Rev. Cynthia Bell, Director
TCC Background: Starlight Ministries has been supported by TCC since 2007 & is a program of the Emmanuel Gospel Center. Rev. Cynthia Bell is the current director.
What is your ministry?
The mission of Starlight is to train & equip individuals & churches to build life-changing relationships with people affected by homelessness. For the purposes of evangelism & discipleship, we train lay leaders to establish relationships with the relatively unreached who are homeless. Compassion is a secondary goal, as we continue to offer human service referrals/advocacy, clothing, haircuts, showers, toiletries, & food via the Opportunity Resource Center (ORC).
Starlight helps churches build real relationships with people who are homeless through street outreach & in-house services which engage the personal concerns of homeless or street-involved individuals, while providing critical field training for Christians seeking to minister effectively on the streets. We do this by having classroom-type training & experiential training on our ministry venues so that volunteers are empowered to do ministry on their own.
What religious groups do you serve?
What age groups do you serve?
Youth & young adults
What is the country & location of your ministry?
USA, Boston Area
What is the geographic area you serve?
Boston & Cambridge, Massachusetts
Briefly describe your current ministry:
I am the Program Director for Starlight Ministries. The heart of Starlight is equipping churches and ministry groups to build loving and mutually transformational relationships with people in Boston and Cambridge who are affected by homelessness, meeting them where they are in life and walking with them toward their goals and dreams. The authenticity and care we strive for and teach others brings an unwavering hope for change to people who are affected by homelessness.
Starlight provides classroom trainings on homelessness, effective engagement, and intervention principles and practices; along with opportunities for leaders to gain hands-on experience in effective outreach while having access to coaching from our staff. These opportunities provide the Church and those struggling with homelessness with effective tools for building healthy communities where all can experience personal transformation through Jesus Christ.
Tell us one brief story of how God is working in peoples’ lives through your ministry.
After members from First Baptist Church attended one of our workshops on homelessness, they joined Starlight staff on prayer and outreach walks in Central Square, Cambridge. This partnership has been thriving for the last 3 years, and now First Baptist Church feels equipped to love their community more deeply, as they prepare to open a drop-in center of their own, modeled after the Opportunity Resource Center here at Starlight Ministries. As part of this partnership, one of the key leaders we have invested in has been Taryn Johnson. She is an advocate for those affected by homelessness in Cambridge. Partnering with Starlight Ministries, she helped start “Sharing in the Square” a prayer and outreach walk through Central Square in Cambridge. Taryn is an active member at First Baptist Church in Cambridge, and has helped inspire her church community to get involved in the fight against homelessness.
List the three specific goals you had for the past year & describe the degree to which they were reached
Goal 1: Recruit and train 12 Churches in Greater Boston that are ready and willing to embrace and engage in transformational relationships with people affected by homelessness.
This past year, Starlight Ministries worked with 16 churches, teaching and training leaders who brought their training and experiences back to their churches which could then be better equipped to build healthy relational networks in their communities.
Working with churches takes time, and some are more ready than others to engage in significant and life-changing ways (for them as well as for people who are affected by homelessness). Our strategy for Church leaders and Christian groups is the same one we’ve had for 27 years working with people affected by homelessness: to meet them where they are and to walk alongside them as God begins to transform their lives. Starlight places a high value on transformational as opposed to transactional relationships. A transformational relationship starts with the simple exchange of names and is characterized by respect, genuine caring, and active listening. Over time, this relationship may open doors for long-term change and be the stimulus needed to inspire a person to take his or her own steps out of homelessness.
Goal 2: Provide outreach and services to 500 people affected by homelessness.
On every Thursday afternoon, 30-45 people affected by homelessness visited our Opportunity Resource Center (ORC, located at our offices in the South End) to talk with staff and volunteers in a safe, welcoming and supportive environment. Our guests grabbed coffee and a snack, obtained clothes or a new pair of shoes, took a shower, got a haircut (which affirms a person’s dignity) or used the phone. Last year, Starlight served over 500 people in Boston and Cambridge who are affected by homelessness or street involved through outreach on the streets, visits to shelters, and at our drop-in center. We helped churches and Christian groups engage these individuals effectively.
Goal 3: Hire a Project Assistant:
Last fall, through a collaboration with the Urban League of Massachusetts and their “mature workers” (age 55+) program, we added a Project Assistant to the Starlight team. She was a great benefit to us. However, several months later, she became ill and could no longer work.
We reached out to one of our long-term partners (Christ the King Church in Cambridge), which offered to help plan and implement the Christmas banquet. Their support exceeded our expectations. Volunteers planned the entire event from menu preparation to shopping, cooking and serving our guests on the day of the event. The highlight of the day was when one volunteer commented, “As immigrants, we are accustomed to being served. I’m happy to finally be in a place where I can help others.”