The first church we attended when we moved to Waco was Church Under the Bridge. We had volunteered with ministries to the poor in several cities before coming to Waco but in my experience this church’s ministry was the best I had seen.

This is a statement from their web site which says it better than I can:

“Church Under the Bridge attempts to avoid denominational, cultural, economic, or racial distinctions. We are a multi-cultural church committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and the unity of His Spirit. We welcome folks from wide and diverse backgrounds to love God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with all their heart, soul, and mind, and to love their neighbors as themselves. May we come together, black, white, brown, rich and poor, educated in the streets and in the university, all worshipping the living God, who makes us one.

Their worship was diverse from “Jesus Loves Me” (my favorite) to contemporary Christian, to country western. You never knew if you were going to be sitting by a business man, college student, or someone who was homeless.

They did a survey while I was there, asking the question; what do you like best about this church? I answered, “ I believe it is very close to what Jesus wanted the church to be.”

The next question was; what did I like the least about the church? I answered, “ I believe it is very close to what Jesus wanted the church to be.” My spirit loved this church but sometimes my flesh didn’t.

They call themselves the “Trolls” because they meet under a bridge. This is a story from a book Jimmy Dorrell wrote, “Trolls & Truth” about one of the members.

Beulah’s Truth:

No one with that many problems should be so happy. At 54 years old, this African American grandmother was still living in the projects after all those years of dreaming of her own place. But things had only gotten worse. For years she had experienced the three day a week trauma of kidney dialysis to keep her failing kidneys from killing her, but now there were signs of cancer; tests and more tests. She was barely surviving on the small welfare check she received for taking care of three of the grandchildren who lived with her. How would she get them to school, feed and care for them if she was admitted yet another time for her broken body? Yet she never questioned God. With a joy few Christians possess, Beulah puttered her motorized wheelchair down the streets of the government housing, singing hymns of praise as she went.

For years she had asked the Lord for her own home, knowing there was no way she could personally make that happen. Years passed and the cynics thought she was crazy to think about it. Then one day, she was asked to be on the board of directors for a local Christian nonprofit, which worked among the poor. Since most of the board members personally knew nothing about poverty, Beulah became the spokesperson for the poor among the middle class members. Through the months of meetings and dialogue, she built a relationship with a wealthy businessman on the same board. Their friendship increased and his family began to visit her in the projects to help with food and basic needs. She called him her own guardian angel

After three years of friendship, he requested a personal meeting to tell her how God had blessed him to bless others, holding a ring of keys,. He handed her her dream of her life: a brand new three bedroom house completely furnished and with food in the pantry. God had answered her prayers and silenced the cynics. Praises abounded and even the local newspaper ran a front page story on the dedication of this kingdom happening.

End of story? Hardly. What was her blessing has been used to bless others. Almost before the paint had dried, this trusting woman began opening her home to others. From women’s groups and Bible studies to hosting weddings, showers and for other bridge folks who had no home, Beulah blessed others with her blessing. She began meeting her new neighbors and inviting them over for coffee. She rode the streets praying for others and asking God to bring peace in the neighborhood. She sang songs of joy up and down the sidewalks of her new home.

Two years after entering her new earthly home, Beulah entered her heavenly home. As the crowd packed into the small country church where she had attended as a girl, the homegoing celebration was just that. Black and white, rich and poor, young and old; took their turns at the microphone to bear witness to how this poor woman with a broken body had blessed each of them. Everyone was amazed how many others she had blessed and helped in her life journey. And no one was sad that she only had two years in her new house because they knew she had just upgraded way beyond a three bedroom, two bath residence. She was now blessing God, face-to-face.

History of Mission Waco:

In 1978, Jimmy and Janet Dorrell bought a deteriorating house in the middle of a blighted neighorhood in North Waco. Based on their understanding of incarnational ministry, they sensed their vocational call was to live among the poor and help bring “good news” through relationships and empowerment opportunities. The couple began offering children’s and teen clubs each week in their home, meeting neighbors, and providing assistance to those struggling in the community.

The Dorrells left for a short time (1979-1982) to work in a church in Houston, followed by an exposure trip around the world, an experience which opened their eyes to the enormous needs of the hungry, the poor, the unevangelized and the struggling needs of so many around the globe. Convicted they should return to Waco, a community rich in possibilites with so many Christian students at Baylor and local churches, yet also the home of large numbers caught in the throes of poverty, they returned to their aging home to more seriously develop relationship-based ministries.

