Taco Tuesdays in Tulsa Lisa Cooke Interviews Victoria Bowling
Mark and Victoria Bowling, founders of Global Impact Ministries International, are traveling ministers with an emphasis on soul-winning and revival. They have been ministering in the USA and other nations for twenty-four years and have lived in Mexico and India. Currently, they reside in Broken Arrow, OK. They can be contacted at www.globalimpactministries.com and 716-517-0827.[/vc_column_text][image_separator][vc_gallery type=”image_grid” images=”20555,20556,20557″ img_size=”200×200″][vc_column_text]Lisa: Tell us what Taco Tuesday is.
Victoria: Taco Tuesday is an outreach to the homeless, who we call our “Street Family,” in downtown Tulsa, every Tuesday evening. We have workers from several different churches who come together to minister to our Street Family. We bring Tacos, Chic-Fil-a or Little Caesars pizza, Coca Cola, water, fruit, chips, donuts, toiletries, Bibles, notebooks, pens, socks, underwear, shoes, clothes and the love of Jesus. We bring the Gospel. We bring HOPE to people who are really at the lowest low of their life.
Every week when we arrive there’s a group of our street family waiting for us. A church lets us store some of our stuff in their building right next door to where we meet, which is on a big deck, behind a donut shop in downtown. Everyone pitches in to set up. We set up camping chairs for everyone to sit on. There is something about seating a person in a chair when they are used to sitting on the ground. It lifts them up—literally. They sit and visit with us and each other. It’s a laid back atmosphere, like hanging out with family can be.
We bless the food and everyone eats. My street missionaries sit down among our street family and visit, one-on-one. We listen to their stories. We share the Word and pray with people. We encourage people and love on them. There’s a lot of one-on-one interaction going on. I’m really big on that because it’s important for people to know they aren’t lost in the crowd.
Then we have a time of the sharing of the Word of God to the whole group and we pray with people to receive Jesus, be baptized in the Holy Spirit and for healing. It’s awesome!
We let people hang around as long as they want. We are never in a rush. I have heard it said that the greatest pain of a homeless person is not hunger pains or the pain of sleeping on concrete, but it’s the pain of being invisible. So, we let them know that we see them and that GOD sees them. I believe that part of our job to help ease their suffering.
Lisa: How did this idea come to you? Why tacos? What motivated you to begin this outreach?
Victoria: My husband and I are frequently on the road, traveling and ministering in the USA and overseas. For years I have seen homeless people at the end of exit ramps off the highway and on corners in cities. I didn’t think too much about them except the judgmental things that many people think when they see a homeless person. You know, thoughts like, “Why don’t they just get a job?” and “They must be lazy.”
One day I saw a homeless person and a different thought invaded my mind. “He was somebody’s baby boy once.” I lost it. Before I knew it, I was weeping every time I saw a homeless person.
This actually went on for a whole year. Then while Mark was overseas, ministering in Nepal, I noticed on Facebook an acquaintance of mine posted that she goes downtown to feed the homeless and asked if anyone wanted to join her. I hooked up with her and made 100 homemade butterfly cookies with frosting and put them in zip lock bags with The New Birth mini books by Kenneth E. Hagin. I was so excited!
We went downtown and I can’t tell you how disappointed and really grieved I was at how it played out. We set up a table and put food on it. The people walked by and took it and there was no interaction between us. I kept trying to make eye contact and start conversations but there was a long line and they just wanted to move by as fast as possible. I cried all the way home. I knew this was not how I wanted to minister to the homeless.
About a week later I woke up one morning and I had the thought to bake apple muffins and take them downtown, along with water bottles to see if I could meet some homeless people and have real life conversations. That was one of the best days of my life.
I was instantly hooked. Mark flew in on Friday night and Saturday morning we got up and I told him, “We have to go downtown.” I had an idea to make tacos and wrap them in foil. So that’s what we did and everyone loved them. Mark was instantly hooked as well since it gave him an opportunity to share the Gospel, teach the word to believers who live on the street and see people healed!
