An hour outside the urban sprawl of Houston, Huntsville resides nestled in rolling hills and forest, characterized by dated architecture and small businesses. Rural and quaint, the town appears free from the visible poverty and need that marks the sidewalks and overpasses of a big city, yet Huntsville is home to many struggling people, whether homeless, fighting addiction, or attempting to stay afloat.
Since 1983, the Good Shepherd Mission has served the community by modest means, operating out of the same humble buildings that birthed the organization several decades ago. The mission’s purpose is far reaching, operating as a food bank, shelter, thrift store, meal provider, and rehab.
Evidence of the mission’s Christian foundation is openly apparent, with illustrations of Jesus and scripture adorning nearly every wall of each building. As I browsed the selection of the thrift store, I spoke to the store manager, Brandi Lewandowski, a kind, smiling woman who expressed pride in what their organization provides.
Outside of the main building, a group of volunteers and homeless socialized near the entrance as they waited for lunch to be served. An eccentric man named Charlie Brown introduced himself to me, dressed in a bright yellow raincoat and a cowboy hat. He was quick to share the story of his life, detailing his ex-wife’s experience with cancer and his personal interpretation of religion.
As noon approached, the volunteers and those waiting for a meal filed inside for lunch. The lead cook, Merry Graham, dished out warm food for those in line. She briefly halted the line so that she could deliver a plate to a man that couldn’t walk, and quickly returned to her place. Observing the smiling faces of those eating and friends laughing, it was clear that the mission fulfills its purpose in the community, a vital, unknown necessity in an unlikely place.