Misson in Jackson, MS

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Mission in Jackson, MS

What summer event would have teens nagging their parents to stay up to midnight on February 1 to register them? A week at the beach? A trip to an amusement park? Neither of those nor anything similar to them.  No, what they were so eager to sign up for was a week in Jackson, MS, where they will spend 2-3 hours serving outdoors in the summer heat and leading a kid's camp each afternoon. Registration opened at midnight on the first day of February and by the morning of February 6th all 48 spots had been claimed and a waiting list was formed. 

 What would motivate teens to spend a week serving kids in inner city Jackson? I believe the key is found in the profound words of Jesus that were passed onto the Apostle Paul and recorded by Luke in Acts 20:35 "It is more blessed to give than to receive." Serving others in the name of Jesus is profoundly rewarding. I believe it also life-changing. Particularly so for the developing minds of adolescents.  

 One verse that haunts me as a youth pastor as I attempt to teach teens how to follow Jesus is found in James 1:22. James, the brother of Jesus, said "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." Our goal as a church is not to produce teens who can merely memorize and recite portions of the Bible or familiarize themselves with the major themes or people of the Bible. Our goal is for them to be followers of Jesus. I believe the antidote to ward off biblical knowledge without Christ-like actions is through allowing them to serve others and to use those opportunities to help them discover how God has uniquely gifted them to be the Church. 

 This is our fifth consecutive summer to spend a week serving at Mission First. Mission First was founded in 1999 by First Baptist Jackson. It's located in west Jackson. What was once a blighted apartment complex is now an oasis offering a medical clinic, legal aid office, pre-school, and various other ministries for children and teens.  

 This year, a team of 48 teens and adults served at Mission First the week of June 24-28. Our mornings were spent working outdoors through various service projects (mowing widow's lawns, painting, etc.) and then in the afternoons we led their summer kids camp. Our teens lead the games, discussion groups, crafts, and Bible studies.

For many teens in our church, this trip is their first time to lead a Bible study.

 One of the many benefits of our week at Mission First is that it allows our teens to develop and strengthen their courage muscle. Courage must be developed by exercising it. Stretch it too much at once and one will often be too timid about ever moving beyond their comfort level again, but allowing it to be stretched little by little can create a mindset in teens that they can do more than what they are currently doing. This mission trip allows their courage muscle to be developed. 

 During our week at Mission First, we see 7th graders write and then lead a devotional in front of their peers. Teens that have listened to Bible studies all their life will jump in and lead a Bible study. We also see it in the morning service assignments as we'll have teens that have never used a power drill or tilled a garden jump in and tackle those opportunities. In doing so they discover they can do more than what they may have thought, teaching them not to back away from future growth opportunities.  

 A benefit of having a ministry partner that we return to year after year is that we can see how our relationship is helping the ministry to grow over a long period of time. Teens learn that, over time, simple tasks like leading a game or mowing a yard, can lead to real, gospel-driven, change in communities.

 Reggie Joiner, founder of Orange and the author of Parenting Beyond Your Capacity says

Most kids will never feel significant until we give them something significant to do." I believe that our church sending teens to serve through and alongside Mission First each summer gives them something significant to do and teaches them that they are significant. It's one week that has the potential to change how they view themselves during the other fifty-one weeks of the year. Once someone has found their significance in God and His work, it becomes much more difficult for them to give into the lies of our enemy; the ones that promise pleasure and significance through thoughts or actions that only lead them to think less of themselves.  

- Reggie Joiner 

How to pray for Mission First

Pray for safety.

Between travel, outdoor work, and the normal high energy level of teens, there's plenty of opportunities for accidents to happen.

Pray for transformed lives.

Pray that God would use us to help bring about life change in others and that God would change us as we are obedient to Him.

Pray for Mission First.

Pray that God will continue to use their staff and volunteers to transform their neighborhood.

Pray for Mission First staff.

We work directly with Eric Troyer, Community Development Director, Willis Bridges, Director of Sports Ministry, and Mrs. Claudette Nolan, Director of Education 

 If you would like to keep up with our team while we serve, follow

@StarkYouth on Twitter or Instagram as we'll post updates throughout the week. In order to learn more about Mission First,

visit missionfirst.org.

Neil Tullos