I've become a recent fan of Hunger for Love, which meets literally under that part of Gentry that is neither west nor east but parallel to Valentine Street—the same street where Gateway to Hope daytime homeless resource center is located. Hunger for Love meets on Saturday morning and is not to be confused with Church Under the Bridge–a service that meets on Sunday morning at 10:30. Both are part of Mission Tyler: One Love Revolution. Jacksonville and Texarkana also have a Church Under the Bridge program.
I talked with Mark Eslicker, one of the main coordinators for Mission Tyler. Then Mark edited my article for me two weeks later. Mission Tyler expanded an earlier project. Mark's son, Jason, started “Hunger for Love” with two classmates while they were still attending Brook Hill School in Bullard back in May 2011. At that time, the event was held downtown and only fed about 17-20 people. I recall eating there during the Occupy Tyler event back in October 2011. Hunger for Love moved to their current location in December 2011.
Now several churches have unified to make this project really major. They feed 150 weekly. The churches include Central Baptist, Colonial Hills Baptist, Day Spring United Methodist, Cowboy Church, Faith Community, First Methodist of Noonday, Eternal Hope Ministries, and Faith Central. Occasionally, churches from Canton and Winona have visited to help. The Jesus Closet is a place to donate clothes–something I've done twice-informal and formal clothes–since I'm thirty pounds heavier in my Medicaid era. Their small van is located west of the serving area at Hunger for Love.
The festivities begin with a worship service, story time, and maybe a testimony. There is always some singing and guitar playing. Once several of us took turns telling for what we were thankful. I mentioned my COPD health improvements, amazement on being able to walk for 30 minutes, and read a former student's essay on what she was thankful for–a Thanksgiving assignment in my last semester of teaching.
The breakfast is really good food and always has a unique twist on the main dish. On August 17 we had a mix of hash browns with cheese and ground meat, together with strawberry yogurt, fruit of your choice (banana, apple, or orange), and a granola bar-not generic! I bring Louisiana hot sauce in my backpack side pocket not only to share, but because I really need hot sauce on my main course. Then we get a sack lunch to go that always includes a sandwich, chips, and crackers or a sweet roll. Bagels have also been available the last two weeks.
Nowadays, Jason Eslicker rode his bike with an International Justice Mission group from Seattle, Washington to Portland, Oregon—a distance of 500 miles. That group calls attention to slavery worldwide. Jason recently started at Tyler Junior College, actually to finish high school. He has a very proud dad.
Another good thing about Hunger for Love, or Brunch Under the Bridge as I call it, is that you're almost guaranteed to see an old friend or acquaintance–assuming you're fairly poor. Everyone is really friendly, whether you've met them previously or not. You can get coffee before the brunch while the religious program is going on. Hunger for Love has achieved something remarkable–a type of BScene program for the poor with a religious underpinning. Get there about 9:30-9:45; it's over by 10:50.