The Southern Peace and Justice Center has been a tiny seed of an idea for 5 years while Open Door toiled to Raise the Roof. In the last month that tiny seed has sprouted and started to grow. This week Reva Brooks and Rhoda Byler Yoder got together at a coffee shop. In two hours they outlined a Center education program to help teenagers who are not succeeding in school. Making that program grow will take work, local and national volunteers, and support. But stay tuned. When Reva and Rhoda get together, things happen fast.
The Southern Peace and Justice Center is based in the south side of Jackson, Mississippi. The south side has been ignored for decades. When it comes to resources, you name it, we ain’t got it. South Jackson lacks adequate health care, access to food and water, or education for kids who don’t fit expectations. Equity for everyone is but a dream. The Center has a focus on each of these four areas. But we know that trying to do a little of everything means doing nothing well.
So we are asking, ‘What do we do? Who can we support instead of doing it ourselves? Who will help? Who will oppose? Where does the Way of Jesus lead us in south Jackson and in Mississippi?’ The wisdom we need now is much greater than the wisdom we needed to complete Raise the Roof.
The education conversation has already started with Reva and Rhoda’s leadership. Many more local and national conversations are beginning. And we need volunteer work groups to help us take the facility to the next level of service.
The “Jubilee Door”
Our beautiful new sanctuary has an ugly old main door so rotted it has to be pried open with a crowbar. You can still come in through the side door, if you know where you are going, but that is not welcoming for new people. Not good enough for Open Door Mennonite Church. Our new entry will be called the “Jubilee Door” in gratitude for years of encouragement and support from our beloved Jubilee Mennonite Church in Meridian, Mississippi.
We need a work group to rip out the old frame and put in a 36” 15-light door with side lights. Then we will need a new ramp and entry platform with safety rails. This can be the work of one group or two. Each work team will need an experienced carpenter and lots of hands to make light work.
Some people in south Jackson will not be comfortable coming into our beautiful new church sanctuary no matter how welcoming we are. But we’re pretty sure the “Jubilee Door” will work just as well for us going out as for others coming in. We are planning a Peace Garden for community events in the large grassy space outside the main entry. Local supporters have started donating plants for the first perennial beds. Next we need to design the Peace Garden and start replacing lawn grass with beds for native plants and trees. We love growing things. But this project really needs a garden designer willing to work with us on the design and then bring a work team to make it happen.
Let There Be Light
Many of the windows in our TV-studio-turned-church were covered by dingy panels that are now falling apart. This is a perfect work project for energetic volunteers willing to get dirty working on 8-foot scaffolding. We will pull down the old panels, then repair and paint the long-hidden window frames. Your work will quickly “let there be light.”
The Southern Peace and Justice Center needs your prayers and your support. Pastor Hugh Hollowell and the Board needs wisdom to guide our steps as we grow. Warren Yoder, the Center organizer, needs your prayers as he convenes conversations, produces Mississippi activities for Mennonite Mission Network’s Civil Rights Pilgrimage, raises funds, and recruits volunteer groups.
Yes, we do realize it is completely ridiculous for a small congregation to start a Southern Peace and Justice Center. Even more ridiculous than it was to dream of a Raise the Roof campaign. But we don’t have anyone else to answer the call. So here we go.
Please contact WarrenYoder@Gmail.com or 601.949.7000 if any part of this vision has your name on it.