The first church we attended when we moved to Waco was Church Under
the Bridge. We had volunteered with ministries to the poor in several
cities before coming to Waco but in my experience this church’s
ministry was the best I had seen.
This is a statement from their web site which says it better than
“Church Under the Bridge attempts to avoid denominational,
cultural, economic, or racial distinctions. We are a multi-cultural
church committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the unity of His
Spirit. We welcome folks from wide and diverse backgrounds to love God
the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with all their heart, soul, and mind,
and to love their neighbors as themselves. May we come together,
black, white, brown, rich and poor, educated in the streets and in the
university, all worshipping the living God, who makes us one.
Their worship was diverse from “Jesus Loves Me” (my favorite) to
contemporary Christian, to country western. You never knew if you were
going to be sitting by a business man, college student, or someone who
They did a survey while I was there, asking the question; what do
you like best about this church? I answered, “ I believe it is very
close to what Jesus wanted the church to be.”
The next question was; what did I like the least about the church?
I answered, “ I believe it is very close to what Jesus wanted the
church to be.” My spirit loved this church but sometimes my flesh
They call themselves the “Trolls” because they meet under a
bridge. This is a story from a book Jimmy Dorrell wrote, “Trolls &
Truth” about one of the members.
No one with that many problems should be so happy. At 54 years old,
this African American grandmother was still living in the projects
after all those years of dreaming of her own place. But things had
only gotten worse. For years she had experienced the three day a week
trauma of kidney dialysis to keep her failing kidneys from killing
her, but now there were signs of cancer; tests and more tests. She
was barely surviving on the small welfare check she received for
taking care of three of the grandchildren who lived with her. How
would she get them to school, feed and care for them if she was
admitted yet another time for her broken body? Yet she never
questioned God. With a joy few Christians possess, Beulah puttered
her motorized wheelchair down the streets of the government housing,
singing hymns of praise as she went.
For years she had asked the Lord for her own home, knowing there
was no way she could personally make that happen. Years passed and
the cynics thought she was crazy to think about it. Then one day, she
was asked to be on the board of directors for a local Christian
nonprofit, which worked among the poor. Since most of the board
members personally knew nothing about poverty, Beulah became the
spokesperson for the poor among the middle class members. Through the
months of meetings and dialogue, she built a relationship with a
wealthy businessman on the same board. Their friendship increased and
his family began to visit her in the projects to help with food and
basic needs. She called him her own guardian angel
After three years of friendship, he requested a personal meeting
to tell her how God had blessed him to bless others, holding a ring of
keys,. He handed her her dream of her life: a brand new three bedroom
house completely furnished and with food in the pantry. God had
answered her prayers and silenced the cynics. Praises abounded and
even the local newspaper ran a front page story on the dedication of
this kingdom happening.
End of story? Hardly. What was her blessing has been used to
bless others. Almost before the paint had dried, this trusting woman
began opening her home to others. From women’s groups and Bible
studies to hosting weddings, showers and for other bridge folks who
had no home, Beulah blessed others with her blessing. She began
meeting her new neighbors and inviting them over for coffee. She rode
the streets praying for others and asking God to bring peace in the
neighborhood. She sang songs of joy up and down the sidewalks of her
Two years after entering her new earthly home, Beulah entered her
heavenly home. As the crowd packed into the small country church
where she had attended as a girl, the homegoing celebration was just
that. Black and white, rich and poor, young and old; took their turns
at the microphone to bear witness to how this poor woman with a broken
body had blessed each of them. Everyone was amazed how many others
she had blessed and helped in her life journey. And no one was sad
that she only had two years in her new house because they knew she had
just upgraded way beyond a three bedroom, two bath residence. She was
now blessing God, face-to-face.
History of Mission Waco:
In 1978, Jimmy and Janet Dorrell bought a deteriorating house in
the middle of a blighted neighorhood in North Waco. Based on their
understanding of incarnational ministry, they sensed their vocational
call was to live among the poor and help bring “good news” through
relationships and empowerment opportunities. The couple began offering
children’s and teen clubs each week in their home, meeting neighbors,
and providing assistance to those struggling in the community.
