By Jorge Navarrete
I recently read in the Mississippi United Methodist Advocate (Aug.20) a column by the Rev. Sally Fran Ross about a mission and outreach project called Girl Scouts Beyond Bars that allows for a Girl Scout troop to meet in prison where the scouts’ mothers are incarcerated. What really struck me was that today over 2 million children have a parent in prison and that this program is bringing many benefits both to the girls and the mothers currently in the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl.
How many other programs would enable you and your church can bring much needed help and relief to children or families affected by forces beyond their control? An example might be a support ministry to families of soldiers deployed overseas, especially in conflict areas such as Afghanistan or Iraq. Is there a children’s hospital near you where you or your church can bring a helping hand to a stressed-out parent who is away from home helping take care of a hospital-bound child?
These are examples of ministry to large segments of the population or in the least expected places. But the fact is that mission and outreach ministries are plentiful in your own community and can be found just outside your church’s door. For instance, is your church missions group equipped to serve in any of the following ministry areas?
• College and seminary students (care packages, prayer, financial support)
• Families (children’s activities, mentoring/tutoring, parenting classes, mom’s morning out, drug abuse prevention, sports)
• Seniors (visitation, transportation, service and care to homebound and those in nursing homes)
• Single again (events, support groups)
• The poor (food pantry, soup kitchen, health clinic)
• Hospitals (visitation, prayer, assistance for out-of-town families)
• Hospices (visitation, prayer, outreach to patients and their family members)
• Community centers (volunteers, transportation)
• Immigrants (English classes, advocacy, mentoring)
• Red Cross (shelters, volunteer teams)
• Schools (supplies, tutoring, support for teachers and parent organizations, advocacy)
• Scouts (meeting space, troop leaders)
• 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous/Alanon/Alateen (provide meeting space amenities for groups)
• Prisons (visitation, evangelism, GED tutoring)
• Homeless shelters (visitation, volunteers, food and supplies)
• Food bank or hunger relief agencies
Of course, opportunities to serve abound by partnering with existing organizations in the state. Perhaps your church may want to look into gleaning with the Society of St. Andrew to help feed the hungry, build homes with Habitat for Humanity affiliates throughout the state or send volunteers to help in the reconstruction on the Gulf Coast with the disaster response team.
When we talk about missions and outreach we usually think of far away places, but the fact is that missions and outreach can start at home.
Contact Navarrete, Mississippi Conference coordinator for Missions and Outreach at 601-354-0515 for information about mission opportunities in Mississippi.