When the First United Methodist Church youth group got back from a mission trip to Oklahoma, they were inspired to help those in their own backyard. After all, their neighbors—those in the three-mile radius around the downtown congregation—live in an area where the poverty level is the highest in the state. Incomes average less than $20,000 a year, and the single-mom population is nearly 50%.
There was no need to travel hundreds of miles to help those in need, they recognized.
These thoughts went hand in hand with the vision of one of the senior pastors in the church who was working to increase First Methodist’s outreach efforts to its neighbors. The thoughts turned into action and resulted in the soon-to-be nonprofit organization Revive 225, a summer program that draws college students from across the nation for one-week urban mission trips to the heart of Baton Rouge.
Revive 225 aspires to do what its name suggests—revive the homes of the area and the people, too.
“It’s designed to be engaging and relational,” says Alex Byo, director of missions for the church. “Our biggest goal is to simply share the love with our neighbors.”
Revive 225 shares that love through physical work, helping homeowners in need to repair their homes in various ways. Tasks range from electrical work, plumbing and carpentry to landscaping and painting. Though official 501(c)(3) status won’t be achieved until 2016, Revive 225 didn’t need it to get started. This year, 11 homes have been repaired, five are in progress, and 15 families encompassing 41 people have
Rob Riley served as a site leader and worked with teams from three states this summer.
“Besides the completed work, the teams leave behind a house full of love,” Riley says. “Each time the youth exited the vans and cars, I could see a transformation in them. They put aside their teenage concerns and picked up their mission tools and shared themselves to make the house safer, warmer and drier for a family.”
Creating safer, warmer and drier homes are all goals that Byo hopes to achieve through the ministry. They’re small goals that make a big impact. Once a home is repaired, the homeowners can begin to repair themselves, and their lives.
“The people we’re helping are just handicapped in some way or the other,” Byo says. “They’re handicapped by this or that. They’re really no different than you and I.”
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