The path to one’s calling in the ministry is rarely smooth and is occasionally found in the most unlikely ways. However, God uses our life experiences and situations to accomplish his goals and serve his purpose. Such was the case of Howard Coates, a hardworking Vietnam Veteran, who had always thought to himself “I will never go to a homeless shelter” when he was employed. However, following an injury to his Achilles in 2006, which left him out of work for an extended recovery, Coates found himself unemployed and ultimately homeless. Sleeping on park benches, he worried that he would be attacked, and so he slept in his car. Eventually, after he was forced to sell his car for income, Coates turned to Greensboro Urban Ministry’s Weaver House Night Shelter. “If it wasn’t for Greensboro Urban Ministry, I don’t know where I’d be. I thank the Lord.” says Coates.
While at Weaver House Night Shelter, Coates used the many services available to him and found a particular program to be especially helpful – the Stephen Ministry Program. Through this program, lay ministers provide a ministry of listening; simply being present to provide a loving ear for guests to share their troubles. “It was great to have someone to talk to.” Coates recalled. Through the Stephen Ministry Program, Coates found a new purpose and calling for his life, in ministry to others. And, after he left the Weaver House, Coates worked with Greensboro Urban Ministry Chaplain, Rev. Frank Dew to become a certified Stephen Minister.
Coates is today a member of the Greensboro Urban Ministry Board of Directors and regular volunteer in Potter’s House Community Kitchen. He leads both the Thursday evening Men’s Stephen Ministry Support Group at Weaver House and the Wednesday evening Stephen Ministry Addiction Support Group. When asked of his desire to serve, he shares “I want to be able to give back to others and show them they are valued and loved.”