Jonathan Clater, Community Outreach Director at Griggs Memorial Baptist Church
Staying on Mission
The Mission statement of Griggs is simple. It is to make disciples, particularly in the neighborhood of Poe Mill. Staying on mission is very important to us. We believe in the local church and we believe in our mission. We feel the calling from God to minister to the neighborhood that is closest to our church. This means that all of our evangelistic efforts take place in Poe Mill, all of our events are designed to serve those in Poe Mill, and we do everything with the needs of Poe Mill in mind.
Mill Village Mission
Without trying to bore you with an exhaustive history of the mills in South Carolina, let me share a quick history to show why our neighborhood is the way that it is. During the 1950s and 1960s, Greenville was known by many as the textile capital of the world. The Mill named after F. W. Poe was one of the most lucrative in the area. Poe Mill was a successful operation from 1896-1977.
In its hay day, Poe Mill had a prime location sitting very near the main line of the
Southern Railroad and right off the well-traveled Buncombe Road. The houses surrounding the Mill were built for mill-employed families to rent at a reasonable rate. These were simple, well-built homes that provided a convenient location for many of the mill employees. Life in the mill village was determined by the operation of the mill. They woke up with a whistle at the mill, they ate when the mill employees ate, and they slept only when the mill was closed for the night.
After the golden age of textiles in the 60s, several factors led to the demise of textile mills in the South East. One of them is the owners of these mills found it cheaper to outsource labor overseas, leaving thousands of Americans unemployed.
Since then, the mill villages have fallen upon many economic and social hardships. Multiple generations have struggled to find work and now living in a seemingly endless cycle of poverty. This is the story of the West End of Greenville, South Carolina. This is the neighborhood where Griggs ministers.
One year ago God was using many factors in my life to call me into a life of ministry. I immediately started searching for a church where I could quickly get involved. I heard about Griggs from a friend and joined him the next Sunday.
The first Sunday at Griggs I remember hearing how the Pastor was walking around the neighborhood inviting families to the upcoming VBS. I thought that was so awkward (and a little dangerous) that he was walking around the neighborhood talking to people like that! I never imagined that a few months later that would be my job.
A few weeks later, I went to the neighborhood with Pastor Mitch and trust me, it was very uncomfortable for a kid from the mountains of New Hampshire. I had never done anything like that, but God was using even the awkwardness of talking to people who, in my mind, seemed very different from me to show me of glimpse of real service.
Serving Jesus is rarely comfortable. This summer as an intern at Griggs, I have found myself in many uncomfortable situations. I have no shower or stove in my house, my neighbors are definitely selling crack every night, I have run away from more stray Pit Bulls than I can count, I have been robbed at knife-point, and given a large portion of my money to feed homeless men and women that are hungry. (Mom I hope you are not reading this…)
The lessons I have learned about Jesus and service far outweigh the discomfort. The same Jesus who was rejected by His family and hometown, homeless and poor during His ministry, and ultimately nailed to a cross by people who hated Him is the same Jesus who understands my discomfort and has promised to be with me to the end of the age.
Jesus loves the neighborhood just as much as He loves me. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are powerful enough to change any sinner, and He has the grace to restore every life. This is the reason Griggs stays on Mission. We see it as our responsibility to bring this good news to our neighborhood. We are constant beneficiaries of the boundless mercies of God, so it is our passion to share of those mercies to all people.
Jesus said it so perfectly when he answered the Pharisees that were judging Him for eating with sinners, “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:17).
As a church we know from our own lives that Jesus saves sinners, because we were all sinners. We were all sick, in need of the Physician. It is our mission to share the message of the Great Physician to Poe Mill. We love Poe Mill. You cannot separate Griggs from Poe Mill, no matter how uncomfortable ministry may be.
Click here for part one and two.
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The CGO Blog
Written by the CGO staff, with guest posts from students and other faculty/staff at BJU to provide thought leadership for missions in a new millennium.