One of the very first people we encountered was a man who had broken his wrist the year before. The doctors had put a metal rod in his wrist and it was painful to move. This man was already a believer. He had served a prison sentence for manslaughter and when he got out had a hard time finding a job. We encouraged him with the Word of God and prayer. Then we laid hands on his wrist. All of a sudden he began to move it all around and say, “Woah! This is new! This is new!” He hadn’t been able to move it like that. We ran into him again sometime later and he showed us how he could do pushup and he could bend it! He was so happy.
Every time we went downtown we learned more and both of our opinions of homeless people completely changed. We realized that for each and every homeless person you see, there is a different story that goes with them. We did a lot of listening. Of course we shared the Gospel and prayed with people. But, we listened to their stories.
Lisa: Would you share a few?
Victoria: I met one man sleeping under a bridge who used to have a thriving foundation and cement pouring company. He actually poured the foundations for some of the buildings downtown. Years ago his 16 year old son went on a trip overseas. He was involved in a car accident and somebody was killed. As a result, he was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. He was overcome with grief and then his wife left him because she couldn’t handle the emotional pain. His own words were, “Then I lost my mind. I lost everything.”
There was a young lady we met who “aged out” of foster care. The foster care system is for kids up to age 18. Sometimes when a foster child turns 18, the foster family kicks them out. She ended up hanging out with the wrong people and getting pregnant. I’ve met several nineteen and twenty-something young people who are living on the streets because they have aged out of foster care. I think of my own three boys and how none of them were ready to be on their own and support themselves on their eighteenth birthday. It just breaks my heart. We were able to help her by getting her the clothes she needed for a job interview and her uniform when they hired her. The parents of her baby’s father took her in and they are believers. It is happy ending for a sweet, beautiful girl.
There’s a woman who comes every Tuesday who suffers from schizophrenia. She talks about how she took care of her husband and children for 25 years, but then she got sick. Nobody wanted to take care of her. We see a lot of mentally ill people living on the streets. They are there because they have “run out” of family relationships and many times they are too paranoid to get help from doctors. I am contending for manifestations of the Holy Spirit to see these people delivered! There are several like this that we have seen changes in as they have come to hear the Word week after week.
I know a young man who lives on the streets because it’s his way of punishing himself for an accident that killed his best friend years ago. It was an accident and nobody’s fault, but he blames himself. Last week I led him in a prayer to forgive himself.
There’s another young man who used to be a manager at a Pizza place and could probably walk in and get that job back, but he feels ashamed and unworthy because of his sins. He hasn’t yet grasped that Jesus’ sacrifice pays for it all. Little by little we are getting through to him. When he first started coming it was once in a while. He would sit on the ground and look at the ground. Now he is there every week and he mingles with everyone. He comes up to me and looks me in the eye. One time he was working, painting a house way across town with another one of our Street Family. He told the other man, “we have to go and get a bus right now if we are going to make it to Taco Tuesday!”
There are countless stories. I have a friend on the streets who came home from work one day to find his girlfriend’s baby murdered by the babysitter who decided to get high on meth that day. The nature of the homicide was so gruesome that it left him with PTSD and he can’t live in a house anymore. He feels like he needs to be outside all the time, even in the freezing cold and blistering Oklahoma sun. This is a man who used to be in one of the big churches in Tulsa. He’s born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit! But, this tragedy was too much for him to handle. We have laid hands on him and prayed several times for a fresh infilling of the Spirit. I know the fire of God can burn all that off of him!
Basically, people are downtown living on the streets because they have broken hearts. It seems like no matter the story, somewhere along the way they got their heart broken and their life was derailed. And that’s where we come in. We carry an anointing to heal the broken hearted.
Isaiah 61:1 says of Jesus, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.”
We are the body of Christ on the earth now, so we are anointed to do all of this.
