Pastor Frank Broughman has been supporting the needy with his Under the Bridge Ministry since 2012. He described his mission to Vinton Host Lions Club members at their November meeting.
Under the Bridge Ministry is a “non-denominational Christian church and outreach ministry whose purpose is to fulfill the Great Commission, provide for widows, orphans, the disabled and the homeless in the Southeast Roanoke and Vinton areas.”
The ministry started out in Southeast Roanoke, but is now located on Walnut Avenue in Vinton.
According to Broughman, “Under the Bridge Ministry was formed as a church outreach program, sending a group out to share the gospel and the love of Christ with the area’s homeless. Through this ministry, we found that the need was far greater than we anticipated. What began as a church-based outreach program soon became a bus ministry, allowing us to serve not only the spiritual needs of the less fortunate, but also provide them transportation back to the church, where they were able to hear God’s Word, get a meal and take a few items of much needed clothing.”
“We provide food for the body and the spirit to those in need,” says Broughman.
In 2014 the program became autonomous; no longer a church program, but an independent church.
Pastor Frank, as he is known, says that “through prayer and faith we were blessed with the use of a house in Southeast Roanoke while it was being listed for sale by the owner. This provided a home for our ministry and storage for the food and clothing that we provide to those in need. Having our own location also allowed us to provide spiritual guidance through Bible study and sermons.”
What began as an occasional outreach became a true church with three worship services every week.
Faced with the need to relocate, Broughman said, “We again turned to God and praised Him for His providence and love, and asked Him to guide us to a new home. With little funds and no prospect of a new location, we gave it the Lord– faithful that He would again provide for us in our time of need. Again, we were blessed. The Lord provided us a new home in a commercial location in Vinton, where the ministry continued. Though the overall space was smaller, we had a larger area for our growing congregation, as well as a much larger parking area.”
That wasn’t the end of the story, though.
“Through continued prayer and devotion to the work of feeding others, both physically and spiritually, we were blessed by the Lord again by providing us a much larger space, right next door,” continued Pastor Frank. “Praise God, we now have over twice the space for worship, more storage and room for growth.”
The ministry uses the downstairs as the church sanctuary and dining hall, and the upstairs for a clothes closet and youth room.
Pastor Frank received the “Unsung Hero” award from Roanoke City in 2016, which recognizes “the volunteer contributions made by an individual who repeatedly gives outstanding volunteer services to actively improve and positively affect the lives and living conditions of individuals in their neighborhood.”
He said his is a small ministry which serves around five people at the beginning of most any month, growing to about 40 by month’s end.
“God put me in the ministry to be used by people,” said Broughman. “I am doing God’s work; He put me here to serve people and give food to the needy.”
“When you bless people, it comes back to you,” Pastor Frank told the Lions. “You bless someone, God blesses you.”
Broughman has freezers of meat which he passes out to the needy along with boxes of non-perishable food. He delivers food to those homebound or without transportation. The ministry has a clothes closet; once a year a benefactor brings in brand new clothes, which he gives out as Christmas presents.
The ministry also includes transporting people to Charlottesville to get dentures in a day.
Pastor Frank fortuitously encountered a woman who was unable to afford the medication she had been prescribed. He called the pharmaceutical company that manufactured the drug and got the meds for her for a year at no cost and is now expanding the program to help others in similar situations.
He takes people with no transportation to National Optical to get glasses.
“I like to help people,” said Broughman. “I enjoy my mission and my ministry. I live on faith every day asking God to take care of me and my mission. According to the Bible, if you have faith, you can move mountains. When the bills come in, we don’t always have funds, but God always comes through.”
When he first started the ministry, it was basically self-funded. He used almost his entire retirement income check to finance it. “I don’t mind— it’s all for God. He gave me the check to do what I am doing. It’s God’s money to use to help each other.”
Things have gotten easier with donations from the community. Through organizations like Thrasher Memorial UMC and other churches and community organizations with community service funds, donations of extra food from the Rescue Mission, “and the mercy of God, the bills always get paid.”
Someone donated a RADAR bus to the ministry. Pastor Frank said, “God gave it to me.” Once their previous bus broke down on Sunday morning, on the way to worship. Pastor Frank and about a half-dozen passengers had their worship service on the bus, in the rain.
He works annually with the REACH program founded by Pastor Tim Dayton. Each summer youth from across the state and nation come to the Roanoke area to work on homes, mainly in the poor neighborhoods of Southeast Roanoke. They work on repairing houses during the day, then area groups feed them supper. Every Thursday night during the summer, Under the Bridge takes a turn, packing students into their kitchen/sanctuary for meals like spaghetti, salad, and bread.
Under the Bridge Ministry has been in Vinton for a year and a half. Pastor Frank holds Bible studies midweek, a Sunday service at 1:30 p.m. (for late sleepers), and again on Sunday at 6:30 where another minister usually preaches while he cooks a meal for the crowd.
He never planned to be a minister although he is now a licensed pastor. He was a forklift driver at Elizabeth Arden for many years until he was laid off and then worked at a convenience store for about 15 years until his retirement.
Early on in his ministry, Pastor Frank handed out Bibles and tracts on Tazewell Avenue beneath the bridge on Interstate 581, praying with the people there—which is where his ministry got its name.
That lead to working with a small group of non-Spanish speakers at a Spanish church to assist the minister there. He said he really had no idea how to proceed, so he recited John 3:16 from memory, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” followed by a prayer. To his surprise he was invited back again and has never stopped since.
The Town of Vinton employees have chosen Under the Bridge Ministry as their 2017 holiday project, soliciting food and other items from town staff and the community at large. Donations are accepted at the Municipal Building through December 21.