Wow. Yesterday’s two-hour lunch and tour with Dr. Jimmy Dorrell in Waco was eye-opening and jaw-dropping unbelievable. Almost 30 years ago, Jimmy, a theology professor at the Truitt Seminary at Baylor, and his wife decided to move into the roughest part of Waco and live their lives in order to make a difference. And sitting at his feet yesterday afternoon—I was actually sitting across the table from him at the World Cup Cafe with a World Famous World Cup cheeseburger loaded with jalepenos and pico de gallo—was an unforgettable treat arranged by Jim Martin at the Crestview Church of Christ in Waco.
Jimmy’s vision and hard work and dedication to being the Body of Christ in Waco has now turned into Mission Waco, a non-profit organization with 40 employees that oversees more than two-million-dollars a year in relief and assistance for that city’s poor and marginalized. They facilitate job training and placement, provide medical and clinical services, and distribute food and clothing. They run GED programs and alcohol and drug abuse recovery centers. They operate parks and youth centers and affordable housing. They are intimately and intricately involved in people’s lives, living in honest and loving and serving relationships with that city’s poorest and most at-risk souls. The poverty rate in most cities in America is between eleven and twelve percent. It’s 27-percent in Waco. And Jimmy’s committed his life to helping that quarter of his city’s population.
And it’s amazing.
Jimmy drove us around all the worst parts of East Waco where Mission Waco is making a huge difference in the lives of those people. But we spent most of our time at the corner of 15th and Concord, at one time not too long ago the absolute worst part of town. The three or four blocks near that corner were home to porn theaters, bars, drug houses, and prostitution rings. The buildings that didn’t pander to those kinds of activities had been condemned by the city. And Jimmy decided they needed to reclaim that area for Christ.
When he asked city officials to sell to him every condemned building, they gave all of them to him instead. And today the porn theater is now the completely remodeled and refurbished Jubilee Theatre, home to youth dances and recitals and family movies and worship assemblies and civic events. The bars have been transformed into drug and alcohol free youth centers offering meals and recreation and education to Waco’s young people. The vacant lots have been turned into Jubilee Park. And another bar has become the World Cup Cafe, offering great food, a Fair Trade Shop, and jobs for the economically-desperate.
I’m just amazed at how our Father has turned Jimmy’s dreams into life-changing realities for so many of God’s children in Waco. And I’m more convinced now than ever the Kingdom is absolutely the exact same things Jesus says it is. When our Lord preached Kingdom and described Kingdom and pointed to Kingdom it was always in that the blind were made to see, the lame were made to walk, the sick were healed, the hungry were fed, the prisoners were freed. Those things were evidence of the Kingdom. And, thanks to Jimmy Dorrell and his Mission Waco and the Church Under the Bridge, the Kingdom is flourishing in Waco.
I’m grateful to Jim Martin for asking me to be a part of this Waco Alliance of ours. Nine preachers and an elder. Our monthly meetings are such great joys to me. We talk about our families and our churches. We discuss highs and lows. We share our experiences and offer each other advice. We talk and we listen. And I find that when I’m telling my stories it does me a world of good to articulate and process what’s going on in my mind and in my life. And when I’m listening to another brother tell his story, I benefit so much in reflecting on my own common or unique experiences that compare or contrast with his.
The sharing of our stories helps both the tellers and the hearers. God knows that. Jesus knew that. That’s why oral tradition is so powerful. That’s why the Scriptures are written the way they are. That’s why our Father brings us together in congregations, in families of believers: to share and confess and encourage and pass on the faith in our stories.
God is changing lives in Waco through the works of Jimmy Dorrell. And he’s shaping lives in Waco, mine specifically, through the good works of Jimmy Martin.