Kay Bennett: On Mission in New Orleans

Kay Bennett grew up on an unassuming dairy farm in southern Mississippi.

With her mom working as a registered nurse and WMU director for their church and her father running a small farm, Bennett was used to emergency response.

When someone in the community fell suddenly ill, they would immediately phone her mother to describe the symptoms and, if someone’s cattle or equipment broke down, her father was called shortly after. This upbringing gave Bennett a taste for what it meant to be the first person people call when they’re in need.

After obtaining her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in counseling and working at mental health and rehabilitation centers, Bennett began to discern her calling in life, finding “a home with the homeless.” This work soon developed into what is now Bennett’s role as the executive director of the Baptist Friendship House (BFH) in New Orleans, a Send Relief ministry center and safe house for women and children experiencing exploitation and houselessness.

“If you do homeless ministry, you do human trafficking ministry,” Bennett stated. “My friends experiencing homelessness are incredibly vulnerable to being trafficked. When someone is rescued from a trafficking situation, they instantly become homeless, so if we don’t provide this service, they’re often lured right back into that industry. When people have been drugged and sold over and over again, their pimps eventually throw them away like a piece of trash, and they often end up with us. This is the fastest growing criminal industry in the world.”

With massage parlors and strip clubs down the street from her ministry center, Bennett does not have to look far for signs of trafficking. In fact, just a few weeks ago a BFH volunteer team walked into a laundromat where they discovered a girl cowering in the bathroom. After Bennett spoke with her, she confirmed that it was a trafficking situation in which the girl’s pimp had been shot by a rival trafficker right in front of her. Though she was just 18 years old, this young woman had already been trapped in sex trafficking for four years. Thankfully, Bennett was able to contact her mother and grandmother, pay for her transportation back home and connect them with a local organization to help with reintegrating back into society.

With many similar situations arising every day, Bennett combats compassion fatigue by getting outside, dedicating time to hobbies and clinging to her life verse, Isaiah 40:31, “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

When asked how fellow believers can be praying for the work of BFH, Bennett responded, “We have seen a huge uptick in people coming in for help, with the opioid crisis skyrocketing and the pandemic exacerbating addictions. You can’t walk up the street without seeing the alleys lined with syringes. Please pray for stamina and grace for my team as we work with hurting people every day—and thank you for making my ministry possible. People often don’t grasp how crucial the local church is to reaching people in need worldwide, but it starts here, and it starts with us.”

Published December 1, 2022