Mission Waco celebrates 25th anniversary with ceremony

Krissy Wicklund, Linda Pitzer and Linda Gilmer meet for a friendly game of bridge on Tuesday at the World Cup Café, one of Mission Waco’s facilities. The women try and play together at least twice a month. Photo credit: Liesje Powers

By Megan Rule | Staff Writer

It’s a Friday morning, and the scent of fresh coffee wafts down 15th Street in Waco. Focus in on the World Cup Cafe, and plates of hot food are being served in the blink of an eye. Inside the cafe, men and women are being trained in the food service industry, various gift shop items help provide wages for people around the world and, on this particular day, Jimmy Dorrell, president and executive director of Mission Waco, reflects on the past 25 years of service with Mission Waco.

“My wife and I did an around-the-world trip that was a life changer,” Dorrell said. “It was an overwhelming experience to see poverty first hand, to see children that were dying, as a Christian to see people that didn’t even know the name of Jesus and to be confronted by this duplicity of how much I have and how little they have.”

Dorrell moved to North Waco about 40 years ago and said he felt called to work with children in an area known as “No Man’s Land.” He said he and his wife felt called to the poor and marginalized and began their work in the Waco community. Through work in the church and with the state home for children, Dorrell and his wife felt stuck at a crossroad as Christians. After an around-the-world trip working with the poor with his wife, Dorrell decided Waco would be home. From two Christian hearts came Mission Waco, an organization that started from serving the needs of the community.

“We felt like the goal of Christians is to move into the darkness and not run away from it,” Dorrell said.

Mission Waco focuses on three goals to achieve its one mission of “proclaiming the good news to the poor and celebrating the Lord’s favor for those He loves,” according to the 25th anniversary newsletter. These goals include empowering the poor and marginalized, mobilizing the middle class toward compassion and addressing systematic issues which impede the poor. Dorrell emphasized that Mission Waco seeks to bring dignity to the poor, not relief.

“We have a real fun reality that a lot of people don’t understand. We believe in the dignity of the poor. We’re not a relief agency – we don’t give stuff away,” Dorrell said. “Empowerment is our word, and what that means for us is that the poor need to be involved with us, and we need to be involved with them.”

Over the 25 years that Mission Waco has been in service, the impact on the community has been profound. Countless empowering programs and facilities have been set up, including the World Cup Cafe, Jubilee Food Market, Jubilee Theatre, various children’s programs and recovery programs. Mission Waco strongly believes that the people with the problem need to be part of the solution to the problem, as relationships are what fix people, Dorrell said.

While Mission World has branched off of Mission Waco, the work of Mission Waco continues to be blended with the work of Mission World. Mission World includes various empowering, mobilizing and fundraising programs. Poverty simulations are one of the most commonly-known mobilizing programs that Mission World does as it has had over 24,000 participants since the start, Dorrell said.

A unique aspect of Mission World is the poor here helping the poor elsewhere in the world. Homeless people in Waco will ask to sponsor a poor child elsewhere in the world and donate a quarter or a dollar in every week, which is where the work comes together in the most beautiful way, Dorrell said. Mission Waco’s work has been blended with the work of Mission World.

“Mission Waco is a soft profit where we push the edges of Christian faith, where we get caught up in cultural Christianity,” Dorrell said. “Serving the poor is a big deal to God, so it’s a big deal to us and should be a big deal to everybody, but we somehow justify just writing a check once a year.”

Southlake senior Adam Floyd and Covington, La., senior Julia Stricklin are two of the students who were honored as volunteers of the year at the anniversary ceremony Tuesday night. Floyd’s work has been mainly with the children in Mission Waco and the youth programs after school to help do homework and involve kids in extracurricular activities. Floyd has also helped older kids with SAT prep and college prep.

“Every week, I look forward to going because I have really good relationships with some of these kids, especially those in the youth program,” Floyd said. “It’s helped me invest in people in Waco that are outside the Baylor campus. Mission Waco has formed Waco into a more inclusive community outside of the Baylor campus because it helps students care about what’s happening in Waco.”

Stricklin has worked serving food and hanging out with children. Stricklin has volunteered through her service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, since spring 2015. She goes on Mondays and Thursdays to cook and serve dinner and then spends time getting to know the kids.

“I started serving there because I just really like serving people via food,” Stricklin said. “I thought that was the best way to show my love and service- through food. I found that opportunity through Mission Waco projects. It’s just been really fun getting to know the kids; they recognize who I am, and they talk to me every week. It’s been fun to watch them grow up and mature.”

In looking at the first 25 years of service, lives have been changed by the various Mission Waco activities. The ceremony program is split into two sections, the first talking about the first 25 years and the second talking about the next 25 years.

“The fun part of growing old in the same neighborhood is watching the progress of change while collaborating with thousands of Christians, neighbors, churches, businesses and organizations and the world,” Dorrell says in the program.

In the future, Dorrell hopes to still be privileged enough to continue this ministry, and this is where the “next 25” process comes in, thinking about transitions and fundraisers, he said.

“Basically, our board of 20 people is set up of at least one or two people from most major denominations, and our board knows I’ll probably work three or four more years,” Dorrell said. “I’m in no hurry to quit but thinking ahead of where we’re going, part of that is our board has the courage to say in the next few years what needs to happen in transitions. Over the next few years, we’ll identify a guy or girl as a potential executive director, and I’ll move into just the president role, while he or she does the day-to-day stuff.”

Mission Waco’s first 25 years have been filled with countless devotions, contributions from donors, delicious meals, prayers and memories. Mission Waco has been visited by celebrities such as George W. Bush, Laura Bush and Mark Zuckerburg. They have also received the highest nonprofit rating: a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, helping Mission Waco stand out a bit more. Church Under the Bridge has been photographed by People Magazine and featured as a photo story for Good Morning Texas, according to the anniversary program.

Tuesday night’s ceremony was held at the Waco Convention Center and went over the first 25 and next 25 ideas and processes, as well as recognized the various donors that made all the work of Mission Waco possible so far. This morning, Mission Waco will pick right back up to start the next 25 years of work, beginning with a fresh cup of coffee and just as much love as the first 25 years held.