The Dorrells left for a short time (1979-1982) to work in a church in
Houston, followed by an exposure trip around the world, an experience
which opened their eyes to the enormous needs of the hungry, the poor,
the unevangelized and the struggling needs of so many around the
globe. Convicted they should return to Waco, a community rich in
possibilites with so many Christian students at Baylor and local
churches, yet also the home of large numbers caught in the throes of
poverty, they returned to their aging home to more seriously develop
In 1991, after years of an informal neighborhood ministry, the
Dorrells created “Cross Culture Experiences,” a non-profit Christian
organization designed to help students leave the comfort of their own
cultural experiences and come to understand and love the poor and
marginalized. A “poverty simulation,” out-of-country “exposure trips,”
and a few neighborhood Bible clubs filled the their time since the
couple were bi-vocational. Within the year, a Christian foundation
(Christian Mission Concerns, established by Paul and Katie Piper)
chose to fund a $75,000 start up program called “Mission Waco” to be
led by Jimmy and Janet. Within the year, the ministry exceeded
expectations and CMC relocated oversight to Cross Culture Experiences.
The foundation has continued to help support the ministry from its
Mission Waco’s programs were built around three goals: 1)
relationship-based, holistic programs among the poor and marginalized,
2) mobilizing middle-class Christians toward “hands-on” involvement,
and 3) addressing some of the systemic issues which disempowered the
poor. As volunteers, interns, and donations increased, and as local
gaps were indentified, additional programs were added to the existing
children and teen programs. Today, there are some fifteen programs for
all ages and a staff of twenty five persons. A board of twenty
Christian men and women from different churches oversee the direction.
In 1993, Mission Waco purchased and renovated the carpet store next
door to the Dorrell’s home for their program center and poverty
simulation site. In 1994, a more challenging building opportunity came
with the purchase of an old bar and the acquisition of an abandoned
shopping center at the corner of N. 15th Street and Colcord Ave. The
corner had once been a thriving location for the neighborhood with a
grocery store, beauty salons, and the Texas Theater. But as the
encroaching ghettoization of the area increased, the local businesses
and residents fled to the west side of Waco and negative businesses
including street drugs and prostitution replaced the formerly thriving
area. There were now four bars and a porno theater (“The Capri”)
spreading darkness in the area. Mission Waco immediately gutted the
six buildings and began renovating them as funds and volunteers
allowed. When completed, “Jubilee Center” was opened to offer a
variety of empowerment programs for the community. Today, it is the
main offices for Mission Waco and has a computer lab, job training,
G.E.D. classes, and a 243 seat theater for dance, drama, neighborhood
meetings, and a 28 foot climbing wall. Mission Waco won one of five
national “Audre Nelson Community Development” Awards for the
restoration and positive impact of the facility.
An outreach Bible study established in 1992 for five homeless men
who slept under the Interstate 35 underpass near Baylor continued to
grow. Within a few years, the group had grown to include significant
numbers of the poor, marginalized, and unchurched and “Church Under
the Bridge” was established. Though initially connected for a few
years, Mission Waco separated the church away from the non-profit to
allow it to grow as its own incorporation. Today the church still
meets under the same interstate bridge and runs around 300 persons
each week. Mission Waco has continued its “Friday Morning Breakfast”
with these folks at First Lutheran’s facility since 1993.
Due to growing numbers of homeless people who had no safe place to
sleep, Dorrell gathered four other pastors together in 1994 to create
Compassion Ministries as another separate non-profit for homeless
women, children, and families. However, it was not until 2004 that
Mission Waco chose to establish their own chronic homeless shelter,
called “My Brother’s Keeper.” Other ministries including Manna House,
a ten bed residential alcohol/drug recovery home, was established in
1995 by Jason Pittman of Mission Waco, to target very low income
persons, including the homeless who could not access other treatment
programs. A transition house for those completing the program was
established on North 15th Street.
Founded by Dr. John Perkins and Dr. Wayne Gordon, CCDA (Christian
Community Development Association) became an early source for Mission
Waco’s mentoring and encouragement. Through national l conferences and
workshops, each year Mission Waco learned more about urban ministries
and Christian development in cities around the nation. Practitioners
from all over the nation provided guidance with each new step.
In 1997, Christian Mission Concerns donated an 18-unit apartment
complex on Washington Ave. These units were completely remodeled and
today offer mixed income Christians a program-based living center with
spiritual mentoring and accountability.
In 2000, Mission Waco established Waco Community Development
Corporation as another separate entity. The purpose of the CDC is safe
and affordable housing for both the poor and to attract and encourage
middle-class Christians to return to the area. Mike Stone was hired as
executive director in 2001. The organization also seeks to help bring
new economic development to the area.
