Sparrow Refuge

Sparrow Refuge

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May 31, 2012 6 Comments

“Absolute identity with one’s cause is the first and great

condition of successful leadership.”
– Woodrow Wilson


Willie Baldwin’s leadership skills have been formed by amazing mentors and a keen ability to identify with the cause. He’s passionate about leading children to Christ, so he works hard to gather the troops, encourage people on the frontlines, point to what really matters, apologize when things don’t go as planned, praise the King in the middle of chaos, recognize the enemy, and most importantly—stay the course.

Nathan Street Fellowship

He knows the battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the evils of the world (Ephesians 6:12). His goal is to lead children along straight paths, because he knows the dangers of un-paved roads.

Willie grew up in an area of North Memphis known as Hurt Village. The fifth child of seven siblings, Willie grew up fighting for his life and those of his younger sisters. His mother did her best to support them, but the $4 an hour she made at the gas station was hardly enough to make ends meet. Willie and his siblings were hungry, so he looked for alternate ways to help provide for their needs. He started stealing things and selling them for profit before his thirteenth birthday. From there, Willie moved into the more profitable trade of selling drugs to kids hanging around the outdoor basketball court near his mother’s apartment.

That basketball court was where Willie met Roy “Soup” Campbell for the first time. The summer of 1990, Soup backed his red pickup truck into a clearing near the basketball court, opened the tailgate, removed the lid from a full box of donuts, and waited for the hungry kids to gather around. That day, Soup told Willie and the others about a loving and redemptive God. Willie listened as he ate and sipped orange juice. It wouldn’t be the last time he sat in awe as Soup spoke about salvation and forgiveness. In Hurt Village, a public housing neighborhood that’s no longer in existence, a beautiful friendship was born.

Willie didn’t immediately follow the straight path. In fact, for the next seven years he bounced back and forth between obeying what the Lord commanded and doing what his buddies insisted.

He had dreams of becoming a police officer, but God had something else in mind for Willie Baldwin—something that would encourage the broken-hearted and glorify the creator of the world.

I first met Willie in 2004. He’d been praying for a way to give back to his community through starting a Bible study for the children on his street. Now, eight years later, the ministry that started in his living room is still going strong. In fact, children aren’t just coming from his block to the Nathan Street Fellowship—they’re traveling great distances to Willie’s home in Binghampton for fellowship, prayer, games, biblical teaching, and free pizza.

When the number of kids outgrew Willie’s living room, he (along with several volunteers) joined forces and built a two-story clubhouse in his backyard. The meetings have since moved from their original bimonthly schedule to several times a week and now minister to over one hundred children from ages 3-19. The children’s demand for more of Willie’s time earned him a full-time position with Eikon Ministries (the outreach ministry started by Soup Campbell in 1997). Through Eikon, Willie is able to mentor and interact with inner-city kids through sports programs, work programs, Bible studies, and mentoring relationships.

Willie talking to the kids.

Willie constantly points the kids in Binghampton to a loving God who can do anything. He tells them stories about the One who has already laid down His life for them. Willie relates to the kids in Binghampton as someone who knows what it’s like to walk in their shoes and suffer through their temptations.

When times get hard, or the fight seems too great, Willie returns to his favorite verse and remembers to trust in the Lord, have faith in His goodness, submit to His will, and lead His children along straight paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

He’s a leader I’m proud to follow into battle.


March 8, 2012

Grace that Trains

A Mother’s Heart (March 1, 2012)

March 2, 2012

Near the Altar

February 10, 2012

How can you raise good kids? Continually point them to their adoring Savior–then get down on your knees every day and pray that  the Lord will pour out His grace onto them.

When your sustained longings begin to parallel those of your Heavenly Father’s, you will (through the power of the Spirit) begin to do outward things that will benefit your children.

Yesterday, I discussed grace-filled parenting with a group of moms at Second Presbyterian Church (Memphis, TN). If you’d like to hear more about “How to Raise Good Kids” you can listen to my brief summary of Chapter 2 from Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson’s book, Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids With The Love Of Jesus via my Chirbit page by clicking here:

Thanks for listening.

Map of Grace

January 25, 2012

On days like this, when I can’t focus, can’t pray, can’t listen, can’t read, can’t write, and can’t fold another piece of laundry—I go back to this tree. Somehow, it reminds me of a loving God who works in all things for His glory. It’s a map. My map. It’s my weird, crooked, sometimes overlapping, often dysfunctional, precious family tree. When I connect the dots of my lineage, I’m forced to see God’s hand in all things. Then I remember “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). His plan is good, friends. Whatever His plan is for us, it’s for His glory. His grace is enough and His “power is made perfect in [our] weakness” (2 Corinthians12:9).

When In Doubt

January 17, 2012

There’s a form hidden away in my closet. I go to it from time-to-time, when I need help remembering. I don’t understand what all the numbers mean, or why someone took the time to compare my verbal IQ to my performance IQ, but it’s still proof to me of God’s willingness to redeem His children.

When I’m tempted to doubt God’s provision, love, or mercy, I pull out that form and read through it until I get to these words: “Appears relatively weak in acquired knowledge and/or long-term memory… Suspect reading disorder along with mild to moderate performance anxiety.”

I remember the day I took that test, and all the ones before and after. I remember the red brick building and the metal railing that lead to the second floor. I remember the tall table and disproportioned chair that forced my elbows to sit level with my ears–making me look like an eight-year-old positioned for flight.

Don’t be nervous. Just do your best. 

The twenty-six-year-old piece of paper helps me remember God’s love for me, the gifts He’s given me, and His ability to overcome the trials of this world. Sometimes, I forget (in the busy moments between piles of laundry and child-rearing) that God has his eye on me, that He holds me in His hands, that He’s redeemed me and promises to do the same for my children.

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)

Saying: Father, I long for my struggling children to be filled with your Spirit. Please, forgive me for pointing them to their need for improvement instead of their desperate need for grace. God, remind me of my constant need for mercy and your willingness to overcome my shortcomings. You are able, Father. Please grant me the patience and willingness to wait on you while you make my children more like your Son…and less like their mother.