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Oklahoma church under bridge provides acceptance, hope for homeless community

OKLAHOMA CITY - There are more than 4,000 Oklahomans living on the streets any given night, whether it's in the sweltering heat or freezing cold temperatures. But, one day a week, hundreds of those less fortunate meet to find hope and a sense of place amidst the harshest realities of their world.

It may be unconventional, but that's exactly the point of Church Under The Bridge.

"Felt called to build a church without walls for people who didn't feel comfortable in a traditional church,” said Randy Ransom, who started Church Under The Bridge with his wife, Skye.

It's a bridge that transforms into a place of worship every Sunday for the last seven years.

There are no steeple or pews, just the sound of the cars around them and the chance to get a meal and some clothes to get by on the streets of Oklahoma City.

"All classes. We just hug each other, love on each other. We're family here no matter where you've come from,” Ransom said.

Like Merl Childs, now 51 with two grown children.

"I slept under bridges. I slept on trailers. I slept wherever I could,” Childs said.

A car accident as a child set him back in life.

"I ended up with a couple of inches knocked out of my leg, and pins and several operations, in the hospital for quite a long time," he said. "It threw me behind in school. It threw me behind in everything."

Childs said years of manual labor made it too difficult to continue his job.

"During that stretch, there was a period where I couldn't work, and I didn't have any income coming in, and I hadn't received disability yet and I ended up on the streets," he said.

For a year, Childs didn't know where he would sleep each night. He also found out daily he wasn't welcome in most places.

"When you're homeless on the street, you get pushed around a lot. You get, 'No, you can't sit here.' 'No, you can't do this,' so it's a constant movement," he said.

Constantly being shuffled from one place to the next wore on him to the point he didn't care if he lived anymore.

"I was sure I was at the end of my life cycle, and I was happy with that. My kids were grown. If it was, it was okay," he said.

But, then, he heard about a church giving away free food, clothes and prayer and decided to try it out.

"Every Sunday, I know, if nothing else, if I can make it there, I'm going to get me a hot meal and maybe a change of clothes," he said.

Childs found his new home under the bridge.

The Ransoms and a huge community of churches come together to bring a church service for men, women and children who have fallen on hard times.

Sometimes, they'll have baptisms. Other times, it's just a come and go as you please. The point is to give hope to people like Childs who feel like they have nothing else to lose.

"I've seen more pass away on the streets than evolve. The street life, it's not easy. I mean I've seen them from the group that comes here, just go," he said.

But, it's different for Childs.

In 2014, you can see him selling homemade artwork. His pieces are made from pine cones, scrap wood he found on the street and popsicle sticks. Every piece of art is branded with the letters u-s-p.

"The USP stands for unseen promise. You know, sometimes, God is promising you things and you can't see it. You just have to believe on it and believe he's going to work it out," he said.

No longer homeless, he's in an apartment living on disability checks. But, he still comes out every week to volunteer and worship.

"Being in contact with Church Under The Bridge and being able to understand things a little better, you know, God had time to work on me and let me know it's not over. The best days for you are yet to come," he said.

Reminding the hundreds of displaced residents of the city for at least one day a week they know they're welcome to be under the bridge providing hope, prayer and a place to belong during the darkest of circumstances.

For more information or how to donate, visit cutbokc.com.