The former leader of two major city missions will now serve Statesboro's Open Hearts Community Mission as its executive director, Delia Mobley, chairman of the board of the Statesboro mission, announced Tuesday.
The Rev. Jim Lewis is the former executive director of the Old Savannah City Mission and before that was executive director of the Los Angeles Mission, she said. He accepted the position in Statesboro on Monday.
"We were so excited, I could hardly sleep last night," Mobley said. "To have someone of his ability to lead us into the next chapter — we never expected that."
The new facility that will house Open Hearts Community Mission's homeless shelter is currently under construction on Martin Luther King Drive, but the mission has been helping Statesboro's homeless for several years.
"We are blessed to have someone of Jim Lewis's qualifications as executive director of Open Hearts Community Mission," she said. "He is highly experienced and has directed other similar facilities in the past. His leadership skills are proven, and his integrity is beyond question. If you give Jim a few minutes of your time, you quickly find that he is driven by deep passion to serve God and others."
According to Savannahnow.com, Lewis and his wife retired to the Statesboro area four years ago, having served the Old Savannah City Mission from September 2003 to August 2011. There, he had dreams of a new homeless shelter for women and children, but the mission board didn't agree to funding the project, according to the site.
He and his wife moved to the area because of a family friend who lives here and because they like the city, Lewis said Tuesday.
"I'm excited about this. I feel like a turtle on a fence post — I don't know how I got here — but it's a great chance to take in some new ground," he said.
Mobley said she and the board look forward to what Lewis will bring to the table.
"He is on board with our philosophy in that we go beyond the offerings of many homeless shelters," she said. "(Open Hearts) will not offer hand-outs, so to speak, but will offer a hand up to those who need it by assisting our participants on their roads to success."
According to information from an online fundraising newsletter, www.grizzard.com, Lewis also has served as a missionary in Costa Rica and Spain. He taught at a Bible college and a couple of Bible institutes — in English and Spanish.
Open Hearts Community Mission "is a new birthing of a mission," he told the Statesboro Herald Tuesday. "It is very intentional, with people working very hard for years now. I think God honors that diligence."
Coming to Statesboro and being offered this position brings about "a feeling of destiny," he said.
He especially appreciates how Open Hearts will not be a rehabilitation residence but a hand up for those who simply have hit a roadblock and need help getting started again.
"It's very different, a different demographic," he said. "It's for people who have fallen into hard times, who need a fresh start; those who need a runway to get another take-off in life."
Lewis said he is also impressed by the fact that Open Hearts Community Mission involves several area churches representing various denominations.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.