Founder & Director Emeritus Maxine Raines
Caring for the Lost Sheep
By Dr. Wilma Banner Curtis
During special holidays most people give to at least one organization who will provide a good Thanksgiving and/or Christmas meal for the homeless. They sometimes remember the homeless at Easter and New Year’s. Then most people forget the homeless the rest of the year.
But who are the homeless, how do they get that way and can they ever be helped to get out of life-on-the-streets? Or do they even want to change and be helped to join a work force somewhere and take the responsibility necessary to maintain what we would call a comfortable life style.
Many of them do want to change, but don’t know where to start. One organization that helps bring about this miracle of change is the Lost Sheep Ministry. It takes courage and usually financial resources to change and the Lost Sheep Ministry, under the guidance of founder and Executive Director Maxine Raines, provides the love, encouragement, guidance, and financial support to hundreds each year to promote that change. But what about those who don’t want to change, who desire to live on the street? Lost Sheep Ministry’s mission is to provide restoration through the saving power of Jesus Christ’s love to the hurting, lost, and forgotten children of God. By providing basic resources, medical, and dental services, and alcohol and drug rehabilitation, we form relationships in which the gospel can be shared.
Maxine’s Story – from Homelessness to a Homeless Ministry
Many six year olds have never heard the word responsibility and I dare say very few could spell the word, yet at six Maxine Raines found herself responsible for taking care of herself and her four year old brother. Her alcoholic father hopped a train out of Knoxville and her mother was mentally ill.
At age six and also age ten, Maxine lived in the John Tarleton Home for a period of time, but mainly until she was 15, she lived on the street. At night she slept in the tank of an old abandoned gas truck behind a service station. She found partially good fruit and vegetables in the garbage at the Forest Avenue Market. Sometimes she would knock on the back door of the General Hospital and a black lady would give her a peanut butter sandwich. She got free lunches at school, but dropped out in the ninth grade. She and her brother gathered coal off the railroad tracks that was lost off the trains as they came through, and occasionally the Red Cross would give her mother coal. She would clean up in service stations or public bathrooms and she got her clothes from the Dale Avenue Housing Settlement and the Second Methodist Church.
Maxine’s marriage at 15 lasted 7 months, but after she married Chester Raines at age 17, they had 48 years together before he died in 2001 after a two year battle with cancer. Maxine’s living circumstances improved, but life was not without loss and heartache. Their first child, a daughter, was born when Maxine was 18. She lived five and a half months and died with a chromosome defect. Seven years later they had a son who lived eleven days, then died of the same chromosome defect. Seven years after that, after praying for almost a year about whether or not to have another child, they had Sherri. Sherri is married and blessed the Raines with two grandchildren–a daughter, Whitney and Joshua, who went to be with the Lord at 18 years old after a short bout with leukemia.
The encouragement and love she received from many, plus her strong faith in God, gave Maxine the foundation needed to get her GED at age 48, and through the program at St. Mary’s Hospital, where she was employed for 20 years, she become a nurse. One person of great encouragement was George Creswell, pastor of the Second Methodist Church. He sent her and her brother to church camp and sometimes let them stay in the gymnasium. His church was the only one with a gym back then. Maxine said Pastor Creswell would be like the man in Ray Bolt song, Thank You for Giving to the Lord. His influence was evidenced in her brother becoming a Methodist minister and her love for helping the homeless–the runaways and throw-aways, as she called them.
Maxine went to Washington DC for an Aglow Conference where she saw the depths of despair in the lives and faces of many on the streets. God birthed a vision in her heart and she knew caring for the homeless was her calling and purpose in life. This vision became a reality in 1990 when she established the Lost Sheep Ministry. Later she became the Vice President of Ministries of the East Tennessee Area Board of Aglow International.
She started out small in her ministry with only one person accompanying her on the streets where they handed out sandwiches; however, the enthusiasm and commitment she exhibited was contagious and now the Lost Sheep Ministry has several paid employees and over 1,000 recorded volunteers, plus a wonderful new building that has the offices, kitchen, warehouse and clothing room all under the same roof.