homer hendrix 1Homer Hendrix on his route.
It’s 102 degrees and riding along with Homer Hendrix in his battered catering van, which lacks an air conditioner, you can feel all 102 degrees and more.
“Jesus on Wheels” the light blue van reads with images of who is supposed to be Jesus painted all over it including on the back.
Just a few minutes earlier Hendrix, 43, clocked out of work and began his 30-minute drive home to Sylvania where he changed his shirt — the Effingham County sheriff’s label makes people suspicious.
He jumped into his van and pulled out of his yard. He’s made sure to have his big white plastic bowl of candy up on the dash and to stock his Styrofoam cooler with little bottles of juice, which will be all gone by the time he returns home.
“This is Mock Street,” he notes while turning onto the road.
His first stop is at the residence of a lady. He grabs a bag of food from behind his seat and then jumps down off the van. She greets him at the front door.
After giving her the bag of food, she throws her cigarette down and then they join hands as he leads them in prayer.
He’s back on the van after a few minutes. He doesn’t spend a long time at any stop on his route.
“It’s more of showing the love of God to them and not me trying to hurry and make them get saved or anything,” Hendrix explained.
Candy for kids, appliances for adults
Once a week the minister and maintenance worker at the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office tries to get out into the community and share the love of Jesus with children and adults in Sylvania. He hands out candy and juices to the kids along with prayers, and he doles out needed appliances and other house wares to the adults.
“This is Thompson Street,” he said.
“How y’all doing today,” he calls out to a group of kids gathered around the front door of a house, no adult in sight.
“Fine,” they say in unison.
The children waste little time in walking out to the van. They know Hendrix and the goodies he always carries with him.
“Let me bless y’all with a prayer,” he tells them.
“Come on y’all,” one young girl yells out to the stragglers.
“We gonna pray right here and then I’m gonna bless y’all with these juices. How about that?” Hendrix says.
He prays for them to be blessed and to realize that they are somebody special. Afterward, he hands out the juices, making sure everyone gets one.
As he drives off he comments, “Stuff like that — it’s so easy to come back in here and say ‘You wanna go to church,’ they’ll pile up with you.”
At his former church he would have more than 20 kids going to Bible study with him. And why would they come along?
“They see something different,” he replied. “They looking for a father figure there, a spiritual guide. They don’t see me now. They see something different — people need to see that.”
Hendrix’s wife Kassandra noted, too, that he has a way of making people feel comfortable. He doesn’t judge them or look down on anyone, she explained.
For over 12 years, he has been helping others in his community.
“He’ll do anything for anybody,” she said, adding that the best way to sum him up is “a great man, just a great man.”
However, to Hendrix, it’s just a matter of helping.
“I just want to be a blessing to somebody else,” he said.
For the past two years he’s been a member of Believer’s Church. Through it, he began this particular community outreach effort.
When he first told his wife about his desire to go out and minister to others, she was all for it.
“I was really, really excited,” Kassandra said.
Married for 18 years, they both share a love of God and people. She often goes out with him.
“Somebody has to be the hands and feet of God,” Kassandra noted.
Hendrix’s pastor agrees that it addresses the great need that exists.
“It’s a good way to take the message out to where people live and minister to them right where they are,” pastor Mark Evans said.
Hard streets, hard times
Despite the unbearable heat and the fact he’s already worked a full day, Hendrix goes about his ministry undaunted. He greets everyone with a sweat-covered smile.
He meanders through the small town easily going to certain streets. None of them are what would be considered the “nice” part of town. Instead, they’re the eyesores, the poorer sections — the areas where the need is great.
Hendrix knows this need first-hand.
Drug addiction and imprisonment has gripped members of his own family. At one time he, too, was leading a troubled life.
“When I was young I used to smoke dope, I used to drink. You know, I was out there,” he said.
His grandmother raised him and his two siblings. She died when he was 16. He, his 17-year-old brother and 18-year-old sister were left to take care of themselves.
“That’s why I have the love of children ’cause I know what it’s like, that parent isn’t there to talk to you, that parent isn’t there to encourage you,” he pointed out.
His final stop takes him a few miles out of Sylvania to the small community of Hiltonia.
Here he will unload most of the cargo he has been carrying around, which include a big screen television, a stove, a dishwasher, boxes of clothing and other goods.
People donate all kinds of items to him and he always gives it away, free of charge. Sometimes various ones will ask him to be on the look out for certain things that they need. Other times he will automatically know who needs what.
He welcomes the donated items, but he has a stipulation.
“Good stuff — something that you would want,” he made clear.
As he pulls up to a small shady park where a group of adults is gathered, he jumps out the van and walks up to them.
After saying “hello” he informs them that he has some things for them. He gets some of the kids to help him unload it all.
A group of kids follow behind him to the back of the van and carry the goodies off. Two of the boys wrestle over a set of football shoulder pads. The women go through the boxes of clothing.
Piece by piece, everything is unloaded, except for a stove. He knew none of them needed that. It will be saved until he finds someone who does. There has to be a need; he won’t just hand stuff out.
In spite of his tireless efforts, he desires no reward for himself.
“There’s no gaining for me. My goal is that people would change their life, especially, you know, the kids, that it would touch their heart, that they would grow up and make a difference in their neighborhood,” he explained.
He wants the children to want more out of life.
“Get out this cycle,” he stressed. “Little girls, they grow up and still stay in the projects because they mama was raised there.”
Yet, his hopes not only rest with those he helps, but the churches as well.
“Being in them church walls, we can’t see but those four walls, but out here — this is reality,” he pointed out. He hopes churches “would begin to step up.”
“Work in people’s lives,” he advises. “These young boys that walk the streets need that spiritual father, so when trouble comes they know how to come to your house and knock on your door at night.
“See, the word of God got to reveal it to you, you know you can go to church and have a good time, hear a good message from the pastor, but did it revolutionize your life, did it change your life?” he asks.
He notes Matthew 25:42, which implores Christians to help those in need and that when they do, they are in fact doing it unto Jesus himself.
“It ain’t about us,” Hendrix asserted. “It’s about Jesus.”