Lisa: Had you ever done anything like this before? Did you have any prior experience working with the homeless before you started?
Victoria: No, I had never specifically ministered to the homeless like this. Mark and I frequently talk about how we never saw ourselves doing this. If you would have told me just 2 years ago that we would be doing what we are doing now, I would have never believed it. But, I love it! It’s the highlight of my week every week whenever we are in town!
My husband and I have done big miracle crusades in many different nations and though I love that, I had a desire in my heart to get more one-on-one with people and connect with individuals more. God is so good how He is letting me do that now.
Lisa: I know you have several volunteers. How did you get people interested in helping you?
Victoria: From the beginning I began to post on Facebook about what I was doing. After Mark went with me once, we started going downtown three to four days a week!
I posted a lot on Facebook and people began to contact me and ask if they could join us. We soon realized we needed to be more organized and develop some kind of structure to have it all run smoothly, so we started having training sessions for people who were interested in helping. We have trained more than 50 people from many different churches in the area.
The training involves going over boundaries and guidelines. All their questions are answered and they sign release forms. We teach and train our street missionaries how to share the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ, one-on-one and lead someone to the Lord. This has been astounding!
We have discovered that many believers do not know how to lead somebody to Jesus. We give them the tools and training to help them and then they do it! It’s been amazing to watch people who have never won souls, out there on the street, confidently sharing Jesus!
Lisa: What have you learned from the people you are helping?
Victoria: I learned that I was completely ignorant about my Street Family. I have learned so much. They are so grateful and appreciative. Sometimes you hear people say, “They are homeless because they WANT to be homeless.” I have learned that is definitely not true. I have visited with many homeless people and I have yet to meet a single one who wants to be homeless.
I have learned that people are people. And nobody wants to be invisible, abandoned, or alone. I have also learned that it doesn’t take much effort to really make an impact on somebody’s life for eternity. I have learned to look at every single person as equal in value to Jesus Christ Himself. His blood was the price paid for them, so that is what they are worth.
Lisa: What have you learned from the people who are helping you minister?
Victoria: My favorite part of the whole thing is standing back and watching my helpers minister to the people. I have watched people who have sat in church for years, listening to teaching about going out, preaching and healing the sick, go from just listening about it to doing it. Every week they are stepping more and more into what God has called them to do. They are seeing people saved and healed through their own personal ministry.
We have one couple who helps who are grandparents. The wife is like a mom to me. I remember when I first started going downtown she wasn’t too keen on the idea. She didn’t think it was safe and looking back, maybe it wasn’t. But I had such a sense of purpose on me and knew I was ok.
After a while she offered to help make the tacos. But then after doing that a while she said she wanted to come downtown to see me in action. I was surprised and really not too sure about it because this lady is very proper and very clean. I didn’t think it could be her “thing” like it is mine. When her husband found out that she wanted to come, he said he would come too because he wanted to check things out and for her to be safe. I think they really thought it would be a one-time thing.
They went that night and have hardly missed a Tuesday night since! They are my right-hand couple, getting there before everyone else, setting up and really they are the ones I depend upon the most. Whenever we get together they want to talk about our Street Family as much as me. It has become a huge part of their lives!
After they helped for a while, they asked if two of their granddaughters could help. They started coming and they are such a blessing! Our street family loves them. Homeless people have very little interaction with children. They have such a calming effect on some of the people. And these girls really take their ministry at Taco Tuesday seriously.
A while back their mom was signing them up for their dance lessons. One of their favorite classes was scheduled for Tuesday nights. When their mom told them, one of the girls said, “I am not going to skip Taco Tuesday. It’s my calling to be with my Street Family. I don’t want to take that dance class.” Her sister agreed! Amazing kids! They are eight and ten years old.
