Responding to the Call of God
“People are starving right here on the streets of this country. The Lord slowed down time and had me see what He sees. These are God’s children. They are suffering. I just knew I had to do something about it.” That’s how Benita Padilla began her personal ministry to the homeless in Pensacola in September 2020.
Benita has always known that giving to others is important. Growing up, she watched her mom work 2 to 3 jobs as a divorced mother to raise Benita and her 6 siblings. She remembers seeing her mother buy meals to feed the homeless who would come into the places she worked, hungry and in need. “That’s been stuck in my mind all these years,” remembers Benita. “If my mom could do that with all she was dealing with back then, I could definitely do more now.”
One week in the beginning of September, Benita (a Pensacola native who works full-time as a project manager for United Health Group) had put together a few bags of food to donate to Ministry Village at Olive, as well as someone who she knows personally that has been struggling. As she made her way through town with her donations, she noticed a homeless man standing on the side of the road. Like many of us, Benita had grown accustomed over the years to seeing people standing on street corners, begging for money. She would usually keep her eyes straight ahead, and avoid eye contact. This time, she didn’t. She noticed the man was covered in sores. He was dirty, and tired, and she looked into his eyes. “They say ‘the eyes are the windows to the soul,’ and that’s so true. I could see so much suffering in his eyes.” She offered him some of the food she had with her, and he was so thankful.
She started driving again and went no more than a mile before she noticed someone else who was homeless and hungry. She offered him some of the packed food, and after he thanked her, she watched him immediately begin to eat it. She could tell he had not eaten in quite some time. “I’m not a crying kind of girl, but tears just immediately started. I knew I just had to do something about this.”
She went on about her typical workweek, and the fire she had felt so strongly during her drive through town began to die down. Then, at Sunday morning’s Olive Baptist Church service, Pastor Ted Traylor talked about serving others in need. Benita remembered the thoughts and urgency she had felt earlier in the week. “That was confirmation from God – I really do need to do something.” She contacted Pastor Traylor, and he connected her with Shaun Pillay, Olive’s Minister of Discipleship and Evangelism, and Jeremy Portmann, Executive Director of Ministry Village at Olive. Soon, Benita made a plan, and had resources and supporters to help put her plan into action.
In next week’s blog, we’ll see how Benita has put the fire of God’s calling to help the homeless into action on the streets of Pensacola.
- The Tender Hearts Caring Hands Food Pantry accepts donations Monday through Friday, from 9AM to 2PM at the Ministry Village at Olive office (1716 E. Olive Road). Donations of nonperishable food items and travel-size hygiene items are accepted. Financial donations are appreciated and go toward purchasing the items THCH distributes each day. Supporters can also make purchases through Amazon and items can be shipped directly to the Ministry Village at Olive office.
- The Tender Hearts Caring Hands Food Pantry provides food Monday-Friday from 10AM to 12noon at the Ministry Village office (1716 E. Olive Road). The most up-to-date drive-thru hours are posted on the Ministry Village at Olive Facebook page. We appreciate your understanding and patience as we work diligently to meet everyone’s needs while following CDC safety guidelines.
- The Ministry Village Bargain Center located at 92 E. Nine Mile Road is open Monday through Saturday, 9AM to 5PM. Donations are accepted Monday through Saturday, 9AM to 4PM. To donate furniture or large quantities of donations, you can schedule a donation pickup by clicking Book Now on their Facebook page or by going to https://resupplyme.com/. Someone from the Bargain Center will then contact you to confirm pickup.
- To donate financially to Tender Hearts Caring Hands or any Ministry Village program, click here.