Ministry Builds Genuine Compassion in Pittsburgh
Story by Yvette Peterson
Jeffrey Baskin, former pastor of Allegheny West Conference's Hillcrest church in Pittsburgh, made a life-changing decision to leave the safety of full-time conference employment to respond to the needs of those languishing on the highways and byways of life.
While driving one morning, he witnessed a homeless man buried beneath snow. Two very simple, but profound questions were audibly voiced from within. “What are you going to do about it?” and “How compassionate are you as a Christian?” This was the defining moment of truth that challenged the genuineness and authenticity of his relationship with God.
Through this experience, Bridges Community Outreach Ministries was birthed, “Bridges” referring to the challenges and obstacles of community-based ministry that must be transcended if the church is successful in building collaborative relationships with other community organizations. Bridges is a ministry of compassion to those Jesus referred to as the “least of these.”
Baskin, director, along with members of the Hillcrest and Ethnan Temple churches and other volunteers have been working for the past six years in Homeless Ministries, Prison Ministries, Code Blue—which focuses on those impacted by tragedy in the Pittsburgh area—and “Come Up,” a pilot program that addresses the trauma needs of young men ages 13–17.
Their approach to Prison Ministries extends far beyond conducting religious services within the correctional institutions. Building positive relationships with administrators, and especially with the inmates, is imperative. Upon release, Bridges invites some ex-offenders to minister to homeless people, conducting Prison Ministries workshops and serving as mentors to at-risk youth through the “Come Up” program.
Evan Stanton is the perfect example. He was an inmate at SCI-Pittsburgh when he met members from Bridges. Upon release, Stanton became a part of the ministry. He obtained employment and made monthly donations to Bridges. Stanton is now married with two sons and a mentor in the “Come Up” program.
As a result of conducting Bible studies and preaching Christ to inmates, Baskin has baptized more than 100 prisoners. Bridges is looking to increase its impact in the areas of employment and housing referrals through funding and other resources to make this a reality. For more information, visit bcom.com.