Urban Missions Incorporated

Urban Missions Incorporated Urban Missions, Inc. is a tax exempt 501(c)3 organization focused on caring for the needs of Albany's most vulnerable people. Consolidated into a dedicated non-profit in 1999, the actual ministries of UMI were started in the mid-1980's by Christian Covenant Church as several men began to minister to day laborers every Saturday at the "Dray Line" on the corner of Roosevelt and Washington in Albany.

Operating as usual

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

It’s Christmas Eve and our blanket goal has been met! We actually met and exceeded our goal. Thank you so much to all wh...

It’s Christmas Eve and our blanket goal has been met! We actually met and exceeded our goal. Thank you so much to all who contributed! You have really helped to make a difference this Holiday season. Thank you!


Baby, it’s cold outside...and we have 30 blankets to give away! Only 10 to go to reach our goal, and two more days until Christmas!

We have had 7 people donate blankets, and 4 people make monetary contributions. Thank you all so much!

Blanket drive update! We are getting closer to our goal of 40 blankets by Christmas Day! We currently have 21 blankets, ...

Blanket drive update! We are getting closer to our goal of 40 blankets by Christmas Day! We currently have 21 blankets, and received cash donations from Patty and Brenda—-so we have enough to purchase ~7 more! That puts us at 28 with only 12 more to go!!!


Thank you so much to everyone who has helped out. We are so humbled by your generosity ♥️♥️♥️

Update: blanket drive! We just received 10 new blankets from an out of town supporter!! Thank you so much for your gener...

Update: blanket drive! We just received 10 new blankets from an out of town supporter!! Thank you so much for your generosity Cathy! We love you!

These donations don’t have to be new. Please help us out with any used blankets you can spare. We hope to collect our goal of 40 by Christmas Day.

♥️ Baby, it’s cold outside! Blanket Drive 2020 ♥️🎄PLEASE  DONATE  BLANKETS🎄We need your used (or new) blankets. We will ...

♥️ Baby, it’s cold outside! Blanket Drive 2020 ♥️
We need your used (or new) blankets. We will pick them up. Our goal is to be able to hand out a blanket to all of our friends we meet for breakfast in downtown Albany on Saturday morning. Many of these folks are in need of a good warm blanket. So why not go through the ones you have at home, and see if you have any extra, or if you feel inclined to share — it really would make a big difference.

Thank you so much for taking the time to help people in our community. We love you!

For those of you who don’t have any extra blankets, donations are always welcome. We can get blankets at Goodwill or Walmart for ~$5.

Our goal is at least 40 blankets!

Thank you!!!!


