It took less than an hour for about 30 volunteers to transform an empty parking lot in downtown Olympia into a place worthy of a feast – complete with tablecloths, candle light, music and a staff of servers who delivered plates of hot food to each table.
The free, traditional Thanksgiving meal – which featured turkey, ham and all the trimmings – was organized by Ben and Denise Charles of Crazy Faith Ministries, an Olympia-based traveling ministry that serves tribal reservations and communities around the state.
“They go all over on a wing and a prayer,” said Barbara Shanta of Nisqually, who volunteered at the dinner. “They’re energetic about life.”
“We go wherever the Lord tells us to go,” said Denise Charles, 40.
Crazy Faith began a weekly street feed in Olympia last November; and every other week, it offers Mariner Hot Dogs to anyone who shows up.
“We usually feed, on a regular night, between 200 and 500 people,” Denise Charles said. “We call them our street family.”
“We don’t even use the term homeless,” added Ben Charles, 42.
In addition to leading a small church in a home at Nisqually, where his dad, Ben Charles Sr., was a spiritual leader for many years, the couple travels around the region to perform weddings, funerals, prayer vigils and other ministry work.
They often sell concessions, including kettle corn at tribal events, to raise money for their work. They aren’t a nonprofit.
“Right now, the Lord hasn’t put it in our heart,” Denise Charles said.
Still, the couple has a network of people with enough crazy faith in their work to keep the donations flowing. In addition to food, their weekly dinners include prayer requests and other ministry work.
A few weeks ago, Ben Charles baptized Aaron Tonning, 43, of Tumwater, with a bottle of water at one of the street feeds.
For Tonning, and many of the other regulars, Crazy Faith has become a church without walls.
“He and Denise are saints,” Tonning said. “They’re full-time ministers. They rely completely on donations, and God.”
Someday they’d like to establish a rehabilitation center and permanent kitchen for its street-feeding program, Denise Charles said.
Although the couple promotes their work largely through Facebook, Ben Charles said people who want to help with their ministry should come witness it first hand. They serves meals from 6 to 9 p.m. every Thursday in the parking lot at State Avenue and Washington Street in downtown Olympia.
Plans are underway for a Crazy Faith Christmas dinner, as well.Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 email@example.com @Lisa_Pemberton