Every week the girls would come home and talk about the individuals who make up our Street Family. If they had to miss for any reason they were so disappointed and would ask their grandparents if different people were there and want to hear all about the night. The girls pray for the Street Family every night. Their mom was so moved that she and her husband attended our training session and they help out whenever they can! They are a family of three generations, downtown, serving and ministering to our Street Family.
One very important thing I have learned through this outreach is that you can be a blessing and make a positive impact on people, even minister the Gospel and healing, when you yourself are going through fiery trials in your own personal life. You can be fighting your own fight of faith, going through pain, heartache, lack, or sickness, and still help someone else find their way out of those things. It’s because God’s Word is true and powerful. We don’t minister out of who we are but out of who He is. It works!
Lisa: Did you “feel” a special grace to do this outreach? Or did you just see a need and wanted to meet it?
Victoria: It was a combination and progression. First I felt a stirring. Then I went and I saw a need. When I went to help, the grace for it came into my life. And it just keeps getting better.
Jesus said in Matthew 25:36-40 ‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
When we serve and minister to our Street Family, according to Jesus, we are serving and ministering to Jesus Himself! I believe we all can and should play some part in what these scriptures describe. If you feel a special grace, great! If not, it’s still scriptural.
Lisa: How has social media helped you do this ministry?
Victoria: Oh my goodness! Social media has been a tremendous help! Posting on Facebook alone has resulted in helpers and donations. Sometimes when I post a need for flashlights, toothbrushes or underwear, I start getting boxes in the mail from Amazon of everything we need! People are constantly dropping bags and boxes full of clothing on my front porch.
Beyond that, I created a closed, private group called “Street Family Tulsa with Global Impact Ministries.” I started it with just a few people who were helping. It was a way for me to organize the taco making, care kit bag assembly and other related things.
Once in a while I posted on my Facebook wall asking anyone who was interested to join it. And every time we had a training session all those people were added. Right now we have about 170 people in the group and it’s made up of the street missionaries, people who donate money, people who donate clothes and whatever else we need, the taco makers and prayer people! I even have a few people from other states in the group who implement the same kind of things in their own town.
Lisa: You developed a card that helps people to lead other people to Christ. Tell us about why you felt that was needed.
Victoria: We actually adapted it from another ministry. We were at some Dr. Rodney Howard-Browne meetings in Tulsa, OK, and he kept mentioning his Soul-Winning Script from the pulpit, telling how it makes it so easy to lead people to Christ. In a 36 month period, people who have been trained with the script have led over 400,000 precious elderly folks, in nursing homes alone, to Christ!
We bought a stack at his book table and we thought they were great! He said several times that anyone is welcome to copy it and change it to have their own info, instead of his ministry info. We had one designed with our logo and ministry info on it and printed them for our street ministry workers.
I decided to have some training with my workers regarding the scripts. We invited everyone over to our home and shared some teaching about soul-winning and actually demonstrated how to use the script to win someone to Jesus. Everyone practiced with different scenarios. My workers were blown away! And even better than that, they began to put it into practice. They started leading people to the Lord!
Lisa: Have any other organizations helped you with this outreach?
Victoria: Yes! We have a donut shop that closes at 11:00 am and they give us all the left over donuts every Tuesday to take to Taco Tuesday. We have churches that have donated clothes and other supplies. Most recently, a businessman found out what we are doing and he offered to supply us with Chick-fil-A for everyone, every week. I was blown away! I asked him to only supply it every other week though because it is TACO Tuesday after all and everyone loves our tacos. Not to mention the fact that the taco prep team would feel left out.
No matter what food we bring, we still call it Taco Tuesday. When it gets cold outside we make homemade potato and corn chowder. Word has really spread all over the city too. We have had people show up because homeless shelters have sent them to us. One time a police officer came by and asked me, “Are you Taco Tuesday?” When I said that we were, he thanked me. Another time a stranger pulled up and said, “I see you out here every Tuesday night in the freezing cold, ministering to these people.” And he handed us a few really nice winter coats and drove away. When people are aware of what’s going on, they want to help.