November 30, 2020
I received a call Friday afternoon from my good friend Ricky McClendon. He had been trying to reach me to wish Sally and me a Happy Thanksgiving and to catch up on things in Albany. I have mentioned Ricky in previous newsletters. For many years, he was a fixture on the streets and at the Dray Line. When he was sober, you could not meet a kinder, happier, or more courteous southern gentleman. I rarely heard him cuss, which was (and still is) rare among the people on the line. One beer, however, turned him into a deeply troubled and bitter individual. He was a true “blind drunk” who never remembered what he did or said when he was drinking. He would show up from time to time on Saturday with bruises, scratches, and busted knuckles. Whenever I asked him what happened, He would sheepishly say “I don’t remember.” Once a friend of his recorded some of his ranting on his cell phone and played it back once Ricky sobered up. Ricky didn’t believe it was his voice and vehemently denied saying such horrible things. Sadly, some of the other people on the street would give Ricky beer just to watch him act out.
We would see Ricky on the street, ranting at signs, oak trees, and passing cars. I also saw him passed out in a driveway on a major street in broad daylight once. Then, he would show up on Saturday sober – nicer and kinder than ever. It was frustrating. I often commented that if he could just stay away from alcohol, he could get his life back.
I forgot to mention, Ricky had a life before he became homeless. I got to spend some time with him on the way to see his mom in Butler, Georgia which is an hour and a half north of Albany. He told me about his childhood, growing up on farms in southeast Georgia, getting dropped on his head at age seven, how much he loved his momma and his three brothers. He was married and had two children. He was a house painter. After the marriage failed, he married again, this time to a woman who had two children from a previous marriage. He worked for years, helping to manage a farm in Colquitt before his drinking caused the second divorce. Somewhere in there, his life unraveled and he wound up on the streets of Albany.
I watched this slow-motion train wreck for years, powerless to be anything more than a friend to Ricky. Sure, we recommended AA and Aspire (the local mental health and addiction center) over and over again, but he wasn’t interested.
Then one day he disappeared. No one on the Dray Line had any information (they are usually a better source than the Six O’clock News). We had horrible thoughts that he had finally met his demise, but no bodies were reported and we were left wondering, and hoping… I think that was May of 2018. Weeks passed and the angst over Ricky’s whereabouts diminished.
Then one day in July, I got a call from an unfamiliar number. It was Ricky! “Where have you been, man. We’ve been worried about you!” Ricky recounted that he had been in jail for loitering and that his ex-wife had somehow found out about it. She and her father got him out of jail and took him in. He had not had a beer in three months and was doing much better, living with them on the east side of town. Later that year, he moved to Valdosta and was reunited with his son and daughter. He got a job painting and doing construction work with a friend of the family and has been there ever since – clean and sober – and from the sound of his voice, a happy man!
He calls me once or twice a year to catch up on our friends on the streets and to thank Urban Missions for what we did for him, though truthfully, we did very little other than to love him and treat him with the same respect we try to give to all. Friday wasn’t the first update I’ve had from him, but it was well-timed! This season I am thankful for the little things, and the big results in Ricky’s life.
I have said it many times: Respect is the greatest gift you can give to someone in need. If you are one of those people who cling to the mantra “respect is not given, it’s earned!”, I have one word of encouragement for you – repent. If you mete out respect sparingly, based on your own measure of “respectability”, how humbled do you think you will be when you find that Abba respects the prodigal, and the tax collector, and the prostitute just as much, or perhaps more than, the great and the upstanding?
Respect is the greatest investment. Give and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure – pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return. Selah.
The joy that I received from that brief conversation with Ricky on Friday was definitely a good measure poured into my lap - and I am indeed grateful.
Finally, James and Rebecca are engaged! They are the real backbone of Urban Missions, heading up the cooking effort on Saturdays and encouraging the folks on the street. Their capacity to love and live it out is an inspiration to us all – and a challenge for this old guy to keep up with! We are all excited about this news – they are truly a beautiful couple.
Blessings and Joy to all of you as we enjoy this Christmas Season – from the whole Urban Missions Team!

Urban Missions Incorporated's cover photo

Urban Missions Incorporated's cover photo


Urban Missions has now been working with the disenfranchised in downtown Albany for 34 years. In 1985 two of my friends, Keith McCain and Bob Cary, felt a stirring concerning the poor in Albany. They had read a book, “Miracles in El Paso?” by René Laurentin, a Catholic priest who was living among the poor and ministering in Juarez, Mexico. They were so moved by his story that they flew out to El Paso to meet him and ask questions. His counsel was to just find a gathering of poor people and start small. Our Dray Line ministry was born. Armed with 30 sausage biscuits, some Sunny Delight and a gallon of coffee, they set out for the Dray Line, where day laborers gathered to be picked up. This ministry grew, expanding to a special service at Christian Covenant Church with a full breakfast every week. Over the years, UMI has continued to visit the “Line” on Saturdays to feed a growing assembly of folks from the downtown area. In those early years, there were usually 10 to 15 men to serve. Today, we serve between 40 and 60 people every week. We prepare 114 sausage biscuits, a 20-quart pot of grits, 2 gallons of coffee, and 5 gallons of Gatorade. We also hand out 40 packs of Lance crackers (Nekot is the favorite), and 48 assorted pastries. Folks look forward to this “break-feast” every week. We do, too. We have found that it is a great opportunity to meet new friends and share life together.
We also host a meeting every Thursday night with a core group of these folks at a rotation of local fast-food restaurants. This is an evening of table fellowship, fun, prayer, and light sharing among friends.


