Seeking to help others leads northside couple to marriage and starting redeemer 54.
From Izmir to Jackson, two Northsiders have made it their mission to bring help and hope to all they encounter.
Lee and Meredith Curtis both grew up in the Jackson metro, but it was their heart for mission work abroad that brought them together.
Meredith went on her first mission trip to Istanbul, Turkey, in 2010.
“It was life-changing,” she said. “I fell in love with the people, the culture, the work.”
While in Turkey, she would spend her time building relationships with locals and looking for ways to start conversations or speak with people while out at the market and shopping, among other things.
At that time, she was partnering with We Will Go ministries.
“I started volunteering regularly and applied to be a missionary with We Will Go,” she said.
In December 2010, she moved into one of the We Will Go houses in downtown Jackson and lived there for three years.
“They supported me from the very beginning,” she said. During that time, she did a lot of training and attended the Harvest School of Missions for three months in Africa.
Meredith also made several trips as a missionary to the Middle East, followed by a trip to Turkey with the leaders of We Will Go ministry David and Amy Lancaster for a scouting trip in Izmir, Turkey in 2012.
In September 2013, she made the move to Turkey just a few months after she first met her now husband, Lee. While she was in Turkey, he attended the same mission school she went to in Africa.
When he returned, he spent time working with We Will Go in Jackson. The couple later married in January of 2015 and moved to Turkey together shortly after the wedding to continue their work as missionaries.
Months after they made Turkey their home, the war in Syria began heating up and there was a large influx of Syrian refugees into Turkey in August of 2015.
“It seemed like overnight, we went from not really seeing a lot of refugees, to every major intersection seeing several fully-covered women holding babies standing on the corner begging,” she said. “They were refugees that had come from the Syrian War to Izmir.”
They began searching for ways to help out the refugees, including taking their van and delivering lunch bags filled with tomato and cheese sandwiches and chips.
“We just drove around and handed out these sack lunches,” she said. “After that, we started making rice and beans and took out plates of hot meals.”
Around this time, she found out she was pregnant with their son, Isaac. She began staying home more often reaching out to people who were volunteering with refugees to find more ways to get involved.
“Those emails turned into some connections with other missionaries who were going into the refugee camps right outside the city,” Meredith said. “We started going every week with them to pass out bundles of food.”
Because of the ongoing media coverage from the U.S. and Canada of the refugee crisis, the missionaries had extra funds they were able to offer the Curtis’ for their ministry.
“We felt like we needed a building or a place where we could have more crowd control,” she said.
That’s when they partnered with a church to lease a three-story building for their center.
At the center, they hosted refugees for tea and snacks and gave out gift cards to the local grocery store, school supplies, baby supplies and clothes. The center alternated the types of donations depending on the season and what was needed.
Their son Isaac was born in Turkey and when he was five months old, they brought him back to America to meet family members and spend three months visiting.
“When we arrived back in America, the American pastor we were working with in Turkey was arrested and put in prison,” she said. “He was in prison for two years. He was charged as a terrorist and was eventually convicted but given time served.”
The couple was still determined to go back to Turkey after their three-month visit. However, one week before they were set to return, they found out they were awarded custody of Lee’s 16-year-old daughter Ansley, Meredith’s stepdaughter in 2017.
They could not take her out of the country and Meredith was pregnant with their third child, Pippa, so they realized they would continue their mission work in Jackson.
“In Turkey, we had this huge ministry work going,” Meredith said. “We were working with refugees from the Syrian War. We had a refugee outreach center in the city of Izmir where we were serving about 300 families.”
Now, they are living in a home down the street from where her grandparents lived on Robinhood. They have made their hometown their mission field, looking daily for ways to minister to and help out their community.
“The Lord gave us a heart for moving here,” she said.
Since being back in the U.S., they have started a 501(c)3 non-profit ministry called Redeemer 54.
“We use the money for ministry here in our neighborhood, like buying school supplies or uniforms for the kids that play in our yard or helping a neighbor when a tree falls on their house,” Meredith said. “We also have been able to send money to our team that is still in Turkey ministering to the refugees. The news media has moved on from the refugee crisis, but the situation has actually gotten worse over the last three years.”