By David Dawson
NASHVILLE — Kim Margrave, volunteer missions specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, is a strong believer in the concept, “You don’t need a passport to do missions work.”
Margrave’s motto is ringing true time and time again this summer for those who are involved in City Reach Nashville.
“This is my very first missions trip — and I love it,” said Morgan Giordano, a rising high school senior from Cumming, Ga., who came to Nashville to serve as a counselor for a Backyard Bible Club at Parkwood Villa Apartments. “I love being able to talk to different people about the Lord.”
City Reach Nashville is part of a five-city missions initiative designed and implemented by the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. First envisioned by TBMB executive director and president Randy C. Davis, the ministry involves a missions partnership with the five metro associations in Tennessee — Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, Chattanooga, and Clarksville — and was created as a means of reaching Tennessee for Christ by concentrating on those five major cities.
City Reach Nashville, which launched in January, is the second “stop” on the five-city itinerary. The theme of the initiative is “churches helping churches.” And that’s exactly what’s happening.
The youth group from Bell Road Baptist Church in Nashville, for instance, traveled across town to lead the praise and worship time during Vacation Bible School at Covenant Baptist Church.
“We really needed help with our VBS, and God used the City Reach mission to meet our needs so that we could have all the volunteers we needed to put on a great summer missions event for our community,” said Jen Harvey, the VBS director at Covenant Baptist. “The (Bell Road Baptist) youth were energetic and enthusiastic. They took their role as worship leaders seriously and practiced diligently. I am grateful for their help and their willingness to model leadership to our kids and youth.”
Harvey said her church “personally experienced the City Reach mission to connect Tennessee Baptist Churches together for Jesus Christ’s mission to reach everyone in our state with the gospel,” and said relationships were formed during VBS that will continue to help spread the good news of Christ in the weeks and months ahead.
“We are excited to partner further with this church youth group (from Bell Road) that is going to do a one-day Backyard Bible Club in a local international apartment complex with refugee children from Nepal, Burma, Iraq, and El Salvador,” she said.
This month, City Reach Nashville has teamed up with “World Changers” to provide manpower to churches in the metro area that need help staffing their outreach projects (such as VBS or other children’s ministries) and to perform other requests and service projects.
City Reach Nashville coordinator Mark Harvey said he has heard glowing reports from the volunteers thus far, and said he hopes the movement will continue to make a major impact.
City Reach organizers recently sent a team to New Season Church in north Nashville to help the church with several projects, including moving a wheelchair ramp from the front of the church to a side entrance. The group — comprised primarily of youth-aged World Changers volunteers — is also providing staff for the Backyard Bible Clubs that New Season Church is hosting at multiple sites.
New Season pastor Dwayne Lewis said the efforts of those involved in City Reach has enhanced his church’s outreach and, more importantly, has enabled the church to show its love for those who live in the neighborhoods near the church.
“This has been really great for our church because it has given us a chance to reach the community and do some things that we are not able to do with our congregation,” said Lewis. “To see these guys and girls (with City Reach and World Changers) come in here, with the heart that they have and the passion that they have for Jesus — it’s just been outstanding. It’s helping us make an impact in our community.”
Jordan Kennedy, who served as crew chief for the group that helped move the wheelchair ramp, said he was honored to be using his talents (he has been involved in construction work for 20 years) to do Kingdom work.
“We all have a calling; we all have that one thing we are supposed to do,” said Kennedy. “My dad started a construction company before I was born, and I recently took over the company. And so, there’s a reason I learned this. Everything we learn, whether we realize it or not, is for the glory of God.”
Kennedy said he and his team are excited about working with New Season Church and other churches. “We do whatever needs to be done,” he said. “Whatever the Lord puts in our path.”
The City Reach project is helping build new relationships among believers.
“We came to worship yesterday at New Season, and we got to meet the pastor, Pastor Lewis,” said Morgan Kelly, who was a member of the team assigned to the renovation work at New Season. “They were a very welcoming congregation. It was a great morning for us.”
Scott Gilbert, senior pastor of Concord Baptist Church in Cumming, Ga., came to Nashville with a team of almost 40 volunteers — mostly from the youth group — to serve with City Reach through World Changers. The group is providing community outreach for New Season Church.
“We are here to be the hands and feet of New Season Church,” said Gilbert. “We are representing their church, and we are also representing Christ in this community.
“It’s a chance for our youth to sit down with these kids (from the community) and build some relationships with them,” he added. “I told my youth: ‘I want you on the forefront. You’re going to teach the Bible studies, you’re going to run the games, and I want you to get to know these kids and their life stories. And then take that opportunity to show them what Christ has done in your life.’ ”
Gilbert said he believes the members of the youth group are creating life-long memories during their time in Nashville.
“I told our youth that, when we leave on Wednesday, if you’ve got tears in your eyes because you’ve grown to love these kids, then we’ve been successful,” he said. “We will have done what God sent us here to do.”
City Reach Nashville coordinator Mark Harvey said groups of volunteers are still needed for projects/assignments throughout Nashville. The list includes:
• Carpet removal and installation at Smith Springs Baptist Church;
• Building a playground at Mount Olive Baptist Church;
• Repairing and repaving the parking lot at Hickory Hills Baptist Church;
• General clean-up and maintenance, painting at Berryhill Baptist Church;
• Help with childcare, administrative work, and tutoring adults for high school equivalency at Begin Anew Baptist Church.
If you are interested in helping with City Reach Nashville in the weeks ahead, contact Mark Harvey at firstname.lastname@example.org.