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Homeless find aid, shelter at Set-Free

Sept. 9, 2003

By Erika Walter, reporter

From the outside, Set-Free Outreach Church looks like a typical South Waco home, but the eclectic group of people inside are anything but typical.

The small church on the corner of Wood Avenue and 22nd Street, houses homeless people working to fight addiction. Set-Free is described as a 'spiritual hospital' by the 10 people who live there.

Charles Pink, a former drug addict, first found refuge at Set- Free more than three years ago.

'I decided to give up the fast life,' Pink said. 'I came here and truly surrendered to the Lord, and it has been glorious ever since.'

Pink became the outreach's director more than two years ago.

Emily Ling, a Lorena senior, has built a friendship with Pink while volunteering at other Waco ministries that feed the homeless. Ling said she greatly admires how Pink has 'put his whole heart' into the ministry.

Set-Free stresses the importance of spiritual guidance throughout recovery. Those who stay at Set-Free attend group Bible studies and Antioch Community Church on Friday nights.

Most of the residents at Set- Free attend Church Under the Bridge on Sundays, although each person is free to choose his or her own church.

A year ago, two of the residents at Set-Free got married at Church Under the Bridge. Ronnie and Sandra Lewis met and fell in love at Set-Free. Ronnie Lewis said he came to Set-Free after he had been 'wandering the streets of Waco.'

'I had nowhere to go,' he said. 'I was at a job search when I got the opportunity to come to Set-Free and find myself in God. It was truly God that gave me a second chance.'

Since their wedding, the couple has transitioned out of Set-Free and now live in their own house, but remain active at the outreach.

When Lewis's co-worker, Chris Ave-Lallemant, needed a place to stay, he told him about Set-Free. Ave-Lallemant came to Set-Free just two months ago and says he feels 'a strength' at the outreach.

'I've turned around,' Ave-Lallemant said. 'The spirit is working here.'

Most people who live at Set-Free have at least a part-time job, as Set-Free supports itself without any government funding. Everyone at Set Free is asked to contribute $50 a week. This money pays for meals, rent and other bills.

Pink said the low cost of living allows the residents to save enough money in order to eventually move out and live independently. Pink said a person with a decent job should not have to stay at Set-Free for more than six months.

'If a person is obedient to the ministry he can stay here, but he should be looking to move on,' Pink said.

Set-Free became incorporated in Texas in July of 2000 allowing for tax-deductible donations, although Pink said only a handful of people have ever helped the ministry financially.

'By the grace of God, we make it,' he said.