snack. Each Friday involves a field trip. (The organization also partners with a local boys’ camp to provide a place for the girls’ siblings to go.)
One day Terry and Bridgett ran into each other. Terry was working as a teacher now. So Bridgett hired her to work at the summer camp. She pours into girls aged 5–7, for the same organization that helped her when she was down.
“You know, when we get to thinking we mean nothing to the world, our thoughts are not God’s thoughts,” Terry says. “We can see ourselves as nothing. God says you are beautiful; you are confident; you are bold.
“I would say to single parents, stay positive, stay focused, and even when you’re in your darkest moments, look to God and always be grateful.”
Bridgett would agree. When asked to name the most challenging part of following God in this ministry, she says it’s been the pain of personal losses: her husband, her stepson and her mother have all passed away. But “I can still say how good God is,” she adds.
And she is grateful for the resources that have come to God’s Haven — which receives no grants or loans, she says. Churches and ministries throughout metro Jackson have been an asset, whether it’s a member of Crossgates Baptist Church serving on the God’s Haven board, or members of various churches volunteering their time – churches like Broadmoor Baptist, Pinelake, Bellwether, and Parkway Church in Clinton, to name a few. And Bridgett is thankful for her board members, people of influence who don’t just come to meetings but actively help the ministry.
But more help is always welcome, whether in the form of volunteers, food, gently used clothing, appliances or furniture, arts and crafts items, hula hoops or jump ropes. It all helps make a child feel loved, which ultimately points them to Jesus. And that’s the vision of God’s Haven.
Bridgett sums up her entire perspective in a sentence: “He said if I keep Him exalted, ‘I will draw all men to Me.’”