We are now just over a week removed from our fall event, For the Welfare of the City. If you weren't able to join us, I announced some exciting new vision for our ministry. Check out a quick recap.
With the start of the school year, we open the doors again for the BridgeBuilders KIDS After-School Program. It has been a great start to the year, with several exciting developments this fall. Partnership with Dallas Afterschool Our new partnership provides us with connection to numerous other after school programs in the area, free training, and more. The programs and help offered by this organization allow us to reach higher standards, constantly helping us better our own program.
New Leadership After a year of working in the After-School Program, we are excited that Shaun and Laverne Grant have joined the BridgeBuilders team, leading the day-to-day operation of the program. Regina Suttle continues to handle the administrative leadership, focusing on volunteer engagement and obtaining funds and grants.
YMCA Partnership This fall we are also partnering with the YMCA for swimming lessons. Currently between 8-10 kids can earn the opportunity to go to the lessons, with the potential for more as the partnership grows.
Dallas Police The Dallas Police Department is helping us provide much-needed conflict resolution. Community officers are coming to the program and working with our teenagers on their ability to manage and resolve conflict. Not only does this provide a needed life skill, it also fosters goodwill between and our community and the police.
Roster once again strong Every day we have around 65 kids coming to receive these programs, not to mention a hot meal, homework help, and more, all in a safe and supportive environment.
And we need your help! We need 4-5 volunteers each day, as well as help providing the meals for these kids. If you are interested in volunteering or feeding a fun group of kids, click here to email Regina Suttle.
The end of the summer is a challenging financial time for non-profit ministries like BridgeBuilders. Often times, these “dog days” result in a drop in giving, and we have been feeling the weight of that effect.
Every Monday our staff gathers for prayer. Last week’s gathering was particularly powerful as we discussed our complete reliance upon God’s provision in every area of life, personally and certainly as a ministry. Thus, we cried out to God for the provision needed to sustain BridgeBuilders during this challenging time here at the end of the summer.
The next two days were silent, but God in His faithfulness heard our prayer and Thursday we received a gracious challenge grant of $50,000!
So, every dollar you give to BridgeBuilders between now and the end of September will be matched dollar-for-dollar, thanks to this generous gift. There is no better time to give to BridgeBuilders, to help us continue the fight to cure poverty in our city. With another generous gift this morning, we are already 10% of the way there. I am asking you to join us in meeting the needs of this ministry.
To make a one-time gift, or to partner with us monthly, click here or on the donate button below.
Thank you so much for your support and prayers for BridgeBuilders, we are excited to see God move through this gift!
S. Michael Craven, President
*This challenge grant gift is particularly important right now. Many of you might be asking, "How can we be running low on funds? Didn't BridgeBuilders recently receive a $539,000 grant?" We sure did! And we are excited to invest it in the future of our ministry.
However, these are “restricted” funds. This means that they can only be used for specific programs designated by the foundation. In the case of our recent $539,000 grant, those funds are part of a 3-year grant limited for use in our youth sports program. The crazy truth is that we could have a million dollars in restricted funds in the bank and yet not be able to cover our daily operating costs! (We currently have $685,000 in restricted funds in the bank but we cannot use these funds to cover our general operating expenses such as payroll).
In order for our mission to continue, we must raise the money needed to pay our staff, our bills, etc. Thanks to your partnership in this challenge grant, the ministry will continue to thrive, and our people will have the ability to utilize the funds provided through these generous grants.
Mom and Dad. That’s what the students, and our staff, like to call them.
One of the more unique aspects of BridgeBuilders is our training team. While the BridgeBuilders WORK program takes many moving parts to be successful, none are more important than William Lee and Julie Busse.
Together William and Julie provide life skills training and support for many people who have rarely or never seen encouragement or support. Mr. Lee and Ms. Busse are unique, however, in how they perfectly complement one another.
Mr. Lee provides tough love. Without sacrificing encouragement, he tells students what they need to hear, messages to challenge them, to push them to achieve more than they’ve ever achieved.
His Army background apparent, Mr. Lee commands the respect of the room. But he’s not just a drill sergeant. He has developed a unique curriculum exclusive to BridgeBuilders, which teaches students the relationships vital to their lives: with God, self, others, and creation.
In a near perfect complement, Ms. Busse takes a nurturing role with her students. Her background in special education perfectly suits her to provide the nurturing support students need. The vital needs of encouragement and support are met through Ms. Busse’s teaching and demeanor.
Together, Mr. Lee and Ms. Busse provide the opposite, yet complementary, needs of the students in our program: both the discipline and the encouragement, and together they are helping build a strong, holistic, successful life skills and vocational training course.
