Mission Waco’s program were built around three goals: 1) relationship-based, holistic programs among the poor and marginalized, 2) mobilizing middle-class Christians toward “hands-on” involvement, and 3) addressing some of the systemic issues which disempowered the poor. As volunteers, interns, and donations increased, and as local gaps were indentified, additional programs were added to the existing children and teen programs. There are some fifteen programs for all ages and a staff of twenty five persons. A board of twenty Christian men and women from different churches oversee the direction.
In 1993, Mission Waco purchased and renovated the carpet store next door to the Dorrell’s home for their program center and poverty simulation site. In 1994, a more challenging building opportunity came with the purchase of an old bar and the acquisition of an abandoned shopping center at the corner of N. 15th Street and Colcord Ave. The corner had once been a thriving location for the neighborhood with a grocery store, beauty salons, and the Texas Theater. But as the encroaching ghettoization of the area increased, the local businesses and residents fled to the west side of Waco and negative businesses including street drugs and prostitution replaced the formerly thriving area. There were now four bars and a porno theater (“The Capri”) spreading darkness in the area. Mission Waco immediately gutted the six buildings and began renovating them as funds and volunteers allowed. When completed, “Jubilee Center” was opened to offer a variety of empowerment programs for the community, a computer lab, job training, G.E.D. classes, and a 200 seat theater for dance, drama, neighborhood meetings, and a 28 foot climbing wall. Mission Waco won one of five national “Audre Nelson Community Development” Awards for the restoration and positive impact of the facility. The adjacent building, also a former bar, became known as “Alpha Quest” for children and youth programs.
An outreach Bible study established in 1992 for five homeless men who slept under the Interstate 35 underpass near Baylor continued to grow. Within a few years, the group had grown to include significant numbers of the poor, marginalized, and unchurched and “Church Under the Bridge” was established. Though initially connected for a few years, Mission Waco separated the church away from the non-profit to allow it to grow as its own incorporation. The church still meets under the same interstate bridge and runs around 300 persons each week. Mission Waco has continued its “Friday Morning Breakfast” with these folks at First Lutheran’s facility since 1993.
Due to growing numbers of homeless people who had no safe place to sleep, Dorrell gathered four other pastors together in 1994 to create Compassion Ministries as another separate non-profit for homeless women, children, and families. However, it was not until 2004 that Mission Waco chose to establish their own chronic homeless shelter, called “My Brother’s Keeper.” Other ministries including Manna House, a ten bed residential alcohol/drug recovery home, was established in 1995 by Jason Pittman of Mission Waco, to target very low income persons, including the homeless who could not access other treatment programs. A transition house for those completing the program was established on North 15th Street.
Founded by Dr. John Perkins and Dr. Wayne Gordon, CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) became an early source for Mission Waco’s mentoring and encouragement. Through national conferences and workshops, each year Mission Waco learned more about urban ministries and Christian development in cities around the nation. Practitioners from all over the nation provided guidance with each new step.
In 1997, Christian Mission Concerns donated an 18-unit apartment complex on Washington Ave. These units were completely remodeled and they offer The Ark Apartments with mixed income Christians living in a program-based living center with spiritual mentoring and accountability.
The youth program thrived in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s with some grant funding. Knowledge Knights, step dancing, bible study small groups, field trips, summer camp in Colorado. The Wellspring Scholarship continues to provide small scholarships to students from our programs who want to go to college — and begins introducing the steps to college earlier in the youth program. Freak Scene Cafe and Jubilee Theater were popular hangout spots for the alternative music crowd in Waco.
In 1999, the decision was made for Church Under the Bridge to become a separate entity from Mission Waco, recognizing that it was no longer a simple bible study, but a full-functioning church. Each September — on usually the 3rd Sunday — CUB and Mission Waco continue to celebrate together with Mission Waco’s “Walk for the Homeless” ending at CUB worship and anniversary service under I-35. Urban Institute was created to offer a 9-month educational/experiential internship in urban ministry (this program ran from 1999-2003). Interns served/studied for 7 months here in Waco, went on a Mission Exposure trip to Mexico City, and then spent 2 months in a major U.S. city.
In 2000, Mission Waco established Waco Community Development Corporation as another separate entity. The purpose of the CDC is safe and affordable housing for both the poor and to attract and encourage middle-class Christians to return to the area. Mike Stone was hired as executive director in 2001. The organization also seeks to help bring new economic development to the area.
The main offices were expanded and moved to the Jubilee Center in 2001. This move also freed up space at our original building to expand the social services for the homeless. Manna House had closed in 2000 for renovations and restructuring. The new Manna House program, developed by Pam Stelk, recovery director, opened in August 2001.
In 2002, through the generosity of the Meyer Foundation, Mission Waco was given a building for our children’s program. The ROCK (Renewing Our Children’s Knowledge) was born! “The Other Side of Waco” tour was added in 2002 to offer people a chance to learn and see issues related to poverty and redevelopment in north, east, and downtown Waco (this 1.5 hour driving tour continues to be a great entry point to Mission Waco and an educational tool for many groups from churches, universities/colleges, schools, organizations).
Our retail space at 1817 Franklin had been operated as The Storehouse (a mixture of used building supplies and perpetual garage sale) for several years until 2001. It was renovated in 2003 as The Clothesline, a stylish boutique selling women’s clothing (provided by donations from individuals and also from some area retailers). Profits from The Clothesline help offset the cost of our Manna House program. The Voucher Center was relocated to the back of the warehouse area, and that space is used to distribute clothing to men, women, children.
Women’s Group met for over 10 years on a mostly weekly basis to provide a place of service and love between diverse women of Waco. So much laughter and so many tears shared as they met for bible study, field trips, creative activities.
My Brother’s Keeper shelter for emergency housing for chronically homeless adult men and women opened in Dec 2004, with transitional housing (partially funded through grant from Housing and Urban Development) added in March 2006. In January, 2005, Mission Waco opened the “Meyer Center for Urban Ministries,” a former church in downtown Waco that provides assistance and social services for the poor. Through the generosity of the Paul and Jane Meyer Family Foundation, the building was purchased to help create a “one-stop shop” for the poor and marginalized in the community. Showers, laundry, clothing vouchers, and shelter vouchers are provided each day. This is also the location for M-Powerment program (computer lab, job readiness, job search) classes.