Pastor Larry Gaines, who runs New Life Mission in Hamilton with his wife, Linda, greets clients as they arrive for lunch.
Like Jonah in the Bible, Larry Gaines
spent much of his
life running from God.
Although there weren't any fish in Hamilton big enough to swallow him up to finally make the case, he
eventually saw the light in the eyes of a child.
Now, as the director and pastor of the New Life Mission
on Henry Street, Gaines
makes sure that the 17,000 people who pass through its doors each year are given what they need, whether it's food, clothes, medical care or love.
"We see all kinds of people from all walks of life," he
said, "everything from government officials to business executives to church members to the down and out."
Gaines sees himself as a sort of facilitator for the Lord.
doesn't like to tell people what to do, but rather finds out what their gifts are and helps them apply them to do God's work at the mission.
"We have this idea that each and every person has a purpose that God has brought to us, and whatever it is you want to do, we will partner with you," he
grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition, where "if it was fun, it was a sin," in Monterey, Ky. (population 167), a rural river town where people farmed or worked in the distilleries or, being close to the state capitol, the government.
"When I became a Christian at 14, I knew I was called to the ministry," he
said, "but my gifts were not as a pastor.
Then a friend called Gaines
and told him about the mission in Hamilton, Ohio.
"I told him he
was crazy," Gaines
"I didn't know anything about cross-culture, race or anything about the inner-city," he
"We tore the old building down on April Fool's Day - something I've wondered about - and in November we moved into the new building," Gaines
has visions of it becoming bigger.
wants a bigger dining room and has run out of room in the walk-in coolers and freezers for the food pantry.
would also like to expand the mission's health care ministry by including a full-service clinic.
The mission's public restrooms are often used by local homeless to take "Marine showers," Gaines
said, so he
wants to provide a proper shower for them.
But the mission's finances are "on a week-to-week basis," he
"We are faith-based, not fund-based," he
"Right now, I have more pressing needs that are a priority," Gaines
"I worry about it, but I praise God that we're not shut down."
"Our foundation is in Jesus Christ, not in any one church, and that's why we continue to grow," he