In 1991, after years of an informal neighborhood ministry, the Dorrells created “Cross Culture Experiences,” a non-profit Christian organization designed to help students leave the comfort of their own cultural experiences and come to understand and love the poor and marginalized. A “poverty simulation,” out-of-country “exposure trips,” and a few neighborhood Bible clubs filled the their time since the couple were bi-vocational. Within the year, a Christian foundation (Christian Mission Concerns, established by Paul and Katie Piper) chose to fund a $75,000 start up program called “Mission Waco” to be led by Jimmy and Janet. Within the year, the ministry exceeded expectations and CMC relocated oversight to Cross Culture Experiences. The foundation has continued to help support the ministry from its initiation.

Mission Waco’s programs 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. Today, 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. Today, it is the main offices for Mission Waco and has a computer lab, job training, G.E.D. classes, and a 243 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.

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. Today 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 l 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 today offer mixed income Christians a program-based living center with spiritual mentoring and accountability.

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.

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. Other organizations are locating in the facility to provide easier access for various needs of the poor.

On January 9, 2006, World Cup Cafe, the 42-seat corner restaurant at Jubilee Center (1321 N. 15th at Colcord), opened with specialty coffees and pastries. On January 31st, breakfast and lunch became the norm. On February 14th, the Cafe held its official Grand Opening. The World Cup Café not only offers coffees from around the world, but also is training men and women in the food service industry.

As the ministry grows, community organizing and coalition building has become the primary strategy in the imporverished neighborhoods of the community. Residents of changing neighborhoods are “re-neighboring” through block parties, community empowerment meetings, leadership development, and coalition building.

Through its entire history, Mission Waco staff and volunteers have worked hard to balance “hands-on” relationships with the poor, local churches, and the community. The call to bring good news to the poor has been a driving force since its first day. And the desire to create a biblical base for empowering compassion is still at its core. God has birthed, blessed and sustained this venture through the years! Thanks be to God.

Poverty Simulation

My second encounter with Mission Waco was Poverty Simulation weekend, We were attending a training school at our chuch and part of the training was this weekend. I have volunteered many times in soup kitchens, homeless shelters, etc over the years. I thought I had a fairly good understanding of the problems they encounter.

This weekend made me realize my understanding was extremely limited. If anyone thinks that if someone who is homeless, should just go get a job; it is so much more complex than that. I tell you this being homeless, even pretending was one of the hardest things I have ever done.

Statement from their web site:

Today over 1.4 Billion people live in absolute poverty and many have never heard the Good News of Jesus.

Come understand the issues of poverty as you get a small glimpse of being poor for a weekend.

National Child Poverty

Over 13 million children in the United States—18% of all children—live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level—$22,050 a year for a family of four. Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses. Using this standard, 39% of children live in low-income families.

About the Poverty


In 1986 Jimmy and Janet Dorrell did a Poverty Simulation for a group from Oklahoma City whose Youth Pastor was concerned that his youth were not applying their knowledge of scripture to their lives.Thus, the experience was created which challenged the students to see the world through different eyes. Scripture and doctrine have become real and alive for both students and leaders who have participated in the weekend.

“Do not waste your time on Social Questions.

What is the matter with the poor is Poverty;

what is the matter with the rich is Uselessness.”

-George Bernard Shaw

What to Bring on a Poverty Simulation.

Pack just like any other weekend trip, including sleeping bag/pillow/towel.

Most of all, bring a good, positive attitude.

“Women do two thirds of the world’s work.

Yet they earn only one tenth of the world’s income and own

less than one percent of the world’s property. They are

among the poorest of the world’s poor.”

-Barber B. Conable, Jr.

Below is a list of Scriptures to show the importance God places upon caring for the poor.

Deuteronomy 15:1-11 –

This of course deals with God establishing the new nation Israel after setting her free from slavery. God establishes the Sabbatical Year for canceling debts. God makes concern for the poor both individual and institutional. Institutionally, God prevents the development of a perpetual underclass through debt. Individually, God wants Israelites to be liberal and openhanded in their personal relationships with the poor (v8). Amazingly, through both individual and institutional concern for the poor Israel is given preeminence as a nation.

Questions: How do nations normally establish themselves as mighty and powerful?

In v4 when God says there should be no poor among you, do you think He still believes that?

In saying that there will always be poor people, does God want us to just give up then?

Matthew 19:16-30

So many time the parable of the Rich Young Ruler is about the ruler giving up things, but Jesus does not ask him to give up possessions alone. Jesus says that to follow Him the ruler must sell his many possessions and then give to the poor. Initiating relationship with the poor is a prerequisite to Jesus for following Him. Our righteousness must also be accompanied with justice.

Questions: Do you think Jesus was serious in telling the ruler to sell his possessions and give to the poor?

Do you think Jesus is still serious about the wealthy being in relationship with Himself and the poor?

What is Jesus saying about the fulfillment of possessions?