Church Arise, Decatur, MS -- Unique Identity and Ministries

Church Arise is a very different kind of Church. It was founded by people who were disillusioned by the modern Church.  We envision a Church that draws its blueprint from the book of Acts. We are more closely a mission church or a House Church than a traditional denominational church.  Our focus of ministry is to the unchurched. We believe that it is our mission to reach those that have been rejected or are dejected by traditional church. There is a huge population of people who don’t want to go to church because of bad experiences, or because they don’t feel they have anything to wear, or they feel they won’t fit in, or they feel they will be judged if they go. These are the people we want to feel comfortable at Church Arise. We don’t turn away people because they are different. We embrace different. We are different. We call ourselves the “island of misfit toys”. We have a strong ministry in the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. Our church is approximately 70% Native American. 

Our outreach includes a shoebox ministry at Christmas. Teachers from Conehatta Elementary School identify children with needs in the community. These children will not be receiving Christmas presents from their family. They normally have only one outfit which they wear to school every day. These are our target children. We assemble shoeboxes with clothes, hygiene items and a toy. These shoeboxes are handed out by a few discrete members of our church, to the children, at their homes on Christmas Eve. For many of these children, the only Christmas presents they have ever gotten in their entire lives have come from Church Arise. The most popular item is often the toothpaste.

The families that we deal with have an average annual income of approximately 12,000 dollars a year. This is for a household that normally consists of 3-7 adults and 8-15 children.  Families in our community find that they can save money by living with other family members. There are normally at least 3 generations living in one home. Many have 4 generations. We have a large number of children in our Church. We feel that God is trying to make an impact by changing the culture one child at a time.

Many of the families we deal with have little or no concept of who Jesus is. Alcoholism, incest, child abuse, wife abuse, drugs, gangs, poverty, and spiritualism are just a few of the obstacles we face on a day to day basis. Most of our members can barely afford to drive to Decatur for our services. In the past we could provide gas vouchers for 2 gallons worth of gas to those in the most dire need, but this became too much of a financial burden. In the past we also provided meals every Sunday. This also became a financial burden, and we have had to drop back to 1 meal a month. We have done back yard bible studies, basketball bible studies, and singings as part of our ministry. During the summer, we baptize in Turkey Creek. During the winter, we use a horse trough which we have converted into a baptismal. We also do an annual Bible Games that consists of “Paul’s Finish the Race Race”, Washers or Tali pilah (Choctaw version) , “Partners in the Lord, Three Legged Race”, “Sin Toss for Distance”, and the wildly popular “Manna Eating Contest”.  

We have a strong core group in our church. We don’t do a membership role, but these people are faithful to come every Sunday and participate. We have one service on Sunday morning that runs from 1100 or so until 1200 or so. We don’t really watch the clock during our services. We also do Wednesday night study and prayer requests. We have many needs, but we have many blessings. God is good.

 

Our Needs

1.        One of our biggest needs is encouragement and prayer. We often feel like we have PTSD from being in the trenches. Most of our core members have been spiritually assaulted. But, God is good, and we will hold.

2.        Because of the nature of our ministry, we do not attract many mature Christians to our church. This is how we prefer it, but that means that certain ministries are lacking. We have no bus driver and no Youth Minister. Youth Ministry is a desperate need at our church. We have the younger kids covered well, but the youth and young adults need attention desperately.

3.        We could use some sort of flooring in the “fellowship area”.  The flooring would need to be spill and water resistant. At this time, we have bare concrete.

4.        Our bus isn’t currently working. There seems to be a short in the electrical system. It won’t crank.  If it did work, we would have to find someone to drive it, so we haven’t pushed the issue much.

5.        There is no sound divide between the worship area and the classrooms. Since Children’s Church takes place during the worship service, this is an issue. 

Click on image below to see a gallery of photos from Church Arise...

Delta Hands for Hope

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It was me (a pastor in Connecticut but originally from Shaw, MS), a retired math teacher from Connecticut, a president of the largest exposition company in the world, a graduate student in social work, and the youth minister from a sister church in Connecticut. We were in Shaw to meet with local leaders about developing a partnership in Shaw, Mississippi, that would benefit school-aged children. It was my hometown, so I was personally invested, but we didn’t know what to expect. We had already developed a good relationship with a church in town and the mayor was very open, but no one knew what might happen.

We were driving around town before our meeting with the mayor when I saw something unusual in Shaw—a little lady, who was a little older, opening the front door to the old drug store on Main Street in Shaw. What made this unusual was the fact that the drug store had been closed for decades AND I didn’t recognize the woman opening the door! In a town the size of Shaw, everybody knows everybody, and I didn’t know who this was. Beyond that, Shaw, like most of the smaller towns in the Mississippi Delta, had experienced a mass exodus of white people over the past thirty years. According to the 2000 Census, only 7.3% of the population of Shaw was Caucasian. So, the most striking mystery to me was: Who was this little white lady and what was she doing in the old drug store?

