Every Saturday afternoon, Ernie and Allison Sizemore bow their heads with the homeless under the Calhoun Bridge.
For the past two years, the Sizemores have volunteered with the Bridge Ministry along with others from their church, First Baptist Church of Augusta.
They were two of about a dozen members on the prayer team during Saturday’s Thanksgiving service, the largest one of the year, under the bridge at 15th Street. About 1,000 homeless or impoverished people were served a turkey dinner, participated in a worship service and were given a new coat.
On a typical Saturday, more than 350 people are served in a similar manner, with the services alternated by First Baptist and New Hope Worship Center.
The Bridge Ministry is a joint effort between the two churches, the Augusta Rescue Mission and other churches to reach out to the homeless with the love of God and a good meal, which is often the biggest challenge for the homeless.
For the Sizemores, the Bridge Ministry has served as a sort of training ground for a life in the mission field, though they didn’t intend it that way.
They first learned about the Bridge Ministry from fellow church members and friends Byron and Melanie Brown. Byron Brown, who leads the volunteer team from First Baptist, explained the ministry over dinner one evening.
“We just really felt there was a longing in our hearts to follow God, and we were looking for a tangible way to do that.” Ernie Sizemore said.
They found it in the Bridge Ministry, but never imagined that desire would lead them to missions in Honduras. But they do feel that their work with Augusta’s homeless has prepared them for whatever challenges they may face.
“We’ve learned a lot here. We’ve grown a lot here. We’ve gotten out of our comfort zone,” Allison said.
Along with their children Chase, 13, Maddie, 11, and Graham, 5, Ernie and Allison Sizemore will move to Santa Elena, Honduras, in April, where they will work with a children’s center. Similar to the Boys and Girls clubs here, the program provides nutrition, after school care, homework assistance, and a Bible study. A medical clinic is also currently under development.
For seven years, the couple served as foster parents. In all, the Sizemores have cared for about 40 children and adopted both of their sons out of the foster system. (Maddie was adopted from the Ukraine.)
Allison said through their experiences with these children, they are familiar with the struggles facing the impoverished and working with the homeless was not a shock to them. But they feel they receive as much as they give.
“We don’t just minister to them, they minister to us,” she said.