At 8 years old, Keisha Battle Spivey met Jesus while sitting on the bed of her grandmother Doris Powell, hiding from her family’s dysfunction and turmoil.
“I heard God tell me that I needed to choose which path,” says Spivey, 47. “He just had a conversation with me about light and darkness in a way a child could understand.”
The next Sunday, she walked down to the altar at the church her grandmother attended and told the pastor she chose light.
“The pastor explained what that meant, and that’s how my relationship with Jesus began,” she recalls.
Spivey became an ordained Assemblies of God minister in 2018, while working on staff at Church on the Rise in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. While a youth pastor in 2016, she conducted “real talk sessions” with students at local schools during lunch. That year, children in the city died in a drive-by shooting, a high school athlete killed himself, and Spivey’s own cousin committed suicide.
The traumatic events left Spivey in a dark place herself. She says God encouraged her to stop viewing the problems like overwhelming waves of an ocean. Instead, she says, the Lord her to rely on Him for daily power and to teach others from her experiences.
By faith, Spivey says, she and her husband, Eric, formed the nonprofit Ripple Effects, even though she didn’t yet know the focus of the ministry.
Three months later, while visiting a family in the community whose child had died, Spivey found 14 people sleeping in a two-bedroom mobile home. The experience shocked her.
Afterward, she says God gave her a vision for a housing program to help people find purpose. That day a local businessman responded to her email by immediately taking her to two dilapidated homes he owned — and giving her the keys.
Within nine weeks of connecting with local churches, nonprofits, construction crews, and volunteers, the first rundown property had become a furnished home with a new roof, windows, floors, and appliances. The family from the trailer moved into the new home.
Spivey says she began hosting “street church” on the second Saturday of the month in an empty lot across from the renovated house. Many of those who showed up for the unorthodox outreach didn’t feel comfortable inside a traditional church. Within nine months, 57 people had accepted Christ, with 22 baptized in an inflatable pool on a street corner.
In 2019, the Ripple Effects Empowerment Center opened. It offers counseling services, financial literacy training, shower facilities, and a kitchen. The center partners with several community nonprofits.
“Families living at hotels or in their car can come in the center, and it can be home for a day,” she says. “We have curtains and sofas, and everything is really warm with artwork. They can come in and have an oasis, even in crisis.”
The ministry now also operates six transition homes where a family can live for six to nine months. Occupants are required to work, be in school, or volunteer until work is obtained. They receive counseling from a licensed therapist, life skills training, financial literacy counseling, and other personalized assistance while dwelling in the fully furnished properties.
James D. Gailliard of Word Tabernacle Church in Rocky Mount says Ripple Effects reaches many that traditional churches often miss.
“Ripple Effects has entered into this necessary space where people know they are loved by someone,” Gailliard say. “As a result, their hearts have become sensitive to God’s love for them. Keisha gets the gospel. She approaches ministry with integration of spiritual and material awareness.”
Gailliard says Spivey’s grass-roots approach that reaches the most vulnerable in the community.
“She knows how to compassionately minister to people, while not compromising her convictions as a Christ follower,” Gailliard says.
Spivey says the COVID-19 pandemic has provided new challenges and opportunities for the ministry. Since March, Ripple Effects has been serving 150 senior citizens with weekly meat, produce, toiletries, and other necessities.
The ongoing coronavirus has stretched her faith, Spivey says, especially in trusting God for resources to meet Ripple Effects’ needs. By May, the ministry’s typical monthly income had dwindled by two-third. Nevertheless, she says God has allowed Ripple Effects to achieve as much as before with fewer donations.
“COVID pulled back the veil to show us that the Acts 2 church is still the model,” Spivey says. “Ministry is relational and if we're not touching people, if we're not being stretched, then we're not truly following in the ways of Christ and we need to change.”