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Posted: October 8, 2010 12:00 a.m.

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In the garden

Rainbow Covenant Ministries and Garden of Gethsemane reach out to those in need

By Chris Queen/

A welcoming home: The Rev. Clara Lett manages the Garden of Gethsemane, located on Turner Lake Circle. The ministry offers free GED classes and weekly Narcotics Anonymous meetings and has partnered with local churches and other agencies to provide...

For nearly a decade, the Rev. Clara Lett and her volunteers and supporters at Rainbow Covenant Ministries and Garden of Gethsemane homeless shelter have taken to heart Jesus’ call to care for people in need.

Rainbow Covenant opened its shelter in 2001 in Porterdale. That facility had three buildings: two houses which housed 20 men in each, and a church building which housed 32 women and children and provided classrooms, a kitchen and dining area and worship space.

In 2007, the ministry was ordered by the court to leave Porterdale. Then-Covington Mayor Sam Ramsey helped Lett secure space on Turner Lake Circle for the ministry. The shelter changed its name to Garden of Gethsemane, though it is still operated under the auspices of Rainbow Covenant Ministries.

"The Garden of Gethsemane is where Jesus prayed and received God’s peace at his time of greatest need," said Lett. "That’s what we want our shelter to be for the people who come to it."

The shelter has experienced funding woes and is behind in its rent payment to the Covington Housing Authority. The authority is working with the ministry, which paid $6,000 last week to the authority and owes $21,000, according to Greg Williams, executive director of the housing authority.

Rainbow Covenant has served more than 6,000 people since 2001.

Gethsemane includes bays with beds for men and separate bays for single women and women with children. The campus includes a dining hall and kitchen, food bank, hair salon, laundry facilities, space for classes and meetings, and offices.

Members of Boy Scout Troop 222 built the beds, and local residents Todd Newman and Todd Smith completed construction and electrical work. Local attorney John Strauss made sure the facility was handicap accessible.

"We wouldn’t have been able to move in here without their help," said Lett.

Rainbow Covenant serves five counties. Most of its clients are from Rockdale and Newton counties, while a few are from Walton, Jasper, and Butts counties. Volunteers perform need assessments. They refer residents for mental health and physical assistance if needed and help place children in school.

Gethsemane offers spiritual guidance through a Bible study for women on Monday nights, a children’s ministry program and a men’s Bible study on Tuesdays.

"We want people to know that God loves them, and we want to take care of their spiritual needs as well as their physical needs," said Lett.

The ministry offers free GED classes and weekly Narcotics Anonymous meetings; both are open to anyone. Rainbow Covenant has partnered with local churches and other agencies to provide classes including CPR training, forklift training, and computer classes through DeKalb Tech. Residents receive certificates upon completion training.

Rainbow Covenant also operates a food bank, which is open to the community. The shelter has a contract with the State of Georgia to offer a re-entry program that helps recently released inmates transition from incarceration to the outside world. Georgia State University nursing students visit the shelter to monitor residents’ blood pressures and other vital signs and help them stay healthy.

The shelter works with other ministries such as the Salvation Army and Solid Rock Baptist Church to help local residents in need of food.

Several churches support the ministry each month, and other organizations offer grants. Members of different groups regularly come in to cook and serve meals for the residents. The Men of Purpose ministry at Eastridge Community Church signed a contract to perform maintenance on the facility. Lendmark Financial Services in Covington donates office supplies and toiletries to the shelter every year.

Lett says she is grateful for the support.

"We can’t make it without this community coming together to support us," she said.

Lett says that the ministry is outgrowing its campus. She envisions a new, larger facility that would include a medical and dental clinic and an education program that would teach residents and members of the community life skills they need to function in society.

"I want to see a ministry that helps people in all areas of their life," said Lett. "Ministry is more than just a meal and a bed. It’s about expanding the kingdom of God."

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