Helen McLaughlin and the FaithSteppers of Greensboro

Helen McLaughlin and the FaithSteppers of Greensboro

Helen comes from a long line of pastors. She was born in 1952 in Siler City, North Carolina, into a family with eight brothers and sisters who were raised by their single mother. They all learned from her strong work ethic. With no car, she walked ten miles each way every day to work for another family, so her children took care of each other, cooked, cleaned, and chopped wood to help earn additional funds. She and her family attended First Baptist Church, Siler City, where Helen trusted Jesus Christ as a girl.

Helen married early and left home, moving with her new husband to find work. They returned a few years later, and Helen secured a job in a textile mill. By this time, she was angry at the world. Ten years later, Helen was sewing women's stockings next to a woman who shared her faith, and Helen's relationship with God was restored. She sensed that God was calling her into the gospel ministry. She stepped away from her sewing machine to follow that call.

With three children and a husband who was ill, and no income to speak of, Helen borrowed $10 to pay the application fee and enrolled in Shaw University's theological program. She described their living condition in those years as "poverty." The odds seemed insurmountable, but Helen had faith in
God's promises, however, and worked and studied hard. She earned bachelor degrees in both theology and behavioral science, and went on to graduate school, where she earned a master of divinity degree, and then a doctorate at Drew University in Madison, New Jersey. While in graduate school, her husband, Eugene, died of complications associated with diabetes.

As a widow, Helen McLaughlin became the first woman to pastor at Shiloh Baptist Church in Greensboro, and then co-founded a new church called Genesis Baptist. She became a Chaplain at Greensboro Urban Ministries which had a homeless shelter for men and women in transition. As Helen counseled and ministered to the folks each week, she found many who would never feel comfortable in traditional churches, so she opened the doors of FaithStep, a new church for those who now find welcome and warmth and community and Christ.

FaithStep Ministries Church is a sweet fellowship that meets on West Lee Street several times a week. They are folks who come from poverty and the least hopeful backgrounds. Some are homeless. Others are addicts. Most are in transition - leaving what they were before and becoming what they will be in Christ. All are hungering for change. Here they help each other and folks from their community.

Many people in Pastor Helen's congregation have been transformed completely. More than a dozen have gone on to college, and many now have jobs. Helen finds their spiritual gifts and puts them to work in the ministry. One of her flock said, "So often God calls us to a new place. We've got to make the decision that we're going to change." Helen knows that this is true, and preaches this from her pulpit each week. She says of the homeless, "These are some of the most brilliant people I've ever met in my life. And some of the most spiritual." She says that her church is rich--not because the members own a lot of material things, but because they "live life together." She is humbled and honored to be their pastor.

As the New Year brings new opportunities of service for us all, may we learn simple truths from our brothers and sisters at FaithStep. May our hearts pray for those who hunger for change. And may He begin with us.

-Karen O'Dell Bullock 
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