In their determined quest to heal the spiritually ill, Yesha Ministries operates as a church focused on reaching people at the lowest point in their lives.
The ministry began in 1998 as a small group of devotees who got together and held a service at a school, then a hotel, until they purchased their current garage that became a church. One of their specialties is healing drug addicts and alcoholics with Jesus, then equipping those converts to reach out and save someone else so that the circle of salvation continues.
“Yesha comes from a Hebrew word meaning salvation,” said Bishop James Darrell Robinson, founder and senior pastor of Yesha. “We are a Christian church and we believe the church should affect the community and infect the community.”
Yesha operates a 63-bed recovery home for drug addicts and connects patients to the church. They also contacted two other recovery houses – Divine Light and Everything Must Change – to pick up their clients and bring them to Sunday service.
“It’s to give them an outlet. They can’t just be in a program. The programs have proven to be ineffective if you just live there,” Robinson said. “We do it to help them. This is our mission, number one. Second, we want to reduce recidivism, inflows and outflows. We want them to literally recover, we don’t want them to be recovering. We want them to recover so they can help others recover.
On the second Sunday — the Sunday the Tribune visited, dozens of patrons — black and white, men and women — from rest homes attended the morning service. Some were reserved and quiet. Some of them filmed the singing of the choir and others participated in other ways.
“I feel the spirit of the Lord. I love the singing and the pastor is honest about what’s going on today,” said Yvonne Hall, who attended Yesha “on and off for about two years.” She is one of those who connected to the church through the house of recovery. “After I’m gone, I feel more at peace in my mind,” she added, noting that the message that resonates most with her about going to church is that “God can deliver anyone of anything”.
Donald Fine, also a client of one of the salvage homes, said Yesha was completely “God-based.” It motivates me to move forward, to put aside the past and live in the future.
Other Yesha ministries include intercessory prayer, mime, missions, and a food bank that distributes food regularly throughout the week, including Sundays, when they primarily serve clients at recovery homes. .
To have a constant impact on more and more people on a spiritual level, Yesha trains its members to become disciples. One of their actively involved ministries connects new and current members of the congregation. In the relationship, current members are responsible for helping “babies” develop “Christian morals, character, and good church etiquette.”
“When a soul is saved, we want to be brothers and sisters to help it grow. So we make sure to call them, text them, and let them know we love them,” said Darryl Simmons, youth ministry president and seven-year Yesha member.
More than a ministry, it also seems to be the culture of the church. During the second Sunday worship service, one of the recovering clients had a meditative spiritual moment for about 30 minutes or more, during which one of the members held him for about 10 minutes. Then, still after the end of the service, Simmons and another gentleman embraced him even longer.
“He was going through family issues and it was basically God solving something,” Simmons said. “We laid hands on him and he began to speak in tongues. It was powerful. I called up the Holy Spirit fire and he felt better and brother Daniel just started talking about life – the word of God, the scriptures in his situation.
Quaintella Asberry was another member who had hugged the gentleman earlier, after the altar call until the end of the service.
“I was hugging him and telling him God had him, I love him and he can let go,” said Asberry, a Yesha member of 16 years. “When they come here, they need to feel God’s love. Whatever mistakes they made, they need to know that people love them.
Asberry knows this idea personally. When she joined Yesha, she said she needed the same.
“One of my neighbors was an evangelist and she kept monitoring my lifestyle. She saw me with some men and said, “I want you to go to church with me. I joined on day one,” recalls Asberry. “Then I left for a while and came back. I had to go for treatment because sometimes the spirits in a church are judgmental. [But] Yesha is my heart, [Robinson] is my bishop and [Yesha] is my family. As a family, we sometimes go through this, but at the end of the day, this is my family.
Harry Stevens joined Yesha in January 2012. He remembers being accepted despite his condition.
“I was in an alcohol and drug addiction program and I came here. That’s how I was introduced to the church,” he said. “I’m no longer in the program but I kept coming. People made me feel at home from the start. They didn’t judge me even though I came from the program. Stevens joined the second time he visited Yesha. That Sunday, he says he experienced a breakthrough.
“The second week I came, I felt it in my mind, my soul. It was service. The whole service was filled with praise and worship. No actual sermon took place. Bishop didn’t even speak. I loved it because I was right in the middle of it. For this reason, Stevens described Yesha as a spiritually free place of worship. “They don’t put a limit on how you worship God,” he said. “Some people are screaming. Some people are running around and it makes me feel like home.
The worship service at Yesha is intense. A praise and worship team that includes first lady Elaine Robinson, was made up of five people but resembled a mass choir of 100 people. They were accompanied by worship dancers who walked up and down the church aisle twirling ribbons.
The choir was sonically equally effective – harmonious, clear, focused and earnest in its delivery, infusing the service with a palpable excitement that at several points led to a long stretch of praise, dancing and shouting.
“What we do is ministry. It’s not so much how you sound or what you sing [but] it’s about who you sing. [We] sing for God,” said Tiffany Robinson-Sandridge, choir director and daughter of Bishop Robinson. “Even when we are in rehearsal, we sing with so much passion. At the end of the day, you want God to be happy because if he isn’t, it’s not ministry.
If there was any question as to why the worship session lasted so long, a minister who conducted the service clarified, “The service is subject to change according to the mood of the Holy Spirit,” said- he told the congregation.
After this portion of the service, Bishop Robinson delivered a St. John-based sermon and focused on “work” and emphasized the importance of service.
“God really wants us to do more than a religious experience,” he said. “We were programmed to judge people [condition] … but God wants to work from us. We have to stop judging. The real work is when we leave here.
Then, to clear things up, he said, “We need to work because our men need to know how to be men and protect their families,” and for “drug-infested communities.” He concluded by stating, “I have to work. I have to do something about my condition. If I stay here, I will die. If I stay here, I will not succeed.
Another element that members say is the hallmark of Yesha is the precision and direct preaching of Bishop Robinson.
“The word I heard was full of power and authority,” Simmons said of his first visit to the church. “There is nothing added or taken away. It was the plain truth. It was not about prosperity or getting rich, but about prosperity in the sense of getting closer to God.
Stevens accepted. “Yesha blesses my spirit…listening to the Word through Bishop,” he said. “[Bishop] puts you in a place where you need to be, to be connected.
Robinson said his vision is to continue to grow Yesha in the direction of impactful ministry.
“We are current. [And] we are relevant,” Robinson said. “And I say this because unfortunately I believe the church has lost its relevance and if you lose your relevance you become a relic – a relic is good [for] historical value, but when you’re a relic and irrelevant, you can’t help the people around you.