By Morgan Bryce
Connecting local churches and the community to meet the physical and spiritual needs of people in the Opelika/Auburn area is the goal of the Opelika-based Way 2 Serve Ministries.
Way 2 Serve founder and creative director Shane Kyles said the inspiration behind starting the ministry came from being a part of several mission trips in both the United States and abroad.
“I went on a mission trip through the church to Appalachian Outreach in Jefferson City, Tenn., … and went on one with the college group to Honduras. Every time I’d go on a trip, I’d think to myself, ‘man, that’s my calling, doing missions,’’ Kyles said.
During this time, Kyles was working as a code enforcement officer for Opelika, and said he realized there was a need for mission work in the community.
“As I was doing my (code enforcement) job, I’d see needs and start writing down things like this house has a leaky roof, or this yard needs work. We’d knock on the door of the person’s house, and see what was going on, and what we could do,” Kyles said. “I’d been praying and talking to God about what I should do, and once I’d said yes to doing mission work, God said, ‘do it here.’ It didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time, but He had had me in the mission field he wanted me to be in the whole time.”
Nearly two decades ago, Kyles’ first group of student volunteers helped a deaf-and-mute lady with housework, and a physcially handicapped man with yardwork. From there, Kyles said volunteer numbers grew, and expanded beyond the college-age demographic to include church members of all ages and walks of life participating.
For several years, the volunteering continued as a weekend-only event, but Kyles said he began to sense that it could become something more, a ministry that would help bring together the community in a powerful way.
“There was really nothing there that was pulling the hands of the needy together with the hands of the body of Christ, and nobody standing in the middle to help pull them together. I brought together a prayer team to help us see that it was really what God wanted, not what I wanted,” Kyles said.
Prayerful consideration led to the formation of a board of directors, and after gaining its approval, Way 2 Serve Ministries was created in 2008, classified as a non-profit.
Two years later, Kyles left his city job to work as the full-time director for Way 2 Serve.
Since its inception, Way 2 Serve has expounded on the volunteer efforts Kyles started, most notably creating massive workday events like My Jerusalem, which draws together hundreds of church members, volunteers and helpers to assist in delivering not only physical, but spiritual help to those who need it.
The ministry also offers after-school tutoring programs, Bible studies in both communities and at the ministry headquarters, clothing, job and food assistance, and continues to offer home repairs and yard work.
Even more important to Kyles is the long-term, spiritual difference that takes place in the lives of those they help, and Kyles said he has witnessed it first hand.
“We’ve seen kids that were involved in gang activity or going down the wrong road become positive influences in our community as leaders and Christians. You can just track that back to maybe us going to work on their house,” Kyles said. “While we’re working on a house, we take the time to get to know the family there, and if they’re unchurched, try to point them to a place, and help them grow.”
Kyles said that they try to continue ministering to the family, and ultimately, the biggest thing restored not be their home, but their hearts.
“Once we get to that part of the ministry, we want to help people come to know Christ, and grow in their relationship with Him, and also become an effective citizen for change in their neighborhood,” Kyles said.
Way 2 Serve continues to prosper and make an impact in the Opelika/Auburn area, but Kyles’ goals are to share the ministry’s concepts both domestically and around the world, to help make a physical and spiritual difference in the lives of others.
“The ultimate, long-term goal that I have is that every community in the world will come together to meet people’s needs locally. At some point in the future, I think we will be able to try take the Way 2 Serve concept, box it up, and take it to communities, and see if they might be needing something like this,” Kyles said.
There are also plans for a ‘grow academy,’ a program that will be designed to help new Christians grow stronger in their discipleship and testimony, and to hire a full-time projects director, to more quickly meet the physical needs of people in the area.
For more information about the ministry or to volunteer, visit their website, www.theway2serve.org. The organization is located at 1310 McCoy Street.