NEWPORT — A little over two years ago, Randy Terrell was homeless and addicted to drugs. Then one day, “I let everything go, and I came up here. I was done, done with the drugs,” he explained. “It was either dead, or finally being alive.”
He said he was called to Newport by the Lord. Terrell arrived with five dollars in his pocket.
“I did exactly what the Lord told me to do. He said, ‘Wash your clothes, first,’ ’cause everything got soaked in the back of my truck,” said Terrell, having left California unprepared for the Oregon rain.
At the laundry mat, “I didn’t even have enough change to do laundry,” he recalled, having spent most of his money on breakfast.
Terrell started collecting his laundry, scrounging for change, “and this guy showed up, and he started working on the machines.” Terrell asked him for quarters in exchange for some dimes, nickels and pennies.
“He said, ‘We don’t do that,’” Terrell recalled, but the Lord told him to keep going. So Terrell continued preparing his laundry. Before leaving, the man asked Terrell how much he had.
“A dollar fifty,” Terrell told him. The man proceeded to set the washers for Terrell to use for free.
Terrell dried his clothes in the sun before making a cardboard sign advertising for work. “I just swing a hammer,” he explained. Finding work and a living situation from his sign, his situation improved.
“I started overflowing,” he explained, “feeding people, taking care of their needs and sharing God’s love.”
Terrell started a monthly barbecue at Literacy Park in Newport, offering food, clothing and blankets and whatever else he could, he said.
Those barbecues have grown, feeding dozens each month, and were the beginning of what Terrell calls his ministry: Free Church Ministries, a 501(c)(3) corporation formed by Terrell and Dan Logue.
“Hey,” Terrell called out cheerfully to a young woman who showed up at the November event in Literacy park. “I got a whole bunch of baby clothes just for you.”
“You want a burger or a dog?” Terrell asked as people showed up to eat and listen to music, as well as some gospel preaching by Logue.
There were stacks of warm clothing, toiletries and supplies, also free. The mood was decidedly festive, in spite of the dire situation most, being homeless, are in.
“Where they are at is where we meet them,” Terrell said of those he helps thorough his ministry. “I get people into campsites … give people rides, shower vouchers, food.”
“I’d really like to get a building in Newport,” he added, calling attention to the fact that Lincoln County lacks a homeless shelter facility. There is, however, a temporary warming shelter that offers overnight accommodations at the Lincoln County Commons on cold nights, where Terrell volunteers.
“Even if we had a parking lot,” Terrell said, “We could get people off the streets.”
He says he knows of at least 30 people living in their cars, including “the little old lady and her son who live in their car together.”
Free Church Ministries now includes The Hub, a resource center at 440 NE Commercial St. in downtown Waldport, where 18 people visited seeking help on Thanksgiving Day. Open since August, they typically offer assistance to between 10 and 20 people in need each day.
Recently, a local cabinetmaker offered to build footlockers at The Hub, which will create a safe place to leave belongings, something the homeless desperately need.
Terrell said Cash and Carry has helped since he started. Franz Bakery always provides bread, Safeway helps and so do some of the churches.
“Newport really has a heart for their community. So does Waldport,” he noted. At one of the barbecues, someone gave him a substantial donation.
Those seeking help or wishing to donate can contact Free Church Ministries at [email protected] or 541-563-7789. Available resources include personal life planning, social service connection help, emergency food, free clothes, voucher assistance, prayer, mentors and advocates, recovery meetings, Bible study, volunteer opportunities and monthly outreaches.