Calling on the Hearts of Monroe County – OAA Worship Opens Winter Warming Shelter
By Tabitha Prock
With temperatures falling well below freezing this week, most area residents dread venturing outside. Those few minutes of pumping gas, carting groceries from the supermarket, and scraping ice from windshields can feel brutal. It’s hard for many to imagine spending more time than necessary outdoors in such weather. Unfortunately, homeless individuals face long winter nights in these freezing temperatures. It’s something that is often a passing thought filled with sadness and pity. However, for Preacher Morgan Clough and the congregation of OAA (Outreach Across America) Worship in Madisonville, it has become a mission. In less than a week, a desire to reach out to those in need of a warm place to sleep and a couple of meals a day has quickly become a reality in the form of the OAA Winter Warming Shelter.
“Our community has shown up in a big way,” said Clough. “In just a few days we’ve received donations of blankets, pillows, money for food and cots as well as the construction of a kitchen area complete with appliances.”
When asked about the idea for a shelter in Monroe County, Clough recalls exactly when and where the vision first entered his heart and mind. On a winter night in January 2008, a young woman was alone in pain and in need. A Facebook encounter with Preacher Morgan Clough and his wife Lynn changed all of their lives forever. “She had no family and was suffering a miscarriage,” he began. Everything that followed planted a seed of faith for OAA Worship, Celebrate Recovery, and eventually the new Winter Warming Shelter.
“We took her to the hospital for surgery, stayed and prayed with her,” he said. “That night The Lord placed in my heart a desire to start a church that would be a hospital for lost, hurting people. We wanted to minister to their pain and to share the love of Jesus. This would serve as a testament to Matthew chapter 25 which speaks of taking in a stranger and proving for those in need.”
In January 2008, NASCAR evangelist Clough was home for the off-season and planning to go back on the road in a few weeks. It was the encounter with this young woman that led Clough down a different path. A path that recently came full circle on January 8, 2016.
“While working on getting this warming shelter together I was reminded that eight years ago, God used a young woman and her miscarriage to break my heart for people like her,” Cough said. “It was then that God birthed the whole vision of OAA Worship right there before us.”
Rather than returning to NASCAR in 2008, Clough launched OAA Worship while harboring a vision to start a recovery program to help addicts, a food ministry to help the hungry, and a half way house to help people transition from dependent to independent. The vision was to change Monroe County, one life at a time.
“This was most definitely a leap of faith,” he said. “I prayed to God that I wanted to be a part of something so big that it will take His presence to make it a success. This thing is bigger than me. It’s bigger than all of us.“
In just a few short days, OAA Worship has transformed one of their buildings into the a winter warming shelter large enough to accommodate 16 individuals during nights when temperatures fall below freezing this winter.
“We had this building that was only being used two days a week,” he said. “We were already paying electricity and we already had heat. I just wanted to make the most of this space and it was apparent that this would be the start of that vision for a shelter. It started with an idea and immediately our church and people in our community including businesses contacted me to ask what they could do to help.”
He continued. “A dear friend, Kelly Gentry Lynch, heard what we were doing and just ran with it. She took responsibility of chief fundraiser helping us raise funds, obtain supplies and get the word out through social media and an online auction. Her work to help support this cause is greatly appreciated. We are also very big thankful for our local churches, businesses, individuals, and organizations that have helped get this up and running. Whether it was donating and collecting auction items or volunteering time to build doors, countertops, cabinets or anything needed to get this project underway in 7 days the community has pulled together.”
When asked what item was currently a top priority for OAA Warming Shelter, Clough was quick to answer. “We need people. We will be open seven days during January 11 to January 17, sheltering up to 16 people and feeding them supper and breakfast each day. That will take the dedication of volunteers to chaperone, cook meals, and clean up after our meals. We will need someone to launder the blankets. It’s going to take a lot of us sharing the time so no single person is having to do all of the work. I don’t want anyone get burned out. This is a community task and it will take everybody working together.”
Clough’s desire is to have this new shelter serve as a blessing to those who volunteer as well as those in need.
“This week we opened Monday night and will open every night the temperature falls below freezing,” he said. “Our evenings will start with registration from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. each evening. We will serve an evening meal at 9 p.m. and breakfast the following morning at 8 a.m. on the days we are open.”
Anyone interested in volunteering or donating to this cause can contact the OAA Worship office at 423-545-9200. Michelle Davis, volunteer director of the OAA Winter Warming Shelter, will continue to monitor the Facebook page for messages or questions. The page can be found under OAA Winter Warming Shelter. It is located on Englewood Road in Madisonville. Winter weather and temperatures will be monitored and the shelter will be open each night the forecast indicates below freezing temperatures.