While half of my FB friends were posting about how Obama was terrible and Trump will be so much better, and the other half were posting how Trump is a disaster and Obama was so much better, HECK, while most of us were watching the NFC Championship game, this happened just 12 miles from my home. In the last three weeks, our city has been dealt a crippling one-two punch. On January 2nd, in the middle of the night - the right cross: Severe thunderstorms and 90-mile per hour straight line winds out of the west toppled thousands of mature pines and oak trees in a mile-ish wide path, damaging close to a thousand homes and businesses and crushing vehicles. Streets were closed, many were without power for weeks. The debris from that storm is being stacked on ball fields and, I suspect the clean up will take most of 2017. After the initial shock, everyone was so relieved that, despite this horrendous damage that denuded so many neighborhoods and parks, only one death was attributed to the storm. January 20th, mid-afternoon - the upper cut: Somewhere down below Albany, in the area famous for quail hunts, a tornado was spawned. This beastly cyclone made it's way across fields, forests, and ponds, quickly reaching southeast Albany and Putney - populated areas. The video shows some of this destruction. At least eleven lives lost, homes destroyed, trucks tossed around like toys, whole pecan orchards leveled. Entire neighborhoods and businesses changed forever. I know these people. They survived another one-two punch: the floods of 1994 and 1998. They will rebuild - Albany will be beautiful again. For now, however, please pray for the people of Albany and Southwest Georgia - for peace, for strength, and mostly for an outpouring of Agape' love, neighbor-to-neighbor as the recovery begins.


In the wake of the Albany straight line wind/tornado event on Monday night, we are now starting to see the suffering that no power and very little food brings. While I am very thankful for the efforts of so many to clear roads and cut up fallen trees, the folks we minister to are about to experience winter weather (mid-20's) with no electricity and very little food. The Salvation Army is without power and so there is no relief there. The Rescue Mission is operating on generator power and is down to providing MRE's. I'm pretty sure that power is out at The Lord's Pantry as well. I am making an appeal to all Albanians not crippled by the storm: we need blankets and food to distribute to those who don't have a house to remove a tree from or a driveway to clear to allow them to come and go. If you are not able to help, please pray!


Noticing and Understanding. These are the first two steps that wrecked (and rocked) my comfortable evangelical world. Did I notice something, or did someone point it out to me? That is a discussion for another time. All I know is that one day, I was minding my own busi-ness and everything seemed to "fit" in my world. For some reason, the next day, I noticed someone on the street - someone I had doubtless passed a hundred times or more - and something stirred in me. WARNING: It is as impossible to un-see (once you've noticed) as it is to get toothpaste back into the tube. Over the years, it has become an increasing revelation of the splendor of humans, especially humans in crisis, that drives me on. To see caring and love in the midst of pure survivalism is the closest thing to divine that can be witnessed - and now that I've noticed, I see it everywhere and all the time! Which brings us to understanding. We have a friend who has issues (who doesn't?). But her issues are slightly more intense than most. Let's call her Lilly. She was born with a learning disability, back before "retard" was retired as a descriptor. Her parents were not equipped to handle her condition so they mostly medicated her through school.They cared, but they didn't really know how to deal with her, and then they died. They left her brother in charge of her care, but he didn't care and she was abandoned. Lilly wound up on the streets and was taken in by a homeless man who abused her - for a long time. She finally got free of that relationship and got some government help. SSI provides her with $700 a month. She has severe health issues, many stemming from that abusive relationship (don't ask her - she'll tell you way more than you want to hear!) and she lives in a group home with several men that costs over $500 of that monthly check. I share all of this to explain that she is not the easiest person to get to know. Lilly is always loud, but usually somewhat incoherent. It is a monumental task to keep her "redirected" and away from talking about her past (too vividly, I might add). My dear friend, Denise, has taken her under her wing and cared for her, listening to her rants, and understanding her better than anyone else. She takes Lilly out on a shopping trip once a month. Lilly is meticulous with her money. When they go shopping, she already knows what she wants and how much it will cost. They go to Golden Corral for lunch because that's her favorite restaurant. She has a storage unit (?!?!?! - go figure!) that she keeps her purchases in for a time when she has her own place. From what I've been told, all of this stuff is neatly organized in plastic totes. We have a dream. We want to see Lilly in her own place, with her own kitchen, her own bathroom, and her own furniture. It's really a small thing - and just one of a hundred stories I could tell - but it was told so that others could notice and begin to understand. Just remember the warning label: You cannot un-see, once you've noticed!


