Together for Hope Impact
From Chris Ellis, minister of missions at 2nd Baptist Little Rock, Ark.:
When folks think about mission they often think about transformation. Over the past 15 years or so, Second Baptist in Little Rock has undoubtedly witnessed transformation in Helena, Arkansas. We’ve witnessed it with churches being built, gardens being planted, and children learning how to read. But, some of the most unexpected areas of transformation have occurred not in Helena, but within our own church community. As a result of our partnership and ministry there, we read the newspaper and listen to the radio more closely for stories that impact our friends in Helena, because we genuinely care and root for their success. We’ve learned how the South’s ugly history of racism has played itself out in one small town community, and realized that Helena’s story is the story of many. We’ve been challenged by the perseverance and faithfulness of those who have invested their lives to live and work there. We’re inspired by the young children who grow up as participants in the ministries of Together for Hope, but have become leaders and are giving back to inspire the next generation of children. Yes, we’ve seen transformation in Helena, but transformation isn’t easily controlled or contained, and our church community is especially grateful for that.
From Linda Jones, missions coordinator, CBF of North Carolina:
Together for Hope has changed the culture of many of our CBFNC churches. The churches have formed deep ministry connections with many Together for Hope sites across the US and in our own North Carolina. This has enriched the life of the local church as they experienced God working in different cultures.
Strong relationships have been formed with the “field personnel,” local leaders, and with the local people. Year after year, returning mission teams are excited to see their friends from the previous year. Connection to the mission & vision of that endeavor teaches them and spiritually forms them as they do ministry together, side by side. Seeing God is at work builds faith for all involved.
Entering into another culture has helped them understand the assets that they bring to the table; the assets of the local community and the assets of the visiting team. Doing ministry together brings joy, encouragement, and motivation for ministry in their own community at home. They are able to view their own community with new eyes.
In all our churches involved with Together for Hope, the mission team returned with an excitement about God’s work in the world and their place of ministry in that world! When this happens again and again, the whole church is infused with a new commitment to love and ministry.
From Lane Riley, executive director, Delta Hands for Hope, Shaw, Miss.:
When Delta Hands for Hope had our first summer camp in 2014, we had about 25 children signed up. It was a manageable number of children for myself, and the small number of volunteers I had recruited. In 2015, while expecting the same of number of children and having recruited the same small number of volunteers, I was surprised to notice that on the first day of camp, we had 80 students arrive, 3 times the number of kids I had expected! I had to find additional volunteers fast! I asked the only high school student I had to bring some friends the next day to volunteer. That day, I had 6 additional high school volunteers that were willing to give up part of their summer to help lead summer camp activities for the elementary students in our town. These 6 youth were the beginning of our high school leadership team, a program they decided they wanted to have to increase their leadership capabilities. These original 6 students still participate in DHH programs, and now the program has more than doubled to 15 students. This group, that started because I needed additional help volunteered 1,500 hours last year. They have organized clean-up days, helped renovate our building, and painted at local churches. We went on our first mission trip last year, where we volunteered with 4 different agencies in Dallas ,TX, and we’re looking forward to our summer mission trip this year when we travel to Greenwood, SC. Not only are these students actively seeking opportunities to improve their community, they are asking to learn by volunteering in other communities.
From Heather Mustain, minister of missions, Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas:
Over a decade ago, under the mission leadership of Dr. Jason Coker, Wilshire traveled to the Mississippi Delta to participate in a town hall meeting that would eventually birth a non-profit, Delta Hands for Hope, whose mission would become to strengthen and enhance the lives of school-aged children through the areas of education, spiritual development, health and recreation. (Please feel free to correct any of this). Wilshire entered into an official partnership with the ministry in 2015 when we sent our first spring break mission team. Our teams continue to be received by the Shaw community twice yearly and we were grateful to be able to receive DHH’s youth leadership team to Dallas this past summer. The budding relationships that have grown into full fledged friendships have changed our congregation’s participation in God's mission. Instead of seeing mission as “doing” for others, we understand the power of presence and “being” as a result of our gracious hosts. And when we understand mission through the lens of friendships the assumptions we carry of people and places are often rearranged. These rearranged assumptions have challenged us to ask deeper and often harder questions about the root causes of poverty and the ways in which God may be calling us to participate in God’s greater work in the world.