A great idea dismissed by a local newspaper reporter woke Calvary Baptist Church to a wide-open mission field in Winston-Salem.
When Calvary was preparing to send young people on a World Changers mission trip to another city, they thought the local religion writer would be interested in covering that story. He wasn’t.
Calvary missions pastor Steve Hardy remembers the reporter telling him, “When you get ready to do this in Winston-Salem, we’ll talk.”
Hardy, associate pastor for missions at Calvary, which has sent teams overseas since 1968, called that conversation “a dagger in the heart.” It forced Calvary staff to seriously consider the focus of their mission outreach.
That consideration led the church two years ago to adopt a “Love Winston-Salem” emphasis, which has included for the past two summers “Mission Trip: Winston-Salem.”
BR photo by Norman Jameson
Alexandra Milner, 26, grew up at Calvary and interned at the church while a student at Samford University. She now directs the local outreach efforts.
Milner did not start her job assuming no other church was doing anything locally. She surveyed the landscape, learned what was being done by whom, and figured out ways to involve the church in the gaps.
“Our desire is that God will reveal to each person within our church and larger community how God has gifted them and shaped them for service,” said Hardy.
It is taking hold as more than 1,000 people were involved in Mission Trip: Winston-Salem this summer.
Love Winston-Salem has established 10 community ministries, including those with students at two recreation centers and three schools. Milner finds a “champion” from the Calvary body who is drawn to a particular ministry and will drive it.
“He acts as heart, mind and soul for our connection with that organization,” said Milner. “For the most part they’ve been volunteering with that organization and have a passion for organizing our people.”
Milner, who said mission trips as a youth stirred her heart for urban ministry, majored in psychology, human development and family studies at Samford.
Her first assignment was to learn the city from street level. She is a familiar face at recreation centers, schools, parks and the mayor’s office as she seeks new ways to engage communities.
“The reality is that a lot of Christian ministries are doing a great job meeting practical needs in our city,” Milner said. “We’ve focused our work on schools, rec centers and Christian ministries.”
She said rec centers are hubs for urban children, and “God has given us favor” in gaining audience and opportunity to serve there.
After-school programs include a meal, tutoring and Bible study. Milner said the children who frequent rec centers don’t have access to typical after-school activities, and “flock there for something to do.”
Presence at the rec centers leads to high levels of involvement by students in schools where Calvary offers tutoring and for sports camps involving basketball, cheerleading and arts and crafts which provide platforms for sharing the gospel.
Mission Trip: Winston-Salem focuses Calvary’s attention specifically on local missions. A thousand members permeating city schools, rec centers and community agencies form the basis for several dozen mission events at sites such as Habitat for Humanity construction, dental clinics, soup kitchens, landscaping a school, painting and sports camps.
Calvary has adopted Forest Park Elementary School where it sponsors “Citizen of the Month” parties throughout the year.
With thousands of children eating free or reduced cost lunch at school, weekends can be a hungry time. So Calvary builds weekend snack packs for 50 students.
“When they go home their pantries are empty,” Milner said. “If they’re not eating at school the likelihood of them not eating at home is high.”
Action as catalyst
A strong series of activities can be the catalyst to get members involved beyond the church site, Hardy said. If they will just go, many times they are hooked on continuous involvement.
“For many years of my Christian life I had the misconception that doing missions meant to go away,” Hardy said. “I went overseas and all over America and would love it and be deeply satisfied to see what God is doing around the world. I never connected in my head the same things we were doing in New York City or elsewhere could be done in Winston-Salem.”
Now Calvary is involved all over town, including partnerships with other churches, with Boys and Girls Club and Salvation Army.
Staff took a two-hour bus tour through town and learned of areas they never knew existed; areas that now are at the top of their prayer lists for future involvement.
To see list of activities Calvary is involved with in Love Winston-Salem, go to www.lovewinstonsalem.com.