What started out as a chance encounter in the early spring of 1987 became the catalyst for a Christian ministry called The Gathering Place.
While doing a hospital visit in April of 1987 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Bob and Melanie Lewis met a young man named “Al”. All they knew of Al was that he had been attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings and that he had been hospitalized with a respiratory problem. As they visited Al, they learned his problem was a strange type of pneumonia called Pnuemocystic Carinii Pneumonia (PCP). They found out days later that PCP was what many people being diagnosed with this new disease called AIDS were dying from. And yes, Al was dying as well. At that time, there were no effective medications. At the same time God was connecting hearts. The Lewis’s became friends with Al and adopted him into their family. Having Al at their dinner table or sitting around the Christmas tree with their three early teenage children became common occurrences. Within the next 8 months, Al also introduced Bob & Melanie to twelve other people he knew who were HIV infected, including Al’s sister.
So, the journey continued…
Shortly, both Bob & Melanie left their traditional full-time jobs to focus on building The Gathering Place ministry. By 1994, TGP had moved into an 8,000+ sq. ft. building on Pershing Avenue, in Lancaster City. The new facility helped meet the rapidly growing needs of the more than 100 clients they were serving.
Currently, they have more than 200 clients in addition to their families. The Pershing Avenue headquarters includes offices for full-time staff, a fully equipped food bank, counseling rooms, a volunteer work room, the thrift store, and a warehouse to store donated furniture and food bank stock. The building also allows TGP to assist new ministries getting started. It has become a light on a hill for our community and another example of God’s faithful provision.
The Price is Right Thrift Shop is a great place to buy quality clothing, accessories and things for your home at affordable prices. At the same time your dollars will make a difference in the lives of children and adults who are in great need.
In the fall of 2007, Bob and Melanie were asked by Living Springs Faith Ministries to go to Muizenberg, South Africa to discuss their ministry and to train a group of South Africans how to minister to those with HIV/AIDS in their region.
In January 2008, Bob traveled to South Africa to establish the trained staff and commission them to begin the work. This new work was called “Ehmlangenweni”, which means The Gathering Place in the Xhose language.
In September 2008, Bob & Melanie took a team of 7 to South Africa to provide additional training for the SA team who had been commissioned. The training consisted of: visitation in 3 informal townships, work in an orphanage, assessment of maternal healthcare, outreach to children from 3 informal townships, and evaluation of ongoing needs.