Feature: Homeland Missions
Homeland Missions: Where Missionaries Do Outreach Right Outside Their Front Doors
Story by Sherry English
The Columbia Union Conference is putting forward significant funding to help prove that mission trips don’t require church members to cross oceans or enter foreign lands. Over the past five years, the union has donated $1 million toward its Homeland Mission Initiative. These monies go back to local Seventh-day Adventist churches to fund creative ministries programs, outreach projects and mission schools—all designed to share the gospel message right outside their front doors.
Frank Bondurant, Columbia Union vice president for Ministries Development, and his team oversee the program, which enables congregations, large or small, to dream big—and do even bigger things. “Local churches want to do mission work, but they may not have the funds for it,” he adds. “This program allows local churches to partner with their conferences and receive union funding to take advantage of the expertise, guidance and direction we can offer.”
Here are five programs that received union funding in 2015—and all are proving there’s lots of work to be done in our own neighborhoods:
Simplicity Urban Outreach
Located in Allentown, Pa., Pennsylvania Conference’s Simplicity Urban Outreach program is a center of “influence with a mission school, social service projects and religious programs to address community “and family needs.
“The project is based on Christ’s method of reaching people through being caring neighbors. We are His hands, His voice and His calming presence in the neighborhood around us,” says Jeffrey McAuliffe, program director.
Outreach: Simplicity Christian Academy is just one arm of the program. It’s a small elementary school that opened this past fall with nine students; however, Simplicity leaders project more than 100 in five years.
“The school is only for non-Adventists because its purpose is to be a neighborhood mission school,” explains McAuliffe. After school, the place bustles with kids programs, such as homework help, and family services, including social service connections, job programs and Bible studies. Throughout the day, volunteers from local Adventist churches and the community visit neighbors to assess needs, provide health screenings and pray. “It helps to break down barriers when you have a neighbor with you,” says McAuliffe.
Simplicity Urban Outreach also includes Kidz Church, held each Sabbath. Church members feed the kids, teach them Bible stories and help them just have fun. More than 100 kids have come through the doors.
The program also includes Free Day for Simplicity volunteers to distribute food, clothing and toiletries. They have a host of other program offerings, including English as a Second Language and exercise classes, plus a choir.
Impact: Simplicity’s impact “has been profound,” says McAuliffe. “It has brought local Adventist churches from several conferences together to provide programs like Adventurers club.”
Some months they have more than 120 Bible studies going. On Free Day, they distribute more than 500 personal care items, leading them to connect with local organizations and companies, such as Wells Fargo, to solicit more for those they serve. And, though the mission was designed for families in a five-block radius, they are serving families across town.
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