About Us

Who We Are

    Stephen C. Thomas, B.S., MA
    Executive Director, NLS
  Steve grew up in a physically abusive  home.  After his parents divorced, he    lived in subsidized housing for several years.  He started abusing drugs and   alcohol at 15 and continued to use until age 37.  God intervened and the   meth addict gave his life to Jesus.  Immediately God healed his craving for   drugs and he has now been clean for over 20 years.  When he eventually attended church, he met an elderly man that not only knew him, but had been praying for him. One life changed by another's faith!

Steve realized that God had saved him for a purpose.  He completed Liberty University master’s degree counseling program to help others just as he had been helped.  To strengthen his training, he worked as a counselor in a school program for troubled youth, and then in a psychiatric hospital working with the severely mentally ill.  After graduation, as he worked toward licensure, he realized that God was connecting him with people who were dealing with many of the same issues God had brought him through.  He realized that the God-given empathy, shared experiences, and the love of God had led him to equip churches to use their God given gifts, skills and resources to impact the lives of “the least of these”. 

 “I know that God makes no mistakes and I know that God sent those people to me for such a time as that. Over the past 9 years I've been blessed with meeting many hurting people who have come to know Christ and who have received healing. I've also come to know many pastors and fellow Christians who have a burning desire to help the least of these in our community. Recently I had the privilege of being a campus advisor at a church that ministers to homeless and mentally ill. I now find myself in a position to use my education, personal history, and experience to do even more! I feel that I must step forward and proclaim that the body of Christ and not the government are who can truly do the work in the lives of the mentally ill, the hurting and the least of these in our community.” – Steve Thomas

  Rev. Rick Painter, BA, MDiv., QMHP
   Pastoral Director, NLS
​  Rick began his ministry after coming to   Jesus as a high school student.  He   volunteered with a group of residents from   Virginia Baptist Children’s Home   in Salem   (now called HopeTree).  That first step would   set a pattern for   much of his vocational church ministry and equip him to address a wide     range of spiritual, physical, emotional, mental, and social issues.   After   several years in vocational ministry as a Minister of Education and Youth, Pastor, Assist leader, Church Planting missionary, and Worship Leader, God redirected Rick into other employment and experiences.  He worked in the non-profit field, first in geriatric services and later with "at risk" children and teens for several years before becoming a Mental Health Support Specialist.  He was also a professional tutor, working with children through adults on everything from basic skills, to college level, to SAT, ACT, GED, and GRE.    

Rick has worked with Medicaid recipients for over 6 years, helping them obtain and maintain independent lives.   During that time, it became increasingly apparent that the government system was more a trap than a help.  It teaches dependency and in some ways punishes success.  He also found that many churches care for the poor and provide amazing resources, but within the same "handout" strategy instead of real solutions.  There is a critical need for the "hand up, not a hand out" approach to empowering low income families.  What they need is a fully functional Body of Christ loving and working with them until they can stand on their own.