Never during her lifelong struggle with drugs and alcohol has Kristen Kilbey found herself homeless or on the streets pleading for strangers to help feed her addictions.
"Well, I was never homeless but floated around while I was on drugs," she said. "I did try to buy drugs from people I did not know on the streets."
Lately, Kilbey, 60, has again found herself hitting the streets with a different purpose: pleading for people to give their lives to Christ.
"What's in my heart is for people to be convicted … for them to ask Jesus to come into their lives; for people to get closer to him or be saved; and for their eyes to be opened," said Kilbey, founder of Spirit Up Ministry in Walker and a member of Live Oak Church in Denham Springs.
Kilbey started Spirit Up Ministry about 14 months ago. The organization comprises volunteers from various churches who visit street corners to distribute Bibles, pray and share Christ.
"We are in the end times," she said. "Jesus is coming soon, and I pray to make a difference to help lead people to the Lord. I pray for people to open their eyes and come to the realization that when you die, you're either going to heaven or hell. And hell is real. I pray for lost souls to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior."
The group recently handed out nearly 400 Bibles at the corner of South Sherwood Forest and Florida boulevards in Baton Rouge. Kilbey said it was the group's second time at that location.
"We love it there because there's homeless that we've been able to pray with," she said. "We got to pray with at least seven people. I love to be around the homeless. I love to pray with people."
As the opportunity arises, one key Scripture that Kilbey likes to share is Matthew 7:23: "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
"I pray that no one hears those words from Jesus. They don't have to," she said.
Three years ago, Kilbey decided she didn't want to hear those words either. She said it all started with a third DUI arrest — this time for driving under the influence of meth. It was during her time in rehab that Kilbey said she gave her life to Christ.
"The devil had a hold of my life, so I asked Jesus Christ to come into my life," Kilbey said through tears. "I believed in God, but I never knew how to ask Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior and come into my life."
Kilbey said she'd quite possibly be dead if Jesus hadn't come into her life, a testimony she shares on the streets.
"Jesus is the only way to heaven. He's a healer. He can heal us from anything," she said.
Among the first witnesses to Kilbey's changed life have been her three daughters, mother, siblings and cousins.
"They know it's a miracle," she said. "And they see what Jesus Christ did for me and can do for everyone."
Kilbey said she thought one of the most effective ways to reach people for Christ would be by giving out Bibles on the streets. Kilbey, a Denver native who has worked as a waitress most of her life, used a pandemic stimulus check to purchase a load of Bibles for her first Spirit Up Ministry outreach.
"It's so amazing that we are still free to be able to pass out Bibles and to still read our Bibles, and I'll staying on the corners as long as I can," she said.
To donate to Spirit Up Ministry, volunteer or for other information, call (225) 400-7062 or visit them on Facebook at facebook.com/groups/173199491403948 or facebook.com/Kristenmariekilbey.