Local mission’s annual banquet reminds city of worthy cause

By Stori Long

Jesus called on his followers to plead the cause of the downtrodden, the heartbroken and the forgotten. Two thousand years later, those involved at Mission Waco are answering that call.

Mission Waco held its annual banquet Tuesday at the Waco Convention Center. The 100-table, 1,000-seat event sold out. The banquet guests were greeted at the reception by Baylor President Ken Starr and his wife, Alice. The goal of the banquet was to raise funds for Mission Waco and awareness of the problem of poverty in Waco.

“We get caught up in our own world so the world of need is ignored,” Jimmy Dorrell, executive director and co-founder of Mission Waco, said. “We just wanted to remind people what’s going on.”

The night centered on a theme hearkening back to Matthew 25 of “When Did We See You?”. In the passage, Jesus tells his followers anytime they fed the hungry or clothed the naked, they did the same for him.

Through art, drama, videos and testimonies, Mission Waco used the night to encourage people to break down stereotypes and judgments in order to truly see the people underneath.

Makenzie Mason | Lariat Photographer
Fort Collins, Colo. junior Brooke Jostad spoke to the audience, counseling that disabilities are not disadvantages, but rather ways to serve God.

“Jesus was in our face about that,” Janet Dorrell, global missions and poverty simulations director said. Janet and her husband Jimmy Dorrell are co-founders of Mission Waco. “How can we not see? It goes deeper to a spiritual level if we claim to know a king who saves us.”

Between the testimonies and dramas, Dorrell spoke to the audience on how the presentations directly related to Matthew 25.

The events of the night depicted a variety of people struggling with poverty, addiction, prostitution and homelessness — some of the most marginalized people in the community.

“We wanted them to stop being seen as just a face but as human,” Janet said.

The guests were also reminded of the blind man Jesus heals and that everyone can fall into a state of “spiritual blindness.”

“This year’s theme brought awareness to the “invisible” people living in our community, those in poverty, dealing with addictions and other daily challenges,” Emily Gist, Waco citizen and Mission Waco supporter, said. “Mission Waco exists to provide support and assistance for these people who are so often forgotten. … It was a reminder that these are not just issues I read about or see on the national news, but issues that are very real and pressing for people.”

The dramas were led by Stevie Walker-Webb, who is in charge of Mission Waco’s Jubilee Theatre. The dramas portrayed these “invisible people” from a drug addict to a prostitute, and their state of crying out to be seen by those around them.

“The people portrayed kept asking over and over, ‘Do you see me?’”

Lee Ann James, Mission Waco supporter, said. “I know the stuff they portray is going on, but it’s always good to see and hear it.”

The videos showed the real-life testimonies of people who have been in these desperate situations and were provided a way out through the efforts of Mission Waco. Each testimony ended with the statement: “Mission Waco saw me.”

Makenzie Mason | Lariat Photographer
Members of the Baylor Religious Hour Choir sing while attendees eat dinner during the banquet.

Janet said Mission Waco is not about just helping the poor; rather, its goal is to empower the poor and teach volunteers about the world and themselves.

“We’ve allowed this culture to tell us how to spend our money selfishly,” Janet said. “We spend money on redecorating our rooms when some people don’t even have a house; when people are drinking from rivers and eating out of the garbage. When we serve the poor, we realize how sick we are…it changes us and gives us greater depths of intimacy with our King.”

Jimmy echoes this sentiment, and said serving the world is not just something Christians should do, but something that is essential to what it means to be a Christian.

“Salvation is not just about getting the good and being done,” Jimmy said. “The whole reality of salvation is giving your life away.”