On March 31, 2014, Politicians Joe Brown and Amy Weirich, stop by MAM Greenlaw, the former Greenlaw Community Center, to lend a hand in “Dinner and a Movie Night” for the homeless.
The long line of men and women walking from downtown Memphis to the Memphis Athletic Ministries (MAM) Greenlaw neighborhood youth center a few miles away in the Uptown area is a testimony of what God can do through two people who have a vision and are not willing to give up in the “days of small beginnings.”
“We went to Confederate Park last summer and tried to do a Bible Study with the people who hang out there,” states Detric Golden, MAM Greenlaw neighborhood director, “but that did not work.”
“Then we took food down with us and that helped open the door and build relationships,” adds April Golden, who works as the assistant director at MAM Greenlaw with her husband.
“Then we asked them ‘What do you want?’ ” adds Detric.
The long line heading toward the center this Monday is the fruit of the answer. It is dinner and a movie night at MAM Greenlaw.
It is obvious that there is now multiple relationships. As the Goldens meet their guests at the door, the reactions are mixed among the men and women. There were some hugs, handshakes, bent down heads, smiles, first names, anxious looks, jokes and conversation. But in the midst of the varied reactions from the guests, there was a respect, honor and care flowing from the Goldens. There is no labeling, dehumanizing or stereotyping here; it is as if they are meeting friends at their own home and welcoming them in for a night of fellowship and food.
There are the regulars and new visitors tonight. “We never know how many will show up, but we will be here. We have had eight people to as many as forty show up, and this is theirs.” says April.
“The children do everything. They take the orders, call them in to McDonald’s, serve our guests and everything else in between.” This is putting action to the MAM mission: Love God. Love Others. Love Self.
Detric teaches Bible study with two young helpers to the large group in the room. Tavius and Forzando, regulars in the MAM afterschool program, help with memorized Bible verses that apply to the salvation message. The participation of the group varies, some are eager to talk. Others like Tiara, twenty-something and petite, hides out on the back row hoping she will not be called on to answer a question. She alternates doing this while explaining how things work to a first-timer. Golden is brief but thorough in presenting the good news message. There is transparency as he shares his own testimony with the group. No one responds tonight to the invitation, and then ends with another
invitation, “Now if any of you see me anywhere, holler at me!”
The girls then begin to take the orders with precision and purpose. The meals are paid for by the Goldens, and there are others who contribute. As they get ready to call in the order, Golden says, “Remember to say our name, otherwise they will think you are kidding ordering all that food.”
Some of the guest use the computers while waiting for their food to come, others play basketball or pool, listen to music or just sit and talk. All seem to be at home, and patiently await their meal.
After the food is served, the movie begins.