Empowering the Homeless with Hope in the Streets
When God called, former CEO Joe Ratterman said “Yes!” as the words “Help the homeless” rang loud and strong during prayer. It was the fall of 2004, and it was clear to Joe that God was sending the Ratterman family in a new direction – and they were ready to serve.
Finding hope in the streets
The Rattermans – Joe, his wife Sandy, and their two teenagers – started simply by assembling winter warmth kits for the homeless of Kansas City. They partnered with the Salvation Army to distribute kits to the areas in the city with the highest need. As the Rattermans’ familiarity and love for the homeless grew, so did their involvement. They began volunteering weekly for the organization’s meal truck and in 2008, started their own nonprofit, Hope in the Streets.
Hope in the Streets bought a cargo van, and “The Vittle Van” began delivering meals and supplying essential hygiene items twice a week to 60-100 homeless people.
“Our faith tells us that we are to help those less fortunate than us,” Joe says. “We found that serving meals to large groups at multiple sites wasn’t giving us quality time to intentionally deliver and demonstrate the gospel to these individuals.”
Meeting people where they are
Out of this faith-filled desire to reach the hearts of the homeless through the Word of God came The Worship Wagon, a mobile church service that meets the homeless where they are – under bridges, along the river and in the woods. Established in 2015, the program provides a unique opportunity for those living on the streets to participate comfortably in a non-denominational church service each Monday night. Plus, it gives the Rattermans a forum to get to know those that attend and disciple them just as they are.
“The Worship Wagon is core to what we believe,” says Joe. “Creating relationships and knowing each face by name so we aren’t just serving numbers, we are serving people. That’s important.”
Called to serve
Sandy lives by the biblical philosophy that we are called to help our close community first, then a broader audience, and then finally the world. Hope in the Streets allows the Rattermans to serve their community in Kansas City. To reach others nationally, Joe sits on the board and pilots for Angel Flight Central, which provides free flights on private aircraft for medical and humanitarian purposes across the US. Sandy works globally, and travels to Honduras each year with Food for the Poor. Between the two of them, they serve on six different boards across the country.
When it comes to serving financially, Joe and Sandy learned about several unique benefits to working with donor-advised funds sponsored by the National Christian Foundation (NCF). They could give non-cash items, like stocks or even a house, for example. By encouraging them to make current charitable gifts like this, which also typically are more tax-efficient, NCF has provided Joe and Sandy the joyful ability to see their gifts at work throughout their retirement, instead of simply building a nest egg to leave behind.
As the co-founder of Hope in the Streets and a board member for another organization, Hope Faith Ministries, Sandy wishes she could teach all NCF givers one important thing she’s learned: ministries need funds all year. “A lot of people want to give just at the end of the year,” shares Sandy. “Organizations operate year round, so they need funds all year long. I’d love for givers to consider this when they choose when to give.”
How is God calling you to serve, and how will you respond?