Today’s FAQ Blog is about Allies. As a part of BridgeBuilders WORK Life Skills and Employment Training, each student is paired with an ally to be an encouragement through the process. Laura Fechner, the director of our ally program, is helping us answer a few questions… What is an ally? An ally is an adult who walks alongside an employment training student for 4-5 weeks, to encourage and support them in this new endeavor in their life.
What are the expectations of an ally? To meet with their student weekly for lunch, to form a friendship with them during that time. The desire and hope is that it becomes a lasting friendship that goes beyond the five-week training course. Also, allies should plan to attend volunteer orientation and the student’s graduation.
We also require allies to be like-minded in their beliefs with BridgeBuilders, because ultimately through this process we want to see these students find a relationship with the Lord. What do you say to the person who is nervous about becoming an ally? If you can befriend someone who is different than you and has a different lifestyle in a different culture, then you can be an ally. It’s simply walking alongside someone, in order to be an encourager.
Tell me what an ally is NOT… An ally is not an evangelist, an ally is not a financial resource, an ally is not a professional counselor, and an ally is not a pastor. An ally is simply a friend and encourager.
What does this commitment entail? A new ally will attend a 90-minute volunteer orientation on the third Saturday of a month. After that you’ll be matched with a student in one of our classes according to a list of criteria on the application. For example, we match men with men, women with women, maybe we’ll match you based on shared characteristics like children or age, just so there is some sort of common bond.
After being matched, you would come to our West Dallas offices Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday for an hour to have lunch once a week during the five-week course. If you come on a Tuesday or Thursday, BridgeBuilders provides lunch, otherwise you would need to bring lunch for both of you, or take your ally out to eat. On the last Friday of their curriculum you will definitely want to attend the graduation.
What is your ongoing need for allies? We need MANY allies. We are ramping up our training program and hoping to have more students than ever, so we need new and fresh allies who want to build these relationships. This is a very important service we provide for these students, many of whom simply need consistent encouragement.
Today’s blog is part of a new series on Frequently Asked Questions. Stay tuned as we address some of the common questions asked of us: who BridgeBuilders is, what we do, our history, our future, and more. Today we are talking about I Got Your Back, our annual back-to-school bash and school supply drive, coming up on August 20.
What is “I Got Your Back”?
IGYB is an event geared towards helping parents equip their kids with the necessary materials for getting back in the classroom with confidence coupled with a back-to-school bash to kick off the school year with gusto. It was launched 8 years ago with BridgeBuilders’ co-founder, Velma Mitchell, and her desire to provide school supplies to the kids in the housing projects in Bonton.
Why is IGYB needed?
The average price of school supplies is skyrocketing. In 2014, the average cost to send a student to middle school with a backpack and the necessary school supplies would set someone back over $300. Due to this, many families are unable to provide all the supplies needed for their kids. IGYB steps in the gap so that kids are able to have what they need to succeed in the classroom. This event also helps step in the gap for many teachers who are forced to pay for extra school supplies out of their own pocket in order to provide for kids who are unable to get all the supplies required.
Who benefits from IGYB?
Families in the Bonton community of South Dallas. Participants in BridgeBuilders’ programs. Local school teachers. And all those who get an opportunity to bless this community with what God has blessed them with.
How can you help?
By now you have hopefully seen a letter in the mail from me, outlining all that we are doing at BridgeBuilders to end the cycle of poverty, including a few specifics about this summer. (To see a full version of the letter, click here.) BridgeBuilders is addressing the root causes of poverty, which are relational rather than material. With your support, we are working to solve the plaguing problem of modern poverty, rooted in the broken relationships with God, self, others, and creation.
BridgeBuilders maintains missionaries in South Dallas that work to reconcile people to God through Christ, thereby giving them a new nature, followed by an array of redemptive programs and services in our West Dallas location that teach the poor how to live in right relationship with themselves, others and creation—what the Bible calls shalom.
Please consider making a donation today so we can continue to press God’s kingdom into the impoverished areas of our city, building His church, and demonstrating to a watching world that Jesus is the King of Kings who has promised to make all things new!
Dear friends, In the last week, we have witnessed multiple tragedies in which sinful racial distinctions have once again been employed in the service of evil to kill and divide human beings made in the image of God. We grieve and pray for the families of those police officers killed and wounded here in Dallas as well as those of Philando Castile in Minnesota and Alton Sterling in Louisiana.
