A Moment for Mission
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.” —Isaiah 43:2a, NRSV
When the subject of civil rights in Arkansas’s capital city comes up, people are likely to think of the Little Rock Nine. On Sept. 4, 1957, the first day of classes here, nine courageous African-American students challenged racial segregation in U.S. public schools by enrolling at the all-white Central High School. Their act of bravery was met with intense hostility but dramatically altered the future.
Less than two miles from the history-making school stands Theressa Hoover United Methodist Church, named in honor of an Arkansas native who strived for human rights and unity through The United Methodist Church for more than 50 years. Today the church continues Hoover’s witness through Better Community Development, Inc.
Since the late 1980s, BCD has provided comprehensive, holistic services for underserved children and families in the city’s Midtown community. Ministries include the Hoover Treatment Center, the only certified faith-based program in the state for residential and outpatient drug/alcohol treatment services; Will’s House and Beyond Shelter, offering reentry housing for men and women; an affordable housing program; and the EmPowerment Center, a 25,000-square-foot facility built in 2013 and equipped with 30 single-room apartments, office space, a conference room, a commercial kitchen and 24 beds for residential treatment.
Next Sunday is Human Relations Day, a time to recognize the right of all God’s children to realize their potential as human beings in relationship with one another. It’s a day to celebrate life-changing ministries like Better Community Development.
Loving God, you are always with us through the storms of life. Inspire us to give generously to ministries that assist sisters and brothers overwhelmed by life. In your name, we pray. Amen.
From Discipleship Ministries: Baptism of the Lord – God of Water and Wind: We worship this morning, grateful for the good things that fill our lives, but many of us carry within ourselves feelings of emptiness, unworthiness, disappointments, and failures. We desperately need to be reminded that, in our baptism—as in the one Jesus received— there is an affirmation that we are claimed and loved by you just as we are. We could do more; we could be better; yet you say to us, “My child, with whom I am well pleased.” May we open our hearts in generosity as those who are claimed as beloved children. In the name of the Son, who pleased you so well, we pray. Amen. (Luke 3:15-17, 21-22)
At Better Community Development in Little Rock, Arkansas, Deborah Bell started as a volunteer, organizing and introducing human-resources policies. Her formal involvement was purely happenstance. “My dad, the Rev. William Robinson Jr., was chair of the national community developer policy committee,” she said. She accompanied him to a meeting, and when the secretary didn’t show up, Bell was drafted.
As Robinson approached retirement, Bell became the director of community development, a post she has held for two decades.
“I was so passionate because the Black Community Developer program … was such an excellent network,” Bell said. “Churches could share resources. The program was extremely culturally sensitive.
“BCD began as an outreach to ensure Hoover [United Methodist] Church was community- and missions-oriented. People trusted us because they knew we had their best interests at heart.”
Your gifts on Human Relations Day enrich ministries that improve lives. The offering supports Community Developers, United Methodist Voluntary Services and Youth Offender Rehabilitation. Thank you!