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Veterans may benefit from home's rebirth
Founder of ministry that started 45 years ago in King George works with volunteers on a new focus: to reach out to wounded warriors

 Betty Tyson rests at the Village of Emmaus in King George. Emmaus started in the 1960s as a refuge for people having hard times and for women just out of prison.
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Date published: 10/12/2012

By CATHY DYSON

Betty Tyson looks at peeling paint and drooping gutters, fences that have fallen down and weeds that have grown up, and knows there's a lot of work to be done at the Village of Emmaus.

But the woman who helped open the King George County home 45 years ago--to pregnant girls and homeless women who didn't have anywhere to go--also knows what happens when people have faith.

"I call it a loaves and fishes ministry," she said, referring to the story of Jesus multiplying the lunch of one boy so that it fed thousands. "We've always had just a little, and we've had it go a long way."

Tyson, her husband, Earl, and her parents, the Rev. William Howard and Nelle Benfield, started the Emmaus ministry in 1967. Betty Tyson estimated they housed thousands over the years.

Sometimes, they used the retirement check her father got from the Methodist church or the money her husband made as an evangelist to buy groceries and pay the mortgage on the home built in the 1840s.

Tyson, 78, and the only founder still alive, is relying on her faith once more to open the next chapter in Emmaus' history.

She'd like to offer the home and 65-acre property as a refuge for wounded warriors. She wants to focus on those who don't have any family support and need a place to heal.

And this time, Tyson is getting help from others. Volunteers at the Burke Community Church in Northern Virginia, who heard about her plans, have rolled up their sleeves and taken out hammers and paint rollers.

"What God has laid on her heart is exactly what we're all about," said Nace Lanier, the discipleship pastor at Burke. "We feel called to work alongside her and develop a place where veterans can get some healing, not just physically, but mentally and spiritually."

'PEOPLE WHO NEED LOVE'

Tyson's next focus--on wounded veterans--may sound drastically different from the previous ministry that helped women just out of prison or children without families.

But in reality, she believes there's not much difference.

"They're all just people who need love and a home," said Tyson, whose salt-and-pepper hair forms a long braid that runs down her back. "I have always had a heart for people in our society who are kind of forgotten."


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THE NAME: In the 24th chapter of Luke, followers of Jesus were discussing his crucifixion as they walked to a village named Emmaus. Jesus joined them, but did not reveal himself to them until they broke bread together, and his followers understood he'd been resurrected. Betty Tyson sees the same symbolism at the Village of Emmaus in King George County. "We always called this the road to a new beginning," she said. A HISTORY of the King George ministry is available at villageofemmaus.org. THOSE INTERESTED in helping with the project can contact Betty Tyson at 540/621-1258 or btyson@villageofemmaus .org.