Homeless find hope, redemption under Waco bridge

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by GARY REAVES / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on February 19, 2010 at 12:59 AM

Updated Friday, Feb 19 at 4:47 PM

WACO — It's not unusual to find homeless people sleeping under a freeway bridge, but in Waco, they gather under Interstate 35 for a much higher purpose.

At the same hour millions of Texans are going to Sunday services, the homeless here are doing the same thing.

Six days a week, it's just an overpass on Interstate 35, the half way point between Dallas and Austin. But, come Sunday, hundreds gather at the Waco spot via bike and bus and other means. It's called The Church Under the Bridge.
 
"We don't judge nobody here," said Larry White, a church member. "There's only one judge; that's our father. That's how it should be."
 
Jimmy Dorrell and his wife Janet started the church after a chance run in with a half dozen homeless praying.
 
"Once I began to know these guys - took them to breakfast at Taco Cabana [and] began to hear their stories - they became real people," Dorrell said. "They weren't just guys on the corner."
 
With his dog in tow, Chuck Rose is among the homeless who attend the church. He's a jobless carpenter who said he simply hit a run of bad luck,
 
"Actually, I fell through a roof, but I didn't have the insurance to cover it," he said. "I owe Providence Hospital $56,000. I lost everything."
 
The Church Under the Bridge is an 18-year-old institution without walls and few rules.
 
"At least one day you can feel worthy of something," said Mickey Wormley, another church member. "God in our lives, but we got nothing."
 
Ministering the church, Dorell said, is following in Jesus footsteps.
 
"Christ put on human flesh and hung out with the prostitute," he said. "He touched the leper; he ate with the tax collector. The very essence of who God is, that's what we're supposed to be about."
 
However, members aren't all homeless. Some come to volunteer and dish out the meals, hand out the clothes and be a part of the vibrant, growing church, which is complete with a children's ministry
 
From the less fortunate, Christians can learn a lot, Dorrell said.
 
"Poor people are often are much more humble," he said. "They have a sense of humility that I know is basic to spiritual growth and life."
 
As for Dorell, virtually everyone at the church has a story of how he has touched their lives,
 
"I lost my mother during Christmas," said Shirley Austin, a church member. "I didn't have the money to make the trip to Minneapolis, so Jimmy took up a collection for me."
 
"I would probably be still drinking and doing drugs," said Marvin Holcomb, another church member, of how the church has changed his life.
 
Holcomb and his wife are off the streets now, but Rose is still out there. For 18 years, Jimmy Dorrell has grown a church that meets their needs, and his own as well.
 
"I get to be a part of something bigger than making money and living in houses that are big," he said. "And I get to be a part of seeing reconciliation and hope and love and compassion, things you don't get to see - at least at the level we get to see it."

E-mail greaves@wfaa.com

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