Hope in a Crockpot
Electric cooperative members discover a new perspective on homelessness
Kingdom Come, a Tulsa, Oklahoma-based outreach group, feeds between 200 and 300 hungry people each week. Photos by Laura Araujo
August 3, 2012, is a date Deana Luckett will never forget. It’s the day her home in Mannford, Oklahoma, burned to the ground in a wildfire that blazed for almost a week and destroyed more than 400 homes.
“I was homeless,” Luckett, a former Indian Electric Cooperative member, says.
If it hadn’t been for family, friends, and a supportive church, Luckett says she could easily have been on the streets.
She and her husband, Landrix, relocated to Tulsa. Today she works downtown Tulsa, and she regularly comes in contact with individuals who don’t have the same support system she relied on during her time of need. For many of them, it was one crisis—the loss of a job, a medical problem, an abusive relationship—that left them without a place to call home.
According to information from Tulsa’s Community Service Council (CSC), common factors that contribute to homelessness include lack of family or support networks; economic crises; inadequate support services for those with mental health and substance abuse needs; and criminal justice involvement. CSC data indicates that one in 11 Oklahomans experienced homelessness during 2017.
Since experiencing homelessness herself, Luckett has taken the opportunity to serve the Oklahomans who are where she was—by starting an outreach to the homeless with a few of her friends.
One of those friends is Meg Burris. Burris grew up in the town of Stilwell, Oklahoma, on Ozarks Electric Cooperative lines. Her father, James Reid, worked as an energy auditor for the co-op, and she attended Energy Camp as an eighth-grader.
“Growing up everyone knew everyone. As teenagers we had a joke that if you did something you shouldn’t do, your mom would know about it before you got home,” Burris says. “Everything happened on a familial basis.”
That included caring for those in need. And that’s why it was shocking to Burris when she moved to Tulsa after college and first came into contact with those experiencing homelessness.
“I was appalled to see people with nothing and no one,” she says. “I thought homelessness was an issue in big cities like New York and Washington, D.C.”
In January 2017, Burris and Luckett headed to the streets of Tulsa with a crockpot of soup and fed a dozen hungry people. The next week they fed a few more. They continued, and a year later they are feeding between 200 to 300 hungry people each week through their outreach, known as Kingdom Come.
As the demand for food grew, so did their team. Now, more than 100 volunteers have been involved in Kingdom Come. They also offer clothing, shoes, socks, blankets and hygiene items, when available.
Two of their weekly volunteers are David and Melanie Shiew, East Central Oklahoma Electric Cooperative members living in Bixby, Oklahoma.
Melanie Shiew says serving with Kingdom Come has transformed her perspective on homelessness.
“I used to think that if someone was homeless, they were being lazy. I thought they needed to take advantage of the services available downtown and get a job. I didn’t understand homelessness,” she says.
Prior to his involvement with Kingdom Come, David Shiew shared a similar view.
“One of the eye-opening things for me was seeing kids sleeping under a bridge that are my kids’ ages,” he says. “I can’t imagine my own kids being in that circumstance.”
Melanie Shiew, a fitness trainer by day, coordinates the weekly meals for the homeless. She says they prepare a well-balanced, nutritious meal, including meat and fresh vegetables—always something she would feed to her own family. And they welcome people back for seconds.
“We want people to come back for more. We want to express God’s abundant love through the food,” she says. “We’ve had several people tell us that if we hadn’t come, they wouldn’t have eaten that day.”
For Kingdom Come, food is a bridge to the relationships they hope to form with those experiencing homelessness.
Burris says that in our connected culture, people are very aware of everything that goes on worldwide, and many of today’s issues are more complicated than the average citizen can hope to influence. As a result, people often overlook the things they can influence.
“We think we have to make a difference in millions of lives, so we don’t do anything. But we can make a difference in one person’s life—and that is important,” she says.
That focus on each individual has been the key to Kingdom Come’s success. As a result of getting to know people and the situations that brought them to the streets, Kingdom Come has been able to assist nine individuals in finding jobs and housing over the past year.
“Every face has a name, and every name has a story. We spend time and intentional energy to get to know them,” Burris says.
The relationships with their homeless friends aren’t the only ones that have grown. Serving others has brought personal transformation to those involved.
“When Melanie first invited me to come with her, she told me how fun it was and I didn’t believe her,” David Shiew says, “but I truly enjoy serving. It has been good for our marriage to serve together.”
Luckett says it has been a blessing for her family as well, especially her daughters, Avonlea, 6, and Emerson, 4.
“They want to go and serve. It has taught them a lifestyle of service and how to give back to others. It helps them recognize how much they have,” Luckett says.
Luckett reflects on one particular relationship she has built with a homeless woman named Gabbie. At the age of 18, she was on the streets after fleeing an abusive home situation. After getting to know Gabbie, Luckett asked her if she could give her a hug.
“When I hugged her, she told me, ‘Please don’t let go. This is the safest I have ever felt.
“Being part of this has taught me to love in a way I hadn’t loved before, even with my own family,” Luckett says. “These people are just like me. With every person we’ve met, the single common denominator is that they don’t have a family or support system like I did. It’s only by the grace of God that I’m not homeless.”
To learn more, volunteer or donate to the efforts, visit Kingdom Come’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/KingdomComeTulsa.