It’s gone now.
The abandoned building was featured on the front page of The Lima News’ July 22 edition. Elder Jimmy Wilkerson wanted to show photographer Jay Sowers and me the evidence inside of homeless people seeking shelter. The big old maintenance building also captured a flavor of the hopelessness its occupants must experience daily, as well as the harassment from all angles. Jay’s photo of Wilkerson walking inside the graffiti-strewn interior illustrated my feature about Lima’s hidden homeless population.
We joked among ourselves the exposure would seal the structure’s fate. And shortly after that feature appeared, the railroad that owns the property bulldozed the long-vacant building, leaving our city’s homeless population with one less hangout.
It was a fitting chapter in the story of Without Walls, Wilkerson’s new ministry.
Wilkerson talked in the July homeless feature about his vision for a church without walls serving Lima’s homeless population — people who for whatever reason avoid and distrust much of society’s establishments. Wilkerson makes it his mission to provide the physical and spiritual needs of homeless people. He also fights to protect them from the day-to-day difficulties and harassment.
There are homeless shelters and other accommodations, he points out, but each has its own set of rules — men only, women only, nighttime only, no families — necessary rules that turn some away. And none were willing to go out and minister to the homeless where they live.
It turns out there were many people willing to back a homeless ministry. Business owners, church pastors, individuals contacted Wilkerson offering to help.
Many were outraged about an incident involving a homeless man’s violent arrest for stealing a $1 bottle of water on July 4 when the temperature soared above 100 degrees. They would have provided that much, plus a whole lot more, they told Wilkerson. And they were willing to prove it.
Within weeks of the hidden homeless story’s publication, a committee formed around Wilkerson and his partner in mission, Dr. James Bowlus, an Elida physician whose patients include homeless people. The committee represented church congregations and other nonprofits that help the poor.
Without Walls received its Ohio articles of incorporation this past week. The nonprofit corporate status allows the ministry to accept tax-deductible contributions.
Without Walls is forming a board of directors from the founding committee. Wilkerson is the board’s president. Bowlus is vice president. Julianne Frankhauser, the secretary-treasurer, is busy starting a new ministry of her own, Guiding Light teen maternity home, due to open in January.
“God is doing a quick work,” Wilkerson said Thursday. “He’s brought all these resources together in a matter of weeks. He’s brought people I didn’t even know I needed to pursue his work.”
Wilkerson said a strong board of directors is necessary, along with a good finance committee to act as stewards and watchdogs.
Without Walls celebrates its birth today with its first fundraiser. The 2012 “BasketBowl” Corporate Challenge goes from 1 to 3 p.m. today at Westgate Entertainment Center. Members of the Lima Explosion pro basketball team will be there participating, along with other corporate teams competing for a free company bowling party. Other teams can walk on and compete: The team entry fee of $100 covers shoe rental and games for six bowlers.
Wilkerson said he’s grateful for business owners such as Andy Johnson, owner of Westgate, who has been an avid supporter of the homeless ministry from the start. More businesses, congregations and individuals forward every day, he said.
If you’re one of them, you can contact Wilkerson at 419-204-2104. Or just show up today from 1 to 3 p.m. at Westgate Lanes.