for the least of these
Jeanie Leeper founded a ministry to help those who fall through
the cracks of society's safety nets
After years of frustration
and anger over watching people in her care fall through the cracks, Jeanie
Leeper finally decided to do something. Its a decision that changed
the course of her life.
Leeper decided to do something about the plight of many rural elderly
and poor in Morgan County by creating Matthew 25 Ministries.
A registered nurse, Jeanie
worked for years on the front lines of health care and watched as changes
in Medicare and Medicaid hurt many of her patients, the rural elderly
and the poor living around Versailles and the Lake of the Ozarks. In 1999
she took her frustrations to her local United Methodist Church pastor.
would just go in and vent and ask if there was anything the church could
do to help, Jeanie says. We believe that the church goes beyond
the four walls and that the church should help people that are not members
of our church but are members of our community.
The pastor suggested that perhaps
Jeanie could do something about the problem herself, with the help
of the church. The suggestion completely surprised her.
But I think God was speaking
to me that day. Hey, I trained you as a nurse. Ive given you
the knowledge and Ive given you the passion for this. Maybe this
is what you should be doing. I had never once considered it before
Jeanie applied to work as a
missionary for the Church and Community Ministries of the Methodist Church,
a program that brings help to people close to home. Jeanie quit her job
as a home health and hospice nurse and founded Matthew 25 Ministries.
Jeanie takes verse 40 from
that chapter of the Bible as spiritual inspiration for her work, .
. . I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these
brothers of mine, you did for me, Jesus is quoted as saying.
Were directed to
help the poor and the oppressed, says Jeanie. And there are
people in Morgan County who may not be oppressed by wars or dictators,
but they are oppressed by society and poverty. Those are the people
shes trying to help, she says.
Jeanie began Matthew 25 Ministries
as a health care outreach for anyone in Morgan County who fell through
the cracks of the health care system. She works with the chronically ill
and the poor and not-so-poor who still cannot afford health insurance
or cant qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. Jeanie says many of the
people she works with are hard working but cant escape their situations.
Jeanie says these people are forgotten.
We have families with
six and eight kids living on $11,000 a year. They may not have the best
car in the world and the kids may not have the best clothes, but some
of these people have enough dignity and enough honesty within themselves
that theyre going to survive, says Jeanie.
"And theyre not
the people that hit on the welfare system. They work. Its tough,
but theyve done it for so long that they know no other way. And
some are very happy because they have their dignity and their independence.
Theyre very strong people.
Soon Jeanie expanded her work
beyond nursing services to help people obtain medication and medical equipment,
provide transportation to the elderly and temporarily relieve people caring
for chronically ill homebound patients. Now Matthew 25 Ministries is joining
forces with local doctors and nurses in the Versailles area to offer a
free medical clinic.
Jeanie also began a program
to help people released from the Morgan County jail. She started the program
to help those like the young man she helped this winter.
The man, originally from Versailles,
was arrested in Arizona for failing to pay child support. He was brought
back to Missouri in January wearing shorts and a T-shirt and then released
a few weeks later. He walked out the door without so much as a jacket
to wear and no way to get back to Arizona.
Matthew 25 Ministries gave
him warm clothes, put him up in a hotel for a few days and put him on
a bus home.
He walked out of the jail with nothing and no one to help him,
says Jeanie. Many of us dont realize there are people out
there like this who have real needs.
Jeanie works with a dedicated
group of volunteers representing all the churches of Versailles. But,
she says, she can always use more help. And though her salary is paid
by the United Methodist Church, all other costs associated with the ministry
come from donations. The ministry doesnt charge for any services,
though donations are accepted from those able to pay something.
Jeanie says she is able to
help care for people as a nurse far better now than she could when she
once worked for the old Memorial Hospital in Jefferson City. She says
shes able to help the whole person rather than just the physical.
When a nurse walks into
a hospital room patients dont really welcome you, says Jeanie,
who worked with intensive care patients. Youre usually bringing
them a shot or youre changing their IV or youre doing something
that causes them to lose their dignity and independence. But when you
go into someones home you become a friend and you get to know someone
and whats going on in their lives. Because youre treating
the whole person the mental, emotional, spiritual and physical
youre helping them get well in every aspect of their lives.
Jeanies message in her
ministry is to not forget those around us who struggle every day with
illness, poverty and isolation. She reminds us that there are people in
every community who have fallen through the cracks of societys safety
net. And when that happens, caring people need to step in and help any
way they can.
For information about Matthew
25 Ministries call Jeanie at (573) 378-5211 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeanie can also be reached at the Versailles United Methodist Church at