Lloyd Gray 3/30/09
Northeast area Mission Mississippi groups
Call the group coordinator for specifics about meetings, events:
* Amory: Curtis French, (662) 646-0236.
* Corinth: Bobby Capps, (662) 424-2091; firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Macon: Richard Malone, (662) 361-1458; email@example.com.
* Okolona: Rev. Charles Walker, (662) 346-3757; Patsy Gregory, (662) 447-3159.
* Starkville: Bill Chapman, (662) 648-9884 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Alison Buehler, (662) 694-0124.
* Tupelo: Ed Holliday, (662) 844-2388, Tillmon Calvert, 844-3129.
* Mission Mississippi headquarters: (601) 353-6477; e-mail email@example.com; Web site. http://www.missionmississippi.org
Suggested hed: Local groups work toward racial reconciliation
Read-in: Mission Mississippi is reaching into Northeast Mississippi.
By Lena Mitchell
Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
Relationship-building is at the core of the work that draws participants to Mission Mississippi.
Chapters that have been meeting in different communities around Northeast Mississippi strongly believe in their shared purpose - to bridge racial and denominational lines to create unity in the Body of Christ.
"We're not like any other organization," state Executive Director Neddie Winters told a Corinth group recently. "We are bringing people together simply to help people love each other."
The context of Christian fellowship is key.
"If change is going to occur in Mississippi across racial lines in a positive way, it will be in the church," he said.
In Corinth, Tupelo, Okolona, Starkville, Amory and Macon, groups are responding to the challenge.
Winters said he'd like to see participation in all the communities increase by having those who come bring others.
"We're trying to reach out, and want to see more younger people involved," said Tupelo co-chairman Ed Holliday. He and Tillmon Calvert lead the Tupelo group. "We meet once a month for consistency, and reach out to different churches by holding a prayer breakfast at one of the local churches."
The groups vary in when and where they meet.
Okolona has found a permanent meeting place at Life Changers Church, while the Corinth group meets at Martha's Menu restaurant.
These regular meetings are an important part of being intentional, Holliday said.
"The world and community is full of people with good ideas and who want to do things, but if you aren't intentional, you put things on the back burner and never get around to doing them," he continued.
Winters attends monthly meetings with the chapters, and that has been reinvigorating for the Okolona group, said co-chairman Rev. Charles Walker, who shares the duty with Patsy Gregory.
"This is a mechanism for people to grow," Walker said, "and I see that happening. Once people began to get a full understanding of what Mission Mississippi is about, they've stayed with it."
Conceived in 1992 from a meeting that featured national evangelist Tom Skinner, an African-American, and author Pat Morley, who is white, the vision was for Mission Mississippi to become the central "catalyst for Christian reconciliation and racial healing for Mississippi and the world."
At a meeting of the Christian Businessmen's Committee in Jackson that fateful year, it became clear that there was a need for racial reconciliation.
It was important, they concluded, for churches to be racially unified in order to be effective in their evangelistic outreach.
At the heart of the organization - which they call the DNA of Mission Mississippi - are five key elements. Mission Mississippi is
* Evangelistic: The revelation that racism hindered evangelism was the original stimulus.
* Unapologetic: We don't apologize for people being uncomfortable with the message.
* Issues-based: We address issues directly.
* Relationship-driven: These issues are addressed through intentional relationships.
* Local leadership-owned: The movement belongs to those whose lives/professions are touching the issues on a daily basis.
"Our goal is to give people a safe environment to have a conversation about race relations in Mississippi," Winters said. "This is a time for people to listen and learn - learn to appreciate each others stories, backgrounds and perspectives. We don't want people to judge, tag or ridicule others. We want them to learn how to have the discussion and conversation because it needs to take place."
Contact Lena Mitchell at 287-9822 or firstname.lastname@example.org