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Jim Rhodes: God’s Complainer

Driving through Mineral Wells, Texas, one afternoon in 1994, Jim Rhodes noticed many buildings standing vacant due to the shutdown of a local military base. "I always complain to God about things that bother me," says Rhodes, "so I asked him, ’Why aren’t these buildings being used to help the homeless?’"

A few days later an announcement appeared in the paper: one of the base buildings was available to any charitable organization that could put it to good use. More to appease his conscience than to make a serious inquiry, Rhodes sent a letter to city officials, suggesting his idea. The answer he wasn’t prepared for came back: "It’s yours."

"Never say ’God use me’ unless you really mean it," Rhodes says with a knowing smile. Decades earlier another complaint to God about abandoned children led him and his wife, Melinda, to adopt eight "special needs" children and be foster parents to hundreds more over the years. Soon Rhodes found himself also helping pregnant and battered women, which grew into New Haven Ministries in 1986.

"The next step was to begin helping homeless families," Rhodes says. After a chain of miracles, including more than 5,000 volunteer hours from plumbers, electricians, and painters who renovated the facility, New Haven Family Center opened its doors in September 1995.

Since then, the center has helped over 20 intact families get back on their feet. Families live at the center two or three months while they find employment. The center provides clothes, food, GED, and computer classes. "This is a totally Christian, totally donated, non-government funded ministry," says Rhodes. "Most of these folks just need a hand up instead of a hand out."

What’s next for Rhodes? "Only God knows," he chuckles, "but I’m sure he’ll let me know the next time I start complaining." (Tara Tremaine, Christian Reader, "Ordinary Heroes.")