When Glenn Yontz, Jr. and Kenny Murphy met through a mutual friend, both were men with a passion for showing God's love in the community. So naturally, the two hit it off. And at the same time, Yontz was looking at what to do with his family's restaurant, Glenn's Bar-B-Que.
Murphy, an X-ray dental technician by day, said "We finished doing a Bible study on the movie ‘Courageous.' We said, ‘Wouldn't it be wild if we did something courageous in our community?'"
Yontz had already been holding events called "Praise in the Parking Lot," where the restaurant would shut down Monday and Tuesday evenings and instead host live music ministry and serve free food for many of the homeless families and those on tough times living in the nearby motels. This was in addition to the free Community Thanksgiving dinners for the needy.
"We just had a hunger in us to do more, to be more, to serve our Lord more," said Yontz. "We decided, out of visiting a couple of the establishments, we felt like it was part of us to get on that level and do something more for our community."
And thus, 52 Ministries was born.
The ministry, supported by One Heart Ministries, headed by the Rev. Sheldon Landy, is partly a discount convenience store that provides food , household goods and personal hygiene products for the needy. But it's also a way for volunteers to pray for those who come through the doors, ask if they need hug or help finding a job or other support. Its name arises from the 52 days it took to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem, as described in Nehemiah 6:15-16. "This 'wall' is a Christian community network that's full of believers that want to serve Christ and love His people," said Yontz.
Volunteer coordinator Sheila Hamil, said "It really is about being an extension of God's love and what he expects of us. We're not here to judge the people who come through the door. It's about loving and supporting them. It's not about volunteering. It's about being an extension of love."
"We want to shake a hand, hug a neck, and let people know there's a face attached to this stuff and if there's anything else we can pray for you about, that's what we're here for," added Murphy. "We're providing hope to those who are hopeless, trying to be a friend to the friendless. There's no other way to put it."
The restaurant closed in December 2013. But where one door closes, another opens.
52 ministries fully launched in October 2014. Now, the ministry has about 10-25 volunteers who do a range of services, from stocking products to praying for clients. It continues to grow, seeing clients from across metro Atlanta and even across the state.
And in that divine way of paying it forward, Yontz was recently recognized for his selfless commitment and service to the community.
On Jan. 31 he was chosen by the Conyers Sonny's BBQ as the first recipient of its Random Acts of Barbecue program. The program solicits nominations of a deserving person who has acted selflessly to improve the community and awards the winner a fully catered barbecue meal.
Melody Smith, a family friend whose relatives had worked at Glenn's Bar-B-Que, had nominated Yontz. "Glenn is a giving, caring person," she said. "What a personality. He's faced his own struggles. Come through that with ministry to the community, to the needy. I feel it's very deserving. I want him to be recognized."
The nomination she submitted read, "He's been very generous in our community with his feed the hungry projects with his own restaurant consisting of food and ministry on Thanksgiving and weekly projects called Parking Lot Praise, offering music ministry and food at no charge to any who came. Unfortunately with the economy being down, that doesn't stop him. He now uses the building to host a food ministry three times a week called 52 Ministries along with working a full time job."
Yontz said of being awarded the full barbecue meal spread, "It's great... This is just God's timing, for sure... This comes at an awesome time. We decided we'd do something awesome for our volunteers. Being able to feed these people, and love on them. You see God just replenishing and offering us an opportunity to feel his love in a generous way."
During the meal and volunteer appreciation celebration, volunteers mentioned the fun they had serving and the fact they were able to meet many new people.
52 Ministries, located at 1377 Old McDonough Hwy, Conyers, is open Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings from 5:30 - 9 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until the last individual leaves.
Donations of food, monetary donations and donated labor and volunteer time is welcome. For more about 52 Ministries contact Glenn Yontz at 678-593-6155 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Kenny Murphy at Kenny.email@example.com
Nominations for future Random Acts of BBQ can be submitted at randomactsofbbq.com