Thank you to all who participated in our YETI Cooler Raffle fundraiser! We cleared almost $900 to help with the Christmas lunch and gift bags for the homeless. The drawing was held after church today (Dec 4). Sharon Styles had the winning ticket for the Tundra 45 cooler and Mary Gilchrist's name was drawn for the large YETI tumbler. Thank you all for your support of Urban Missions! - Buck


I cannot fully explain the factors that have kept me from sending out an update in such a long time. Please understand that I do feel a responsibility to share our ongoing activities, particularly, to those of you who support our mission prayerfully and financially. My apologies for the delay. As you may have noticed from earlier newsletters, we have been experiencing an increasing degree of frustration and uncertainty regarding the welfare of our friends. While the richness of our fellowship has been growing, there has also been a growing awareness of the impotence (I am being kind) of civil organizations and churches to make any sort of dent in the misery index of the homeless. It is almost as if they don’t care. I know that certainly can’t be true, but from street level, you often get that feeling. I think that people just get overwhelmed by the size of the task and become callous and jaded regarding the plight of folks they encounter every day. Actually, I know that this is true. How? Because we have experienced it ourselves.
For the last few years, we have been seeing these worn out attitudes and actions in our community and asking ourselves the tough question “how are we any different?” Many times, the answer has not been very flattering or acceptable to us. We were not, after all, that much different. So we dove in deeper to establish real friendships and to listen much more than we talked. We also examined our faith approach to this ministry: is the Way we are sharing “good news” to those who hear? Is our Jesus really the holistic answer to people without hope? People living in oppressive environments? People dealing with addictions that, in many ways, are simply self-medications of inner longings for acceptance and meaning? Repeatedly, we were forced to admit that the Roman road, the ABC’s of salvation, the four spiritual laws, and many other “methods” fell flat in being “good news to the poor”. We began to read books and wrestle with our theology and the foundations of what a Jesus-shaped ministry to the poor would look like. I could say that we were changed (it does seem that we are light years from where we began), but seeing the arc of where we are going, it may be more appropriate to simply say that “we are being changed”.
As we are learning to look at all things through a Jesus-shaped lens, we are seeing small victories every week. Of course there are still challenges and downright defeats, but the shared biscuit, the encouraging word, the halting prayers of folks untrained in public speaking all reverberate with deeper meaning. There is a spark of resurrection life in the relationships we all share. The dreams we are now having for the future continue to expand and startle us. I used to try to keep a lid on these expectations – I have now thrown the lid away.
This year, we have encouraged several of our friends as they entered into drug rehab programs. We have helped some get into better housing situations. I am happy to report that a few have managed to find steady employment. We have also started a Thursday night meeting that is attended by a good mix of Christian Covenant folks and some from our Urban Missions group. This gathering, where we serve dinner and Krispy Kreme donuts, has become a wonderful time of sharing, book study, and prayer with a lively “afterglow” time afterward.
Healthcare continues to be a big problem. The Affordable Care Act seems to not work as well for homeless people as the old indigent care policies did. We see more and more people given band-aids and pain killers for serious conditions than ever before. Please pray for our friends as they face this obstacle.
In closing, let me offer you a glimpse of what we are discovering. The biggest problem that homeless people have is the same problem that you and I have. We struggle to live in the only place where we can experience Father – the present. We spend most of our time lamenting the past or worrying about the future. This preoccupation completely crowds out the “now”. But the present is the place where everything is happening. I suspect that Jesus’ disciples were no different which is probably why he exhorted them to “take no thought for tomorrow – each day has enough trouble of its own.” Living in the past or in the future paralyzes us to act in the present. It also keeps us from appreciating exactly what is happening right now. This simple principle has revolutionized our approach. This is how we are able to recognize and rejoice in those small victories that I mentioned earlier. This is also how we can all be prepared for encounters – in the present – that will yield great fruit in our lives both now, and in the future. This is where the fruit of the Spirit is born and where joy and peace in believing lives.
As we pursue this mission, we invite you to partner with us in prayer and support, to continue to represent the Love of God among our friends. May you be richly blessed this Christmas season!
Buck Malphrus



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