By Ben Brown
There are many ways to find a house: hire a realtor, search online with Zillow or Trulia, or seek out open houses in your area. Finding a home, that’s something completely different.
Students from Judson College in Marion, Ala., are serving with Sowing Seeds of Hope in partnership with Student.Go, the student missions program of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, and Alabama CBF. This partnership matches mission-minded students with organizations that transform good work into sustainable change for those in need in Perry County, Ala. Beyond helping others, Sowing Seeds of Hope and Student.Go bring a different type of change.
Mission partnership in Marion, Ala., has gone beyond building houses to creating a place called “home.”
Sowing Seeds of Hope is an organization that was formed two decades ago and will celebrate its 20th anniversary in July. It exists to help the people of Perry County by providing assistance with home repair, healthcare, education resources, spiritual renewal and much more. This isn’t an organization looking for a quick fix. Instead, Sowing Seeds of Hope and Alabama CBF started a 25-year commitment to partnering with churches, colleges, volunteer groups and anyone willing to help the people of Perry County. Frances Ford is the Together for Hope practitioner at and executive director of Sowing Seeds of Hope. Her leadership has brought together a community seeking transformation.
“A student from Judson has been a Student.Go intern at Sowing Seeds of Hope every year over the past five years,” according to Amy Butler, the director of Faith-Based Service and Learning at Judson College. “These students see good work happening through the leadership of Frances Ford at Sowing Seeds of Hope and they desire to help by joining in doing this good work.”
Perry County is a place in need of good work.
“It’s a unique place, a small and welcoming community. Marion has a hometown feel, and it’s also a place of poverty,” Butler said.
Perry County is one of the poorest counties in the United States, and many of the residents live below the poverty line. According to Butler, “Fifty percent of children 12 and under, in Perry County live in poverty.”
“For many, poverty is seen as something that happens abroad; it’s different when it exists right next door.”
While Student.Go places interns with CBF field personnel all over the world, Alabama CBF has maintained a pipeline from Judson College to Sowing Seeds of Hope. Each summer, one or two interns stay in Marion and serve in missions.
Butler herself interned with Student.Go in 2007. The connection between Judson College and Student.Go is a tradition that breeds innovation.
“The staff look forward to having student interns each year. They bring new ideas for existing programs,” Butler explained.
Lucas Dorion is the associate coordinator for Alabama CBF. He matches students with Student.Go to organizations like Sowing Seeds of Hope.
“Sowing Seeds of Hope, like a lot of small nonprofits, runs on a shoestring budget. So, when two young interns arrive, they add a lot to the team. During the summer, they take charge of coordinating mission teams that come into the county. They usually participate on the mission teams, doing everything from home repairs to leading summer camps,” Dorion said.
Sowing Seeds of Hope has already built 17 houses for low-income families, and they’re committed to building at least five more. The energy and vision of the mission experiences in Marion, Ala., are changing students for the better.
“They see a need and catch the vision. This causes them to think, ‘Why not stay and commit my summer to this place that I now call home?’” Butler said.
It’s bigger than a summer though. The magnetism arising from Sowing Seeds of Hope and helping Perry County, Alabama, keeps students engaged throughout the entire year.
Theologian Frederick Buechner is credited with saying, “The place God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Perry County is a place of deep hunger, but Student.Go, Judson College, Alabama CBF and Sowing Seeds of Hope have intersected to bring abundant possibilities where much is needed.
“When Sowing Seeds of Hope began, Perry County did not have a dialysis clinic, requiring residents to travel to Selma, Tuscaloosa or Birmingham for treatment. Under Frances’ leadership, Sowing Seeds of Hope worked with lawmakers to get state regulations changed so that a dialysis clinic could be opened in the county. This has transformed the lives of people who are dependent upon these treatments and who now can get them done locally,” Dorion said.
The efforts of Student.Go interns and Sowing Seeds of Hope have helped the people of Perry County. Some have become homeowners who never dreamed of that possibility. Some have learned new skills in parenting or on the computer. Other Perry County residents have received healthcare. Children have discovered their skills and talents and learned ways to be economically independent as adults.
The vision of Sowing Seeds of Hope shows that poverty is not an illness to quarantine, but instead something that needs the antidote of partnership. The partnership of Alabama CBF and Sowing Seeds of Hope has transformed the lives of Butler and Dorion, who both feel this sense of home, too.
“Marion, Alabama, is my home,” Butler said. “And I want to be able to love my neighbors and advocate for them. I know this is the place I need to be and where God is calling me.”
This article appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of fellowship! magazine, the quarterly publication of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Read online here and subscribe for free to fellowship! and CBF’s weekly e-newsletter fellowship! weekly at www.cbf.net/subscribe.
The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship is a Christian Network that helps people put their faith to practice through ministry efforts, global missions and a broad community of support. The Fellowship’s mission is to serve Christians and churches as they discover and fulfill their God-given mission. Learn more at www.cbf.net.