It would have been easy for Barron Martin to take the safe route. He could have moved from the Memphis area, found a comfortable job, and simply “tuned out” the violence and poverty that plagues the neighborhood where he was raised.
Instead, he chose the opposite approach. He elected to be on the frontline.
Responding to God’s call, Martin has become a highly-visible figure in the West Frayser area, bringing the hope and Love of Christ to his community. He is the founder and pastor of One Faith Christian Center Church, which is dedicated to reaching youth and children for Jesus amid the tough circumstances.
“Frayser is high in gang violence, high in crime, high in poverty,” Martin said. “But we can give our people hope by teaching them the basic principles of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When they apply that, they will see an effective change in their lives. And when that effective change comes, we have a better community.”
Martin likes to refer to One Faith Christian Center as “the church without walls.” He — along with a core group of committed members — have established a steady presence in the community, even meeting with gang leaders in an attempt to bring harmony to the area.
“We’ve been to homes in this poverty-stricken community where people don’t even have a front door,” Martin said. “And we’ve provided a door for them so that they can take down the sheets and blankets. We’ve provided shoes and supplied food — and we’ve done this not to get them to come to church, but to show them that Jesus is real and that we really do care about them.”
The church, which has established numerous tutoring and mentoring programs for youth and children, holds a chapel service each Wednesday night for local students. More than 300 students have given their life to Christ during these gatherings over the past few years.
The church also tutors more than 100 students each week. The sessions are not exclusively geared toward school subjects, but also life lessons. The goal is to steer the children toward wholesome, productive lifestyles.
“The male mentors are absent in our community,” said Robert Blake, a deacon at One Faith. “So it is good for the church to come in and be strong male mentors for these young men, because a lot of our boys don’t have fathers.
“Some of these kids believe there is no way out, and they don’t believe in Christ,” he said. “It’s not until we go out into the streets, and get them to come into the church, that we can really show them that there is a God and He sent His Son into the world to die for them.”
One Faith Christian Center Church receives funding from Tennessee Baptists through the Golden Offering of Tennessee Missions.
“If it had not been for the Golden Offering and the assistance that we’ve gained from it, we would not be able to survive as a church,” Martin said. “The (offering) is totally, totally essential. I encourage everyone to keep supporting that so that we can keep being able to do the evangelism and discipleship that the Lord has commanded us to do.”
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SOURCE: Baptist Press