BY DON BARKSDALE
It has been more than a year now since Marti Baker stood up in our church and shared what she felt was a calling from God. At that time, she had been working with Lost Sheep Ministry to feed the homeless and the working poor since 2011. She said God had whispered to her heart that there was something more He wanted from her, something that maybe she alone could do.
“I’m a barber. I cut hair for a living. That’s all I am and all I’ve ever done,” she said in a tremulous voice. “I feel like I’m being led to wash and cut the hair of these desperate people to help give them back their dignity and offer them an opportunity to find the path to a more productive life.”
It was quiet in the sanctuary as people considered the magnitude and the potential pitfalls of such an undertaking. Very quiet. Then Marti said, “And I can’t do this alone. God will provide but I need your help.”
serve, not counting the dozen or so members of the Knox County Sheri ’s Department inmates who set up tents and tables and chairs and the uniformed officers who direct people and keep the order. Each event is astonishing.
News about CareCuts has spread throughout the city and far beyond. “I had a call from a woman in New York City who heard about us from one of the Knoxville news stories and was working to establish a national ministry for the homeless,” Marti said.
“This has been one of the most momentous undertakings of my life. And for Archie, my husband and biggest supporter. On the one hand I’m immensely proud of our success in helping so many.” Then she told the story of how an eight-year veteran Navy Seal and his wife met with counselors who set up at CareCuts events to help veterans. As a result, they now have a home near their grandchildren.
So to make a long story short, Marti asked all manner of associates and friends for help and CareCuts was born. From the beginning, Asbury people have been with her, making CareCuts in part our mission too. We prepared and served the meal at the first CareCuts in April 2016 and were heavily involved in serving for the first year. The Asbury men bought and donated a large grill to cook hamburgers. The Church Council provided regular financial support for several months and the Fall Festival Committee donated $1,000 to CareCuts in the fall of 2016. Early in 2017, our Fall Festival Committee loaned CareCuts their soft serve ice cream machine and Asbury volunteers have so far dispensed more than 1,000 servings. Asbury is scheduled to be responsible for serving food again in August of this year. In addition, several Asbury volunteers have helped regularly in a variety of ways month by month.
Meanwhile, Marti has enlisted the support of many other churches in our area in addition to businesses who made generous donations of food, money, and services. She was selected to join the 2017 Knox County Community Action Committee Leadership Class where she met and worked with experienced community leaders. She said, “It was a tremendous honor to be chosen and an opportunity to learn so much from people who have been serving the public in various ways for decades.”
So what has CareCuts accomplished? By the end of the rst year, CareCuts had provided 2,039 haircuts and other grooming services to men, women, and children in need. Thousands of meals were served. Several individuals found housing and jobs and are on their way to living stable lives. Some of them worship at Asbury on Sundays when they are able. At each event, an average of 70 volunteers
But she added that in the still, quiet, dark of the night, doubts creep in about how to keep going. “Here I am talking to city and county leaders and media outlets, but I’m not a speaker or a leader. I’m just a barber who loves people.”
Marti said that this experience has had a profound effect on her. She says that she firmly believes God has been with her every step along the way, guiding her, clearing the path. Marti said with a smile on her face and twinkle in her eye, “There is no other explanation.”
Marti recalled that Maxine Raines, Founder of the Lost Sheep Ministry, told her, “You’re doing the work Jesus wants you to do. He will open the door and show you the way.”