Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Church missions

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Many Mid-South churches send members on mission trips every year. But did you know that churches around America send members on missions to Memphis?   These generous visitors give their time and elbow grease to help in Taking Back Our Neighborhoods! 
An Ohio gang reclaimed some turf just east of the Liberty Bowl this past summer. Forty young people came from Sunbury United Methodist Church near Columbus, Ohio, spending a week in the Beltline neighborhood just east of the Liberty Bowl, where blight is as bad as it gets:

"It gives them a better perspective of life and they learn how to work," Jay Caslow of the Youth Work Mission said. "There is no sitting down on these jobs."

The youngsters painted this part of town red, sweeping up a storm and restoring once dilapidated houses into show places.  A gifted painter even brought a new image of Jesus and John the Baptist to life inside Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church:

"We had been praying that we get some help, and we have some help from a church from Ohio, who came down to help us in the neighborhood and to beautify the neighborhood," said Bishop Jerry Jackson of Mr. Pleasant Missionary.

The workers came at the invitation of Rev. Bill Marler, leader of a non-profit agency, the Jacob's Ladder Community Development Corporation. They've created what Marler calls a "coalition of trust" between Beltline neighbors, nearby businesses, local churches, and missionaries from places like Ohio!

"They'll come in and do 8 or 10 projects with us," Marler said. "They lend their support in so many ways, and then we feed off of their energy and they feed off of ours, and that's part of our coalition."

The visitors did all of this work within plain sight of local gang members suspected of selling drugs right next door to a church. At the nearby Beltline Enrichment Center, young people learn about art, music, and theatre and are very aware of activities both constructive and destructive:

"We've noticed more and more lately our kids have one foot in one culture and one foot in another culture,' Beltline Enrichment Center's Leight Bonner said. "A lot of times, it's hard for them to decide between those two cultures."

For a solid week in the Summer of '08, the young people saw the selfless work of Ohio missionaries benefit their everyone as they worked on Taking Back Our Neighborhoods!

Click here for more information about the Jacob's Ladder Community Development Corporation.

Click here to send an email to Joe Birch.