Elder Barbara Hawthorne feeds and prays for the health and welfare of these men in Morris Park after church services. Photos by Grace Perry

By Wiley Henry

MEMPHIS, TN — Barbara Hawthorne has studied the Word of God, taught Bible study, prayed for the sick and shut-in, ministered to the least of God’s people, and preached the unadulterated gospel truth for more than 25 years. 

So why has this licensed and ordained elder, evangelist and prayer warrior taken her

This gentleman gladly accepts a meal and something to drink from Elder Barbara Hawthorne after he was released from Methodist University Hospital.

ministry to the streets and into the disadvantaged areas of the city?

“You can preach the perfect sermon, but there is no healing in the pews,” Hawthorne said. “There is so much hurt that is still not being addressed in the church.”

Ten years ago, Hawthorne made a conscious decision – or was “led by the Holy Spirit” – to minister to the downtrodden in communities where hurt and pain is visible.

“We preach feel-good sermons,” said Hawthorne, a member of The Life Church – Highland. “But there is still hidden pain, unspoken pain.”

Such as domestic violence inflicted on the victim of an abuser purporting to love that person. 

Violent rage welling up in a child who has been battered, rejected or sexually abused by someone the child trusts.

Self-doubt, depression and suicidal thoughts overwhelming an individual’s mind who has given up on life.

Hunger pangs ravaging the innards of people without resources to feed themselves or their family. 

Financial drought forcing people into homelessness in search of shelter on the dangerous streets of Memphis.

 Hawthorne said the common denominator in each example of unspoken pain is prayer. She feels it is her Christian duty to pray for people in the church, on the street corners, and others laden with life-altering problems.

When she’s feeding the homeless, she’ll first ask if it’s OK to pray with them and for them. Such was the case recently when she fed a half dozen hungry people in a Midtown park and prayed fervently for their restoration.

She wrote a prayer manual and submitted it to the Memphis Police Department after completing eight weeks of training at the MPD’s Clergy Police Academy in April. The partnership between the MPD and the faith-based community is designed to help reduce crime.

Hawthorne wanted to make a contribution. “There were Methodists, Baptists, Muslims, Catholics [in the class],” she said, and pointed out that the camaraderie was a welcome experience.

According to recent statistics, there are approximately 2,000 churches in the Greater Memphis Metropolitan area representing various beliefs and denominations including Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Jews.

Memphis alone has a population of 655,155 residents. For cities with 500,000 or more residents, Memphis is often ranked in the top 10 nationally for violent crimes. Hawthorne believes prayer is a deterrent.

She prayed for a woman recently released from jail and called on the Holy Spirit to free the woman from the lure of criminal activity. She also prays for juveniles with wanton behavioral problems. 

No matter the person, their ethnicity or race, Hawthorne prays for them. She is a volunteer Chaplin at Regional One Health providing emotional and spiritual support to staff, patients and their family.

Hawthorne touts her passion for prayer and being disciplined in the nine attributes of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, according to Galatians 5:22-23 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

She said a person has to be equipped to do this kind of work – ministry. “You can’t just step into it with nothing. You have to have the right people with passion, heart and a love of God.”

Her vitae reflect the length and breadth of ministry and community outreach.

“I’ve been busy the last three years waiting on God,” said Hawthorne, believing God will take her to a higher plateau in ministry so that more people can experience the love of God.

Meanwhile, the prayer warrior plans to continue feeding the homeless, praying for the sick and shut-in, soothing troubled minds, visiting those in detention centers and the hospital, embracing the violent child, and tending the spiritual and emotional needs of victims of domestic violence.

“I call this mobile evangelism,” she said.