Lisa: How did you find a place to meet? Is it the same place every week?
Victoria: When we first started the whole thing was mobile. We had several spots where we would pull up in our vehicles and minister to people. There would be a few people in a park. We would feed them and minister to them and then head over to the folks under a bridge and do it again. Then we would go to the bus station and do it again. Over time, our Street Family began to spread the word and it grew so we seldom made it over to the second and third location. We stayed in the park and the people would just come to us.
After months of that, a home owner began to complain. He got in our faces a couple of times and eventually printed out the laws of the city and handed me a copy. I called the city and found out we had to have a permit each week because it was an “event” in the city park. I almost went ahead and applied for a permit but something inside told me we could find a free spot.
I put the word out and a pastor about a mile away from the park offered me a spot right next to his church, behind a donut shop. It’s actually the donut shop’s property, but they are closed after 11:00 am so they let us use a great big wooden deck under a nice tree. It’s perfect!
It’s important to find out what the laws are regarding meeting in a public place and serving food. When we first started we made beef tacos, in a soft shell. It’s more like a burrito. But, then we found out from the health department that we were not permitted to cook and bring any food from our homes that contain meat. So we changed it to bean and corn with taco seasoning, salsa, cheese and lettuce, wrapped up in a tortilla. They taste amazing.
In Tulsa we are allowed to bring baked goods from our kitchens as well. Chick-fil-A and Little Caesars Pizza are ok too because it comes straight from the restaurant and that is permitted as long as you keep it hot. We bought insulated food carriers for that. It’s important to know your local laws.
Lisa: Do you have an organizational structure to this outreach?
Victoria: We created a street ministry account within our main ministry account. We are a 501c3, nonprofit organization, recognized by the IRS so people who make donations get a receipt for their taxes. The Taco Tuesday ministry fits in under the umbrella of our ministry.
We have several teams in place. We have the taco prep team and they are so faithful! My taco prep team leader is a lady who is probably as passionate about getting those tacos made every week as I am about going downtown! We have a team of street missionaries. And then we have a team of people who round up donations — clothes, Bibles, toothbrushes or whatever we need.
Lisa: What do you see for the future? I know in your last post you mentioned that you ran out of food because so many had come. The need is so great that I see more and more people coming to Taco Tuesdays. Do you have plans for expansion?
Victoria: Yes we just have to buy and prepare more food! It’s tricky because we never know how many will show up. We have the resources to buy and bring more food. Sometimes we have prepared for 60 and only 10 show up. I really do not like it when that happens, but then we drive around and pass them out.
I have noticed we have some people showing up who aren’t even homeless. They are from low income housing nearby or they are just driving by on their way home from work. We even had a man pull up in a very expensive car, get out, walk up to the table and get some tacos. All our street family knew him. There is also a couple who manages an apartment complex nearby who have been showing up. At first I didn’t like having these “extra” people show up, but then I thought, “Well, hey! Everyone needs Jesus!” Some of them sit among the rest, listen to the Word and I see them nodding their heads, really listening.
I have thought about starting up a second location in another part of the city, but haven’t moved forward yet. I’ve also thought about going mobile again because I love driving around looking for people to minister to! It’s so fun to find people in hidden places and see the amazement on their faces that you came looking for them. I love it!
Mark and I have talked about taking some of the really spiritually hungry ones who are very eager to learn and forming a Bible study at McDonalds where we can go deeper in the Word of God. An example is a man who came a couple of months ago. He had been saved for many years but prayed to recommit his life to the Lord. He had broken his collar bone a while back and it didn’t heal properly. An X-ray showed that there was a gap between the bones and it caused him great pain. Mark laid hands on him and prayed. All the pain left. He can now move his arm and shoulder around freely with zero pain!
He went back to the doctor for another X-ray and the doctor told him it still looks exactly the same. The gap is still there and it should be causing him great pain. He told the doctor that God healed him and there is no pain. He is even throwing a baseball now! The doctor said, “This is crazy!”