In January, 2005, Mission Waco opened the “Meyer Center for Urban
Ministries,” a former church in downtown Waco that provides assistance
and social services for the poor. Through the generosity of the Paul
and Jane Meyer Family Foundation, the building was purchased to help
create a “one-stop shop” for the poor and marginalized in the
community. Showers, laundry, clothing vouchers, and shelter vouchers
are provided each day. Other organizations are locating in the
facility to provide easier access for various needs of the poor.
On January 9, 2006, World Cup Cafe, the 42-seat corner restaurant
at Jubilee Center (1321 N. 15th at Colcord), opened with specialty
coffees and pastries. On January 31st, breakfast and lunch became the
norm. On February 14th, the Cafe held its official Grand Opening. The
World Cup Café not only offers coffees from around the world, but also
is training men and women in the food service industry.
As the ministry grows, community organizing and coalition building
has become the primary strategy in the imporverished neighborhoods of
the community. Residents of changing neighborhoods are
“re-neighboring” through block parties, community empowerment
meetings, leadership development, and coalition building.
Through its entire history, Mission Waco staff and volunteers have
worked hard to balance “hands-on” relationships with the poor, local
churches, and the community. The call to bring good news to the poor
has been a driving force since its first day. And the desire to create
a biblical base for empowering compassion is still at its core. God
has birthed, blessed and sustained this venture through the years!
Thanks be to God.
My second encounter with Mission Waco was Poverty Simulation weekend,
We were attending a training school at our chuch and part of the
training was this weekend. I have volunteered many times in soup
kitchens, homeless shelters, etc over the years. I thought I had a
fairly good understanding of the problems they encounter.
This weekend made me realize my understanding was extremely limited.
If anyone thinks that if someone who is homeless, should just go get a
job; it is so much more complex than that. I tell you this being
homeless, even pretending was one of the hardest things I have ever
Statement from their web site:
Today over 1.4 Billion people live in absolute poverty and many have
never heard the Good News of Jesus.
Come understand the issues of poverty as you get a small glimpse of
being poor for a weekend.
National Child Poverty
Over 13 million children in the United States—18% of all children—live
in families with incomes below the federal poverty level—$22,050 a
year for a family of four. Research shows that, on average, families
need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses.
Using this standard, 39% of children live in low-income families.
About the Poverty
In 1986 Jimmy and Janet Dorrell did a Poverty Simulation for a group
from Oklahoma City whose Youth Pastor was concerned that his youth
were not applying their knowledge of scripture to their lives.Thus,
the experience was created which challenged the students to see the
world through different eyes. Scripture and doctrine have become real
and alive for both students and leaders who have participated in the
“Do not waste your time on Social Questions.
What is the matter with the poor is Poverty;
what is the matter with the rich is Uselessness.”
-George Bernard Shaw
What to Bring on a Poverty Simulation.
Pack just like any other weekend trip, including sleeping
Most of all, bring a good, positive attitude.
“Women do two thirds of the world’s work.
Yet they earn only one tenth of the world’s income and own
less than one percent of the world’s property. They are
among the poorest of the world’s poor.”
-Barber B. Conable, Jr.
Below is a list of Scriptures to show the importance God places upon
caring for the poor.
Deuteronomy 15:1-11 –
This of course deals with God establishing the new nation Israel after
setting her free from slavery. God establishes the Sabbatical Year for
canceling debts. God makes concern for the poor both individual and
institutional. Institutionally, God prevents the development of a
perpetual underclass through debt. Individually, God wants Israelites
to be liberal and openhanded in their personal relationships with the
poor (v8). Amazingly, through both individual and institutional
concern for the poor Israel is given preeminence as a nation.
Questions: How do nations normally establish themselves as mighty and
In v4 when God says there should be no poor among you, do you think
He still believes that?
In saying that there will always be poor people, does God want us to
just give up then?
So many time the parable of the Rich Young Ruler is about the ruler
giving up things, but Jesus does not ask him to give up possessions
alone. Jesus says that to follow Him the ruler must sell his many
possessions and then give to the poor. Initiating relationship with
the poor is a prerequisite to Jesus for following Him. Our
righteousness must also be accompanied with justice.
Questions: Do you think Jesus was serious in telling the ruler to sell
his possessions and give to the poor?
Do you think Jesus is still serious about the wealthy being in
relationship with Himself and the poor?
What is Jesus saying about the fulfillment of possessions?