(Memphis) Church mission volunteers, usually with a stream of children in tow, hit the streets early in the Brinkley Heights area of North Memphis.
“We try to meet the kids where they are, to be in the community, rather than take them out of context trying to teach them out of context. We are out here in the streets,” says Holly Wilkerson of Ohio, who is in her third summer of working with the community program.
They go door to door asking kids to come to Vacation Bible School, and they don’t have to go far, since the bible school is held on their block.
Brinkley Heights Baptist Church started this Street Reach ministry years ago, and it has blossomed into 2,000 kids every summer.
For two hours a day, at eight different sites, they play games, do crafts, sing and dance and learn about the Bible.
This Street Reach took on a sense of urgency after five innocent neighborhood children were shot in gang violence a few years ago.
“It was that incident that really propelled us to the next level, to say you know what we gotta fight for the kids in our community,” says Brinkley Heights Baptist Church Pastor Tim Cox.
Every wee,k a new stream of volunteers from churches around the country show up to hit the streets and reach out to the children.
Josiah Cannon, who lives in Chattanooga, is back for another summer of volunteer work.
“I get very connected. It’s really hard to leave. I get very attached to some of these kids,” says Cannon.
Carla Johnson was once a child in Street Reach herself. Now she brings her own kids.
“It’s a good thing that they have something like this for the children. It’s not that much around here for the kids to do,” says Johnson.
When the games, songs and Bible studies are over, a connection has been made that can lead some children to the church’s Christian Academy and their first chance at a private school education.
“At the end of the summer, I will actually go to those homes and sit down with parents, explain our school is a Christian School, but not for kids what have everything,” says Pastor Cox.
He asks parents whose kids are at high risk of falling through the cracks to let their children attend Brinkley Heights Urban Academy where they can get a more personalized, private school education tailored to their specific needs.
So far. no one refused.
Last year, the school had the space and funding to take 12 out of 20 children whose parents wanted them in.
“Many times, tears will be in their eyes and they say ‘Yes. Thank you for the opportunity,'” says Pastor Cox.
It’s an opportunity for a different future and also for giving back, to bring in others to Street Reach at a time.
The students recruited usually get a scholarship to cover the $5,000-a-year cost of the private school.
If you want to find out more about how you can help children in the Street Reach program, call 901-324-3022.