VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 5/25/12)—On Tuesday and Wednesday at the Mission Center, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) hosted representatives of 18 ministries that received American Baptist Foundation-administered grants from the Virginia and Gordon Palmer Jr. Trust in 2011. The event allowed grant recipients to share their experiences in implementing grant-related projects and to discuss best practices.
In attendance were the following individuals, representing the following ministries and grant-related projects:
- Jim Walter, American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky — discipleship DVD and study guide to be available online for use by churches and individuals;
- Deborah Van Broekhoven and Jan Ballard, American Baptist Historical Society, Atlanta, Ga. — Judson200 website featuring digital archival materials for Burmese congregations;
- The Rev. C. Duh Kam, Chin Baptist Mission Church, Silver Spring, Md. — documentary film about the history of American Baptist mission work in Burma and the new lives of refugees from Burma in other countries;
- Shiloh Bradshaw, Church in the Acres, Springfield, Mass. — Springfield Pulse community art space offering open studio sessions, collaborative studio space and hospitality to introduce Christ and build community in a socio-economically challenged neighborhood;
- The Rev. Linda Hart Green, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Ridgewood, N.J. — a growing English as a Second Language program that hired a new program facilitator and purchased a van to provide transportation to students who otherwise would have none;
- The Rev. Douglas Avilesbernal, Calvary Baptist Church, Norrisown, Pa., for First Baptist Church, Ardmore, Pa. — Peace Café movement that seeks to resolve conflict and promote racial understanding in the Philadelphia area;
- Dave Richardson, First Baptist Church of Stilwell, Kan. — Harvest for the Hungry and Harvest for Haiti garden serving a diverse population and enabling members to be active in mission and evangelism;
- John Evans, First Baptist Church, Ypsilanti, Mich. — Retool training for leaders of a 175-year-old church to adapt to a neighborhood in economic decline;
- The Rev. David Nethercott, First United Church of Fulton, N.Y. — The Open Doors Neighborhood Center, which is building community both by establishing a diverse board of civil servants and by providing meals, informative programs and events for neighborhood residents;
- Chad Hale, Georgia Avenue Community Ministry Inc., Atlanta — an alternative to a food pantry or soup kitchen, this food cooperative model is run by its 300 member-clients and offers nutrition education, leadership training and intentional community;
- Diane Daily, The Hope Center at Pullen, Raleigh, N.C. — expansion of existing job-readiness program for the homeless to include an initiative to prevent homelessness among young adults who have aged out of the traditional foster system;
- The Rev. Ileana Vargus-Santiago, Inter American University of Puerto Rico School of Optometry, Bayamon — the “Christian Values and Children Wellness Tour” was held in three locations in Puerto Rico to provide optometric screenings, creative activities and educational workshops for children in poverty;
- The Rev. Michael Smith, McGee Avenue Baptist Church, Berkeley, Calif. — Fathers Acting in Togetherness and Hope (FAITH) program that provides a support group, mentoring and life-skills workshops to African-American men;
- The Rev. Stan and Barbara Moody, Meeting House Church, Manchester, Maine — lay prison chaplaincy for offenders and their families;
- The Rev. Paula Bussard, New Hope Baptist Church, Cincinnati, Ohio — 57 organizations collaborating to renovate a building into the Sharing Hope Café, which will offer tutoring, job services, a safe gathering place for teens/hospitality and free services for individuals of any age;
- The Rev. Dr. Peter Grinion, Parsells Avenue Community Church, Rochester, N.Y. — Good Shepherd Ministry after-school program that offered reading and mathematics tutoring and events for ages 6 to 17 in a disadvantaged community;
- The Rev. Christine Roush, Rainbow Acres, Camp Verde, Ariz. — expansion of previously existing residential program for individuals with disabilities to include a nonresidential day program; and
- Dr. Lynn Bergfalk and Paget Rhee, City Gate Ministries, Washington, D.C. — Urban Hands program that engages groups from around the United States in D.C. mission activities, including those participating in Immerse, the 2012 national gathering of American Baptist youth.
The event included prayer for all ministries, worship and small-group discussion. Each participant expressed gratitude to ABHMS and the foundation as well as to Virginia and Gordon Palmer for enabling their ministries to move forward via grant funds.
Diane Daily said the grant allowed The Hope Center at Pullen to sustain its existing program while empowering it to launch a new initiative tailored to individuals ages 17 to 22. By providing mental health assessment, educational assessment, career planning and job-readiness coaching, the new program aims to prepare this population to earn a long-term living wage and avoid homelessness. “We say, ‘Jobs for today; opportunities for tomorrow,’” she said.
In addition to allowing the purchase of teaching materials for its tutoring program, the grant money was essential to keeping Good Shepherd Ministry’s after-school program open when the furnace malfunctioned during Rochester’s cold winter months. “Without the Palmer Grant, we wouldn’t have been able to run a four-day-a-week program for a year,” said the Rev. Dr. Peter Grinion. “In a community that lacks resources, we feel privileged to provide resources that no other church provides.”
First Baptist Church of Ypsilanti was willing to work at keeping its 175-year-old ministry relevant to a community dependent upon the automobile industry and, thus, hit hard by economic recession. But finding the means to fund the endeavor would be a challenge. “When the pastor brought the idea [for the Retool project], the question was, ‘How will we pay for it?’” said John Evans. “We think of the Palmer Grant as God’s stamp of approval—that He provided the means to start the program.”
American Baptist Home Mission Societies—the domestic mission arm of American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA)—ministers as the caring heart and serving hands of Jesus Christ across the United States and Puerto Rico through a multitude of initiatives that focus on discipleship, community and justice.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with 5,500 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.