ALPHARETTA, Ga. — The Bridge has made a believer out of Tom Cosat, pastor of tiny Mullen Baptist Church in Montrose, Ill.
Originally, Mullen Baptist Church was a one-room schoolhouse. A year ago, church members decided to step out on faith and add 7,000 square feet for a new auditorium, classrooms and bathrooms. Cosat’s local associational missions director told him about The Bridge, a North American Mission Board (NAMB) web site designed to link projects with volunteers around the country.
“I still shake my head and can’t believe it,” Cosat said. “A team of 42 people from three or four Southern states came up and framed the building in four days. A second team came up from Tennessee and did the inside framing for us. There’s no telling what the man-hours and materials donated were worth and the money we saved. It put us a light-year ahead of where we would have been had we tried to do it all ourselves. It made it affordable. All we had to do was put on the siding. Another team even volunteered to come back and do the drywall.
“Thank God for this program,” Cosat said. “It was amazing to see — a humbling and awesome experience. We can never thank the mission board and these volunteers enough.”
Launched in 1999, The Bridge web site recently underwent a major facelift. It now has a new look, is more functional and more user-friendly, said Mickey Caison, team leader for adult volunteer mobilization at the North American Mission Board.
NAMB’s mobilization team facilitates short-term mission projects/trips by Southern Baptists, usually those lasting one week to four months. Through The Bridge, information is exchanged between SBC missionaries, churches, campgrounds and ministries needing volunteer help and Southern Baptists and churches wanting to help.
“The Bridge web site may get 400,000 hits a month in wintertime,” said Rick Head, promotions coordinator at NAMB. “Now is the busy time because people are looking for projects for this coming summer.”
The Bridge has some 30,000 registered users, which Caison said could represent as many as 200,000 people since the users represent churches, families and other teams searching for volunteer projects.
While The Bridge web site is the clearinghouse for NAMB’s major adult volunteer initiatives — such as the Appalachian Regional Ministry, Baptist Builders, Campers on Mission, Disaster Relief, Families on Mission and Operation NOAH Rebuild in New Orleans — it’s not just for major projects.
“We probably have 1,000 different projects listed on The Bridge web site at any given time,” Caison said. Any entity can submit its project for The Bridge, whether the need involves church construction, clowning requests or prayerwalking. Each project has to be authenticated by a local association or state convention before it goes onto the site.
Users accessing The Bridge can search for projects by type of project, region of the U.S., time of year, etc.
“Last year we had 225,000 volunteers sign up for projects as part of NAMB’s adult volunteer mobilization, and 165,000 to 170,000 of them came through The Bridge,” Caison said. “But last year, only 300,000 people out of 16 million Southern Baptists reported mission trips in North America. So the reality is we should be having a million or more Baptists doing mission trips each year.”
Caison said NAMB’s goal is to have 500,000 Southern Baptists participating in annual mission trips by 2020.
“There are always more needs than we’re meeting,” Head said. “There are tons of needs and not enough volunteers to go around. So we need to add more and more projects to The Bridge so there are more opportunities.”
E-mail [email protected] or call (800) 462-8657, ext. 6131 or 6132, to get more information about The Bridge.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board.)