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“Community Center Offers Breath of Life on Gulf Coast”

By Jennifer Hooks

Gulf Coast Community Ministries (GCCM) is breathing life into individuals on the coast of Mississippi, both physically and spiritually. Destroyed during Hurricane Katrina, the center was forced to close its doors for two years. Today, it is back open and in full swing meeting the needs of those on the Gulf Coast by offering a food pantry, free medical clinic, English as a Second Language classes, and counseling.

“If God hadn’t sent me here, I’d probably be dead,” said Ruben Whittle, a regular patient at Gulf Coast Community Center to Chris Nuss, executive director of the center. “At the clinic, I found out about my high blood pressure. You helped me with my blood pressure. I could have had a stroke. You also lead me to Christ. You have the same heart to help people like I do.”

Individuals come to the center with a variety of needs that the free clinic and food pantry are able to meet. Those who are taken care of physically at GCCM also hear the truth and get a glimpse of Christ’s love when they visit.

The center first opened in 2003 in conjunction with First Baptist Church, Gulfport, Miss. and the services offered then included a food pantry, free clinic, and English as a Second Language classes. GCCM has since expanded and has a significant impact on the people in the Gulf Coast area as they tend to basic needs and share Christ with everyone who comes in its doors. The center, located on 15th Street in Gulfport, is open Monday through Thursday from 8:30 until 5 p.m.

The Margaret Lackey State Missions Offering directly supports the ministry by purchasing food and medicine for GCCM.

“When families come in for services, we are able to address their physical needs as well as their spiritual and emotional needs,” Nuss said.

Churches that are a part of the Gulf Coast Baptist Association also play a crucial role in supporting the center. Director of Missions for the GCBA, Steve Mooneyham, said, “We are leasing a building we own to GCCM, so that they’re able to do ministry. This ministry gives our churches an opportunity to be involved and serve in community ministry. For some, this may be their first experience, and as we partner with GCCM, we believe it will be a positive one.”

GCCM was hard hit by the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, but the ministry has reestablished itself since then. There are still no shelters in Gulfport, but Nuss said that they are able to give out a lot of tents, blankets, and city bus passes to ease some discomfort for individuals in tough situations.

“Even though Katrina destroyed the church buildings in 2005 (where GCCM originally began), our new start in June 2007 has allowed us to blossom and grow into a viable ministry,” Nuss said.

Nuss was called to ministry at age 19 and feels that her work at GCCM is a natural fit for her as she is able to share Christ with so many who come through their doors. She will celebrate her third year with GCCM this April. Without the support of the MLSMO, Gulf Coast Community Ministries and many other ministry-based evangelism centers across our state would lose momentum. Pray for these ministries, their leaders, and our associational missionaries who keep us connected. For more information about the organization or how you can help, call our Gulf Coast Baptist Association at (228) 832-4311.