In the wake of these tragedies, we call upon Christians everywhere to bear witness to the life-giving power of the gospel in which these sinful divisions of the human race are being nullified in Christ Jesus. We further confess that we are all subject to the temptations of racial division and plead for God’s grace and mercy to deliver us from sin, which seeks to divide us from one another.
This moment demands that the church of Jesus Christ displays to a watching world what life looks like under the rule and reign of God in which “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). It is our Adversary who seeks to divide and destroy humanity and we call upon the grace of God to empower His church to overcome this evil with the love of Christ.
In Christ, S. Michael Craven
We are excited today to announce the addition of Clifton Reese, BridgeBuilders’ newest Urban Missionary.
Many of you know Clifton as a long-time Bonton resident and member of the BridgeBuilders family. Several months ago Clifton expressed his desire and calling to serve as a missionary to his community, and we are thrilled the Lord has brought this dream to life.
As an urban missionary organization, we recognize the tremendous importance of raising local leadership. This is why we are especially excited about Clifton, who has already begun ministering in his home community... this is a monumental event in our history!
For a short message from Clifton about his ministry in Bonton, click on the video above. To partner with Clifton click here to visit hisbridgebuilders.org/clifton.
No doubt one of the most powerful moments of our banquet this past weekend was hearing the story of Daris and Daron, and how their relationship budded into a powerful story of redemption. The video is above, in case you missed it (or if you just need to see it again!).
Stay tuned to the blog for photos and a full recap of the banquet festivities.
I am so excited to announce the publishing of my son’s book, Lessons on the Way to Heaven: What My Father Taught Me. The book tells the story of Mike Fechner, my late husband and founder of H.I.S. BridgeBuilders, from the perspective of our son, Michael, Jr. Mike’s life dramatically changed in his early thirties, which of course greatly impacted the life of our entire family. Because Michael was the oldest, around 7 at the time, he was the child who saw the greatest transformation, the change that the Lord was developing in his dad’s life.
Michael shares so many stories about Mike, including events in Mike’s childhood that showed his bent in life. All of these stories and events shaped who Mike was in adulthood and had an impact in revealing his true character as he looked in the mirror to see who he had become.
The change in Mike’s life was the catalyst to start BridgeBuilders and to commit his life to community transformation and changing the lives of the poor and the least. Michael shares how Velma, our co-founder, played a strategic role in the formation of the ministry. He gives a wonderful timeline of how God can use the life of one ordinary man to do extraordinary things.
Michael also shares the roughest season of all, when his dad was diagnosed with cancer and the battle that ensued for the next years. He tells how during this battle, Mike continued to fight for the poor, committing his life to love the least of these.
This is a story of hope, of vision, and Mike’s enduring legacy. It is a story of a man being used by God to help change a city. I am so proud of Michael for honoring his father in this way and in glorifying the Lord by sharing stories of lives that He has transformed.
You will be encouraged in reading the book to understand how God can use all of us to change lives.
Below is a link to purchase the book, a link to a recent interview with Michael about the book’s release, as well as a short excerpt.
Looking back, my father had emerged as an individual microcosm of Plano—full of unabashed pride, unchecked growth, and unlimited potential. But he was so miserable he would stay up nights in anguish. Deep in his soul, he knew he was living a lie.
“It was a façade,” he wrote. “I worked long hours, day and night. Friendships were all about comparing what we had with others and affirming each other’s material possessions. On the outside, we were beautiful people living in a beautiful place doing beautiful things, but inside, the pit opened wide, and it was asking more and more of my soul.”
At age twenty-eight—just a year older than I am now—he looked in the mirror and didn’t see Mike Fechner; he saw the rich young ruler Jesus had admonished to sell all he had, give to the poor, and “follow me.” Or the prodigal son, who had turned his back on God’s ways. Or the one he identified with most—Jacob, who was known for his deception.
“I was a deceiver,” he wrote. “All showroom. No warehouse.”
This is the second of a series of stories about the connection between BridgeBuilders and our friends in and around Floydada, Texas. Keep an eye on the blog for later installments. Part 2
In the first installment of West Texas meets Bonton, you met a group of men from West Texas who have mobilized their networks to provide equipment and compost at Bonton Farms. David Davidson is another of the original group that visited and fell in love with the ministry happening in Bonton. A farmer and rancher by trade, David helped bring equipment and prepare the land for the spring planting.
David lives in the rural area near Childress, Texas, a town with roughly 6000 people, a stark contrast from the booming metropolis of Dallas. Despite the difference, he saw a similar need in his own backyard and an opportunity to be a part of what God is doing.
“I realized after I got back we have the same people in this town that they have in Bonton,” says David. “We have poverty here, we have people that are hungry to hear the Gospel, and they’re not going to church, they just don’t feel comfortable walking into that situation.
