By Carolyn S. Peterson
“Hunger” can take many forms. We can hunger for food to nourish our bodies, but then we can also hunger for attention, love and understanding. In Winston-Salem, NC, alone, 1 in 4 children is lacking sufficient food to meet his or her nutritional needs. But children in our area also suffer from other needs in life. “It takes more than a bowl of soup to mold and shape a successful, well-rounded child. Many of the children we meet through City Lights Ministry are also starving for love, attention, encouragement and direction. If someone doesn’t take the time to care in a personal way, these children repeat the history of their parents and grandparents, who went through life feeling no one cared,” said Pastor Melanie Bell, founder and Director of City Lights Ministry.
Pastor Bell, a native of South Carolina, knows what it feels like have food insecurity. “As a child, I grew up with an alcoholic father, who in my younger years was also a drug addict and drug dealer. Times were difficult on my mom to support me and my brother; most of my childhood, I experienced food insecurity. I have a heart for children who live in similar circumstances and want to share the hope that comes through Jesus Christ,” Pastor Melanie commented. Now living in Winston-Salem, NC, for the past 23 years with her husband, Tony, and children Matthew, 18, Mitchell, 17 (adopted from Latvia in 2013), Mallory, 16, and Morgan, 13, Pastor Melanie felt called into youth ministry soon after she and Tony married. In 2008, City Lights Ministry began as a bus ministry to the inner city of Winston-Salem, NC, ministering to about 80 children. Just three short years later, the ministry became a Sidewalk Bible School after Pastor Melanie attended a “boot camp” led by Pastor Bill Wilson in Brooklyn, NY.
“I was already ministering to children in the city, and a friend invited me to go to the boot camp that Pastor Bill Wilson has in the Brooklyn, NY, area. Attending the boot camp showed me that I could reach out to more children in the city right where they are. I also realized that I could get to know the families more personally than I did using the bus ministry. Being with Pastor Bill just for that short time fueled what God had already planted in my heart,” recalled Pastor Melanie.
With six locations for the Sidewalk Bible School, children across our city learn about the hope that comes in Jesus Christ, with puppets, games, songs, interactive Bible lessons, food and prizes, as well as receiving the encouragement for them to grow in character.
“Children’s ministry is the biggest part of CLM, and we can work with 400-plus children a month. Our goal is to care about the needs of the children, but also encourage them to reach for their dreams, do well in school and strive to be what God has called them to be,” Pastor Melanie stated. CLM has also grown in its reach, now ministering to single moms and the homeless.
“Our single moms’ ministry is an opportunity for us to minister to women who are currently in moments in their lives that seem hopeless. We lead Bible studies for these women, giving us a time to come together and unite in prayer and study God’s word. We also help moms with the items we collect, such as emergency food, children’s clothes, furniture and household items. We strive to meet every need we can to assist these moms in getting back on their feet,” said Pastor Melanie. CLM’s homeless ministry gives clothes, food, personal hygiene articles and hot meals out to the homeless in the community. “We help our homeless friends transition back into having their own homes with items needed to settle in, building relationships and friendships that go beyond just meeting them at the homeless shelter with a hot meal,” commented Pastor Melanie.
With summer just around the corner, the need of children increases, due to schools not offering meals and guidance. “CLM has a summer feeding program, giving us additional areas for our Sidewalk Bible School. This is a 2-hour time with themed sessions and activities like dance, music, soccer, art and reading. Currently our six locations are: Piedmont Circle Apartments, Rolling Hills Apartments, Colony Place Apartments, Hutton St., Providence Place Apartments and Aster Park Apartments,” Pastor Melanie stated.
For more information on how you can volunteer or help with donations, visit www.citylightsministry.org or call Pastor Melanie at 336-618-6351.