Originally created 07/12/98

Pastor plans new projects



Miracle Making Ministries moved its headquarters to downtown Augusta last fall, but the office still has a restless, just-moved-in feel.

It is a few blocks from an area the Rev. Robert Williams, the founder, hopes to acquire for a family center.

"We'll tear down dilapidated buildings and run out the thugs and rebuild," the Baptist minister said. He calls it the Nehemiah project, but it is only one of four he plans.

The Miriam-Ruth project will teach job skills, like brick laying, welding, typing and filing.

"There are people out there who have the determination, all the drive and will power to get out of welfare and the projects, but they need help," he said.

The Apostles' project will be a teaching and preaching ministry, emphasizing racial reconciliation. The Rev. Williams started a 30-minute broadcast at 8:30 a.m. Sundays on Aiken's WAJY-102.7 FM this month. Many white churches have invited him to preach over the years.

He often has been the first black in the church, as well as the pulpit, he said. "The same gospel that saves a white person saves a black."

The Paul-Timothy project, though, tops the list because it is the most basic. He wants to train pastors and develop churches.

"We went through a time when emotionalism went through the black community -- the white community, too," he said.

If a preacher could hype up the emotions, that was pretty much all he needed to do.

"People would say `This is great preaching,' but they couldn't tell you what was said anymore than that fan could," he said gesturing toward an electric fan at the side of his desk.

But preachers need to know how to lead others to Jesus and to teach them to live as Christians. It is the only hope for the cities, he said.

Giving a family a few bags of groceries or a check to cover the rent is not ministry, he said.

"It is social welfare ... Ministry takes place when somebody visits that home, finds the root causes and then attempts to help the person work through those problems," the Rev. Williams said. "Anything else is just a bandage. That is one of the reasons our ministry exists."

He started Miracle Making Ministries after serving as pastor for a church that was like many others he sees in Augusta -- churches that have fewer than 100 members after meeting for more than 100 years, he said.

"They never filled the place up. They have no Sunday school space, no classroom space. Why? Because everything happens at 11 a.m. and that's it."

When he told his first church that he wanted to take ministry outside of the building, they thought he had dropped off from Mars, he said. Rather than try to change them, he started the ministry.

His first project was to distribute 68,000 pounds of clothing in Augusta. The garments had come from resort areas in Florida.

Some were brand new, still carrying the manufacturers's tags. It took a year to distribute the clothing, he said with a laugh.

The ministry helped organize three appearances by Tony Evans, founder of the Urban Alternative in Dallas, drawing 6,000 to 7,000 each year.

It was a way of identifying other evangelicals who wanted to do practical ministry in the local area. Dr. Evans will be back in October, he said.

This year, about 300 volunteers have served between 25,000 to 30,000 hours from small house and car repair to helping out with transportation and community clean-ups.

The ministry is waiting on architects drawings for the family center it is establishing in south Augusta in the old Builderama complex on Peach Orchard Road, given by an anonymous donor last year. It has 66,000 square feet and sits on about five acres. The first step will be to open a gymnasium, he said.

"That will bring the children."