Mina Paille, the uncompromising founder of Love & Care Youth Center and Church in St. Louis, has passed away. Charisma magazine highlighted her ministry in 2004, when she was 82 years old. The following is the story we originally printed in the magazine titled, "She Won't Quit Giving."
The ministry has always been supported by private donations alone, and Paille recalls story after story of God's just-in-time intervention. For the last 20 years, she says, Bible teacher Joyce Meyer has supported her work.
"She stops by the church every now and then," Paille says. "She knows what I'm doing here."
Indeed, Meyer sees the work of God in action at Paille's humble facility. "The Bible tells us that when we do good to a child it is the same as doing good for God," the worldwide evangelist has said. "This has been Mina's life."
When she first eyed her current building, she said an official at one bank told her he couldn't finance it. After Paille prayed, the man told her he could and would give her 14 years to pay off the loan. Thankful, Paille kept on praying. Within two years, the 14-year loan had been paid in full.
Paille enjoys sharing her own testimonies in hopes of liberating others. "I didn't know love until I met God," she often relates to the congregation. "My God healed me of scoliosis, migraines, gall bladder problems and fear. There is nothing impossible with God."
People typically hear about her center by word of mouth.
That's how Kenny Bernard, 41, of St. Louis had heard of it. A few months ago, he made his home wherever he could, including bus stops, abandoned cars and park benches. His brother had stopped by the center to pick up some food and told him about the center in the process.
"She's really helping me to clean myself up," says Bernard, smiling though somewhat embarrassed. "I'm finally getting myself together. They helped me to get a new apartment, everything."
Bernard now serves as one of the center's volunteers. In fact, many of the volunteers are those who have been helped by its program. Others belong to churches throughout the community.
Among the dutiful team are Paille's three adult children, Martina Gray and twins Yves and Michel Paille. They help out with everything from service details to transportation. Paille's husband died of cancer in 1979, two years before she opened her first center.
The people who frequent the center have a keen fondness for Paille, and it shows. Adults call her up once they have landed a job. Little kids tell her when they've lost a tooth. Helpers greet her with hugs and kisses, which is enough to add a twinkle to her eyes.
One parishioner, after receiving his weekly bag of food, returned to the center with a loaf of bread under his arm. "I have too much," he told Paille.
On Thursdays, Paille meets with local youths who are picked up at their homes and on nearby streets by center volunteers. Once back at the office, they eat a cooked snack and have a Bible study.
Paille is keenly aware that many of them grapple with grown-up issues ranging from fornication and homosexuality to abandonment, drug abuse and incest. That is why it is so important to her to reach them. Sometimes, the grandmother of six does this with goodie bags she hands out before they return home.
Nevertheless, she doesn't consider herself a hero. "I'm a Christian working for the Lord," she insists.
It's a big ministry, one that Paille feels she was meant to work for a time. And even though she knows that she has more days behind her than in front, she is not concerned about the direction of the center. She believes many of the volunteers that work with her have caught the vision and will keep it alive long after she is gone.
Always dreaming and thinking how to better serve, Paille says the only component missing right now is music. "The kids want to know how to sing," she says. "We have a piano but no one to play it."
Yet, anyone who knows her knows she is not sitting around waiting. With her undying faith, Paille has probably already prayed and rattled a few trees to make it happen.
Lisa Townsel is a reporter with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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