Since he was healed, he has brought many other street family people to our outreach. He loves to hear the Word of God and he’s one that we have in mind if we start a Bible study.
When I think about the future, I see some who currently make up our street family, living off the streets and ministering with us or even for us. When that day comes it will bring me great satisfaction! I can see that happening!
Lisa: What would you tell someone who felt led to do something like this in their city?
Victoria: You can do it! I would say don’t look at what we do and think you cannot do it because what we do now is not how we started. Start where you are at, with whatever you have. I started with apple muffins and water bottles. However I wouldn’t suggest going alone. Remember Jesus sent his disciples out two by two.
It’s amazing how the things you need just come into your hands when you take a step to do something like this. We had been going every Tuesday evening with water bottles, muffins, and things like that, with tacos now and then for a couple of months. The people helping me started asking if we could do tacos every single Tuesday night. It was a step of faith for me to say yes and go for it. But as soon as I did, everything started flowing in. Every week the money was there.
I would also say, be prepared to invest time, energy and the word into people. It’s not good enough to set up, pass stuff out and leave. Spend time. Share the simple Gospel every single time. Our style has changed since we began. When we first started we told our workers to just spend time with them and don’t feel like you have to share the Gospel the very first time. That has changed because we noticed that even though we have our regulars, many people are just passing through and we only get to see them one time. Now we ask people, “If you died tonight do you know for sure you would go to heaven?” That creates an open door to share the Gospel.
Go in knowing there is going to be pain involved. I have wept many tears over my Street Family. Sometimes I spend an evening out there and I am in “the zone” ministering to people. I feel great and I love it. Then I get in my car and it hits me. The pain and the raw heartache of their circumstances hit me. And I weep. But it’s ok. I know we are helping them. We are really making a difference in their lives. I know because they tell us.
One thing I didn’t consider when I got started was that I would develop relationships with people and then lose them. Sometimes people disappear. And sometimes they die. One man who I had tried so hard to win to Jesus went to jail, accused of murder. So, it’s tough sometimes.
There was one young man who showed up every once in a while. He was one of the first people I met. The first time I met him he was under a bridge. He was a very tall, African American, twenty-something young man with a huge smile. He suffered from mental illness and at times acted friendly while at other times he cussed me out. I loved him. The last time I saw him, he dressed up nice for Taco Tuesday. He was all cleaned up and he had a tie on!
He was so kind and gentle that night. When we were carrying all our tables and chairs back into the church after the outreach he kept trying to sneak into the building and I had to tug him by the back of his jacket and tell him he couldn’t sleep in there. That was hard because it was cold outside. I know he heard the Gospel and I know he was given a chance to receive Christ. I hope he did. I didn’t see him again after that and recently one of our street family ladies told me his dead body was found in a locked motel room. I don’t know if you can really be prepared for that, but things like that happen when you are working with the homeless.
There was another man who I met on a bench once. He was a born again believer. His feet and ankles were very swollen. Another girl and I laid hands on his feet and prayed for them. The next week we were quite a ways down the street from that spot and he walked all the way there to show us that his feet and ankles were healed. We rejoiced with him! The very next week his friend, (the one now in jail), came and found me to tell me he died. I cried, but I was so happy to know he is in Heaven.
There is so much I would want to say to encourage people to do this kind of ministry in their city. It is so rewarding! It’s so needed. People need to know they are valuable. They need to be touched and looked in the eyes. They need somebody to know their name because God knows their name. The street family in your town is a “people group” just like any other people group. They ought not to be overlooked. They must be reached with the love of God and the Good News of Jesus Christ.
You can do it![/vc_column_text][image_separator][vc_column_text]You can connect with Mark and Victoria on Facebook and also on Instagram.
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Tony Cooke Ministries
PO Box 140187
Broken Arrow, OK 74014-0187