I parked the car on Main Street and went into the old drug store to investigate. When I entered, there were actually three women—white, senior citizens—who were organizing papers in what looked like a classroom—the old drug store was not a drug store anymore! I introduced myself as a former resident of Shaw and then simply (but awkwardly) asked, who are you and what are you doing? One woman kindly responded, “We are running a tutoring center for the children of Shaw.” AND, she said this with a thick Irish brogue! After confirming that all three of the women were from Ireland, I asked with amazement, “How did you get here?” Sister Una responded, “The Holy Spirit brought us here!”

That’s how we met the Presentation Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are our ministry partners in Shaw now. When we met, they had only been open for seven months and had seven students. They said that had been praying for over a year for others who would like to partner with them. We told them we were in town to find partners who may be interested in working with school-aged children! I told the Sisters that I had been praying for them all my life… Today, the Sisters own their own building in Shaw and have 32 children in their tutoring program. How they came to Shaw is nothing short of a miracle of God and I am deeply inspired by their commitment to the town. If God can call three Irish Catholic nuns to Shaw, Mississippi, then God must have a big plan. God is at work in Shaw and we are so thankful and humbled to be a part of it.

Learn more about Delta Hands for Hope.

Sharing Jesus’ love with Guatemalan villagers

Shannon Walker traveled with the Druid Hills Baptist Church (DHBC) mission team in July 2013 to Antigua Guatemala, Central America.  DHBC is an urban CBF church in Atlanta, GA.  Shannon is the niece of Rev. Mimi Walker, pastor of DHBC, who led the DHBC mission team in Antigua. 

Shannon at the time was a member of the St. Martin Baptist Fellowship (SMBF), a CBF fellowship on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  She is the daughter of proud parents David and Susan Walker, now residing in Mobile, AL.  At the time of this mission trip, Shannon was a recent graduate as an Honors Student from Hancock High School, Hancock, MS, and was looking forward to entering USM in the fall.  

The SMBF fellowship is very proud of Shannon and is thankful that the church was allowed to play a small support role in the mission trip through a mission offering for Shannon. 

This was an exciting trip for both Aunt and niece as they spent time together in service to our Lord Jesus Christ in Guatemala.    

For this trip and several times in the past, mission teams from DHBC have partnered with Mission Impact (MI) in Guatemala.  MI is an evangelical mission agency working in rural communities and villages in Guatemala.  These teams have helped architect, build, and support the Proximos Pasos girl’s school in the village of Santa Maria de Jesus, and Vida y Esperanza, a co-ed school in the town of Santa Lucia Milpas Altas.

The vision of the Proximos Pasos girl’s school is to offer a quality educational experience to girls who are denied that opportunity by the public schools in Santa Maria de Jesus. Their holistic approach to education is Biblically based and covers the areas of academics, physical, emotional, and spiritual health, family involvement, and occupational training.

Shannon was a member of the DHBC team with some members working on construction projects, and others planning and carrying out activities with the children.  DHBC teams also had opportunities to visit with families in the villages and learn about sustainable businesses that help the local economy and improve the local ecology.

Shannon reported back this was a great experience for her to be able to help the Guatemalan children and share the gospel of Jesus.

Guatemala Markt in Chichicastenango

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Dreaming Dreams and Strengthening Strengths

The best and brightest days of CBF of MS are ahead of us!  As we anticipate new leadership in the form of a new Coordinator, the Coordinating Council encourages all of us to find our strengths and to give ourselves permisson to keep our work withn those strengths.

Below is a "working list" of Assets and Dreams, drafted by the Coordinating Council in October 2012.

Now is as good a time as any for us to revisit this list as we pray about and attempt to discern with God's help what is ahead for our Mississippi fellowship.

How might this list inform our next steps?

CBF of MS Assets:

  • We care -- are caring
  • Disaster Response Coordinator (Jim Kirkendall)
  • Expanding the Baptist circle
  • Ecumenical and openness to work with other groups and faith groups
  • Pastors
  • Integrated and diverse "home"
  • Variety of abilities, attitudes and talents
  • Highly developed, diverse skill set
  • Strong education component
  • Individuals with background in education
  • Jim Kirkendall has degree in Marriage and Family therapy
  • Opportunities for marriage enrichment
  • Service-oriented members
  • St. Martin Fellowship - new church on the Gulf Coast
  • Structure ready to move forward
  • Sense of community
  • A Community of Faith
  • Generosity - a spirit of giving
  • Several chaplains across the State
  • Asset developed ministries, "Together for Hope"
  • Intergenerational
  • University Baptist (Hattiesburg) model for reaching young people
  • "Places of grace"

Dreams/Vision:

  • Pastors' conference
  • Financially independent
  • Relationship with other seminaries where MS students are attending (both CBF and non-CBF)
  • Increased fellowship among churches
  • Identify and catalog resources (model of CBF of KY "Tools" on their website)
  • Build asset map
  • Increase visibility and connectedness
  • Partnership with Delta Missions
  • Develop growth strategy
  • Develop strong identity and communicate that identity
  • Economic development
  • Build relationship with Camp Shelby and Reservists
  • Utilize "Mission Wave--Church Under the Bridge" as ministry model
  • Target young people ages 18-35
  •