Mann answers questions like that every Sunday at Under the Tree Ministry.
Located under a large tree in the Sadie Lee Homes area, this ministry has no walls, but Mann believes that is what makes it more special to those who wish to get closer to God.
“That area and that spot is where all the alcoholics and drug addicts hang out, it’s like the hangout spot,” Mann said.
This hangout spot has been transformed to a place of ministry for the past six years, with people congregating there every Sunday between 8 and 8:30 a.m. to reach out to the weary.
To celebrate six years of ministry, an anniversary celebration will be held today at 9 a.m. to not only celebrate the ministry but the longevity of it.
“It started out with seven people and that circle has grown and grown and I’ve been blessed to have members from different churches around the area,” Mann said.
But before people from the community decided to join her, Mann was out there by herself.
“I was riding by there, riding to my mom’s house to get my kids and God said, ‘Stop, slow down,’” she said. “You don’t have to have a position or title to do God’s work.”
Mann’s best friend, Belinda Curry, joined her in the beginning of the ministry.
“She took time out in the beginning to do that with me,” Mann said. “God gave me the vision and I just obeyed God and we went out there.”
Word soon spread to local pastors and churches that wanted to help Mann bring those at the hangout spot closer to God.
Mann also spread the word about the ministry to those alcoholics and drug addicts hanging around the area who felt like the world had given up on them.
“A lot of people don’t feel like it’s that important enough to come,” she said. “I tried to make sure I got the news to everybody.”
Mann received support from local pastors, churches and community members, including Pastor Pearson McGhee, Pastor Calvin Cunningham, the Rev. Tommy Hardy, Deacon Willie Porter, Deacon Joe Sparks, Deacon Spencer Wilson, Eugene Marbury, Minister Dexter and Bobbie Green, Howard Keith, Lynn McMillan, Johnnie Hamilton and Audrey Singleton.
“I appreciate them. I thank God for them all of the time,” Mann said.
She said she is thankful for everyone who believes in the ministry and goes above and beyond, like Emma Porter who always makes sure that everyone eats.
“She’s been the one bringing the juice and cake. She’s the one that makes sure they have something to eat,” Mann said.
“It takes kingdom-minded people to do this. This is a church without walls. This is a ministry that is not bound to traditional religion formalities. This ministry and this work is solely about souls being saved, about souls and salvation.”
Mann said the people come under the tree for the ministry sing and give heart wrenching testimonies about their trials and tribulations, often giving insight into the life of someone who feels cast out by society and ashamed by their life decisions.
“There are different gifts and callings, but of all these, love is the greatest. What we do under the tree is based and built on love. It’s not about denomination, religion or any other barrier that separates us and causes division ... it’s simply love,” Mann said.
“It is important that people know and understand that no matter where you are in life, God loves you. That is the first message I ministered under the tree, along with my testimony.”
Mann is a former alcoholic and drug addict, and is familiar with what those who attend the ministry are going through.
“I was an alcoholic and I was a drug addict strung out on cocaine, and God saved me,” Mann said. “My life is a testimony.”
She said she also sold drugs and went to jail.
Because she is the granddaughter of a pastor, she felt the shame from her family for her poor decisions in life.
“I was the crazy one. I was the one everybody talked about at the family get-together, so I know how it feels to be tossed away; I was the black sheep,” Mann said.
“I overdosed on cocaine and that’s when I came to know God and accept him for myself.”
For Mann, exposing how she overcame the obstacles in her life means fulfilling the purpose God had in mind for her when he told her to stop her car six years ago.
“I have to tell them. I have to give them hope,” Mann said. “A lot of people don’t have hope. A lot of people feel like God won’t bless them so I have to share. I have to share my testimony. I love doing it.”
Contact Aziza Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.