“We have a government apartment complex here and I told my wife, ‘God told me we need to go this apartment complex and start teaching a Bible study.’”
With the Lord’s blessing and an obedient heart, David did just that. The Bible study has been running for about a year and has even helped launch a pair of other Bible studies.
“It’s been absolutely awesome. We have another group of people that come to my house, from all of that someone from my Sunday school class started their own Bible study six weeks ago.
“Obedience is all it is, being obedient to our God, and it goes back to being obedient to what God told me to do in Bonton. I got a vision there of what can actually happen, if you’re obedient.
“It may be crazy, it did not make sense to plant a garden in Bonton, that makes no sense, but God gave (BridgeBuilders Director of Urban Missions) Daron (Babcock) that vision and he was obedient to it and look what God’s done. It didn’t make sense when God told Abraham he was going to have a baby when he was 80, but that’s what makes God shine, He does things that make no sense.
“What we’re doing here is not near the scale of what they’re doing in Bonton, but we’ve really tried to focus on people that weren’t in the church…at all. It’s people that we had a little bit of relationship with, we’re a small community, everybody knows everybody, but enough of a relationship that they trusted us. We’ve just kind of worked from there, it’s been an amazing, amazing ride the last year.”
“God was going to accomplish His purpose in Bonton and with BridgeBuilders, He just let me be a part of it, I don’t get any credit. God just allowed me to be part of this, He doesn’t need me, but He blessed me by letting me be part of it. It’s been a fun ride.”
What does the Bible say about poverty? Why do we work to alleviate poverty? These are common questions, and the answers provide insight into why we at BridgeBuilders are so passionate about our work in South Dallas. Our President, S. Michael Craven, recently spoke at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Plano, explaining why helping the poor is not simply an elective of the Christian faith.
Today's guest post is an excerpt from Dr. Jim Denison's blog "Why You Should Care About the Poor." Jim Denison, Ph.D., is founder of the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, a non-sectarian "think tank" designed to engage contemporary issues with biblical truth. Join over 100,000 who read Dr. Denison's daily Cultural Commentary: denisonforum.org/subscribe. For more information on the Denison Forum, visit denisonforum.org. To connect with Dr. Denison in social media, visit twitter.com/jimdenison or facebook.com/denisonforum.
Why does God care so much about the poor? Why does he call us to do the same? Because each person is his creation, made uniquely in his image, someone for whom Jesus died. A father cares for the physical needs of his children as well as the spiritual. If one of your children were hungry or hurting today, how would you feel? That's how God feels about every impoverished person.
But a second reason is that the first leads to the second. Jesus met physical need so he could meet spiritual need. He healed blind eyes so he could heal blind souls. He fed bodies so he could feed spirits. His disciples did the same. His disciples are called to do the same today. Dr. Randel Everett, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Midland, Texas, is right: "I have no right to preach the gospel to a hungry person."
A third reason why God wants us to care for the poor is that such compassion demonstrates the relevance of the gospel to our skeptical culture. The number of atheists and agonistics in America has quadrupled in the last 20 years. Sixty percent of our young people, ages 15-29, have left the church with no plans to return. What will happen if their children follow their example?
Why are they leaving? Every survey gives the same answer: they don't believe the church is relevant to their lives and society. In our culture, God is a hobby. He's for Sunday, not Monday; we separate the spiritual from the secular, religion from the real world.
But when God's people, in God's power, demonstrate God's love to those who need his help the most, we show our culture that he is relevant to our day. We meet physical need to meet spiritual need to preach the gospel. That's why Jesus began his ministry by preaching good news to the poor. It's why we must continue it in the same way today.
To read more of this article, visit Dr. Denison's website, The Denison Forum on Truth and Culture.
It’s been a busy year so far at Bonton Farms, and the community has taken notice! Check out what’s being said by our team and the media covering us (Click the quote to view the full article)… Dallas Morning News “The farm-in-a-food-desert is an evolving project of BridgeBuilders at the southern end of Bexar Street.”
“So what else is new down on the farm, past the recently planted trees along Bexar? How goes the challenge of turning lives around, of providing healthy, affordable food and opportunity to a neighborhood recharging after years of decline?”
Lubbock Avalanche-Journal “Babcock’s intent was to share his business expertise to help people lift themselves out of poverty. But God kept sending people to him who had a greater need, something more urgent than business know-how…”
“This is not an institutional project, but a one-on-one mission to show people how God can take the most dire circumstances and turn them into blessings when his people, who are called by his name, listen and obey.”