From the beginning of our work in Haiti, it has been in the back of our minds that we would go to Haiti, learn valuable lessons about sustainable community development, then return home to apply those lessons in Mississippi. After all, we have significant challenges in our state. We have challenges with housing, healthcare, education, jobs, and access to healthy food. We have spiritual problems that cause so many of our other problems. And, while these challenges exist in all parts of Mississippi, they seem to be even more concentrated in the Delta.
So, we are thrilled to announce that our first work in Mississippi will be in a small town called Jonestown. Jonestown is located in the northwest part of the state about 12 miles northeast of Clarksdale and an hour’s drive southwest of Memphis.
Jonestown has a population of 1,200 with many more people living in the county. There is no grocery store, no medical clinic, no drug store, and no bank. There are serious housing issues. There are few jobs. But there are wonderful people there who are loved by God and who simply need real opportunities to better themselves and their families.
What will we be doing in Jonestown? How will we seek to make a difference? How can others be involved? Our approach to sustainable community development will be different from other efforts.
The BGM Approach
- Christ-centered – We believe God provides not only eternal salvation but also the way in which we should live our lives today. When we live as He has instructed, life is better, more productive, and more fulfilling.
- Holistic – We don’t address one or two issues. Instead, we look at 7 key areas, or SPHERES, that we believe are necessary to have a healthy community. All of these spheres will be addressed in Jonestown. These areas are:
- S – spiritual (strong, healthy, life-giving churches)
- P – physical (medical and dental)
- H – H20 (clean water)
- E – education
- R – roofs (housing)
- E – economic development (jobs)
- S – soil (agriculture/access to healthy food)
- Mississippi based – We are a Mississippi based organization that has a better understanding of the history, challenges, and opportunities we face.
- Boots-on-the-ground/permanent presence – We believe in moving into the community and becoming part of the fabric of the town. It’s hard to be salt and light where you have no presence. It’s difficult to plan, implement, and maintain opportunities in a place where you only visit occasionally. We’re not going anywhere. We’re here for the long haul.
- Weekly teams – We believe strongly in hosting visiting teams. Teams bring support, encouragement, ideas, and resources. We will have visiting teams most weeks during the year.
- Collaboration – We believe the combination of churches, universities, and private businesses is a recipe for success. Each entity brings something unique and the combination of all three is a powerful force for change.
Specifically, we will be seeking to bring jobs, open a medical clinic, open a dental clinic, provide affordable new housing, bring a grocery store, bring banking services, revive and improve the downtown storefronts, beautify the town, partner with the local elementary school to make it as successful as possible, and partner with local churches to share the gospel and make disciples, among other things.
What have we done thus far? Already, we’ve taken several significant steps:
- In September 2016 we moved our Community Manager, Kelly Sayle, into the Jonestown area. Importantly, Kelly grew up in the Mississippi Delta. She is from Greenville, graduated from Delta State University, and then graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, TX. She has served in three churches, most recently at 4,000 member Silverdale Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Already, Kelly is doing a super job integrating herself into the community and building important relationships.
- At the end of 2016 we raised over $300,000 to build a 6,000 sq. ft. Hope Center in Jonestown. The Hope Center, like our two Hope Centers in Haiti, will be the headquarters for BGM and will be the place from which all our ministry will flow. The Hope Center will have our Community Manager’s office, a conference room, large kitchen, a great room for meetings and social activities, and dorm space to host 40 mission trip participants at a time. As of September 2017, the Hope Center was almost complete and should be finished by November 2017.
- We have secured job opportunities that will be available shortly for residents of Jonestown. One of the most difficult things we do is create jobs that will pay each month. Through a partnership with a Ridgeland, MS based company we have a number of jobs in Jonestown through which we will be employing people very soon.
- In the summer of 2017 we did the following:
- Started construction on the new Hope Center
- Partnered with local businesses to provide customers, remodeling, and mentoring
- Hosted six teams involving dozens of people
- Helped with VBS at local churches
- Hosted a Christian soccer camp
- Held Bible studies
- Worshiped at four different churches
- Leased a building to open a medical clinic
- Leased a building to open a counseling center
- Leased a facility to open a dental clinic
- Partnered with a company to provide plans/drawings for an older neighborhood and refurbishment of downtown
- Facilitated the scheduling of an upcoming meeting between New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and local pastors to provide continuing education
We are very excited about what God has already been doing in Jonestown, and we can’t wait to see what He does next!
THE HOPE CENTER