Video by Meredith Aldis | Broadcast Reporter, Story by Julia Vergara | Staff Writer
As a student in Baylor’s Truett Seminary, John Calaway attended classes taught by Jimmy and Janet Dorrell, co-founders of Mission Waco. In January 2018, Jimmy Dorrell has handed off his role as executive director to Calaway.
“Because I have lived out this calling to serve and empower the poor for 25 years, I know the character and quality of life needed to do it well,” Dorrell said.
Dorrell said Calaway sat in his “Introduction to Christian Witness and Mission” class at Truett Seminary many years ago. Dorrell watched Calaway serve and worship at Church Under the Bridge and kept up with him as he led a strategic mission effort for a large church in Austin. After that, the Dorrells invited Calaway to work at Mission Waco in an assistant executive director role to make sure he understood the ministry before offering him the position of executive director.
“Through all those experiences and years, I became convinced he had the heart, the work ethic, the personality and the personal commitment to continue this legacy,” Dorrell said.
Calaway said he first heard about Mission Waco in Thailand. While on a retreat with an organization, he met Jimmy and Janet Dorrell’s son, Josh, who told him that if he ever moved to Waco to attend Truett Seminary, he needed to look up his parents and an organization called Mission Waco.
“I started at Truett Seminary and had Jimmy and Janet as professors,” Calaway said. “And the very first class that I had, I went up to him and said, ‘I think I met your son in Thailand.’ And they kind of laughed, they invited me to Church Under the Bridge and that was really my first introduction to Mission Waco.”
After Calaway lived in Austin for six years, Dorrell invited him to move back and become a part of the organization’s staff.
“[He] sat me down over a cup of coffee and an omelet and then he said, ‘I want you to come on staff at Mission Waco,'” Calaway said. “And my first response was, ‘No, I think I’m good in Austin.’ And he said ‘Well at the very least, can you pray about it?’”
Calaway said he told Dorrell that he would start praying about it and just see where the Lord leads –– six months later, he joined their staff.
The way the organization goes about empowering people –– the idea of giving people hand-ups not hand-outs –– is ultimately what brought him back to Mission Waco, Calaway said.
In April 2017, Calaway joined the organization as the associate executive director of development and volunteers which included a lot of fundraising as well as volunteer recruiting and placement. Less than a year later, he took on the role of executive director.
Calaway said Jimmy and Janet Dorrell’s personalities embody people who like to mentor, lead and create a culture of learning, and has made his transition to executive director easy.
Dorrell is still on staff as president of Mission Waco and is still intimately involved in its projects. A lot of the responsibilities are still shared between the two and will remain that way over the next few years as this transition takes place, Calaway said.
“We still meet on a weekly basis,” Calaway said. “I probably talk to him at least four times a day and so he’s created an environment of transition of me being able to continue to learn from him.”
Calaway said that going forward, his vision and his goal for Mission Waco is to continue the legacy that Jimmy and Janet Dorrell have put in place over the last 25 years.
Mission Waco will continue to be about empowering people, mobilizing the middle and upper class to compassionately serve the poor and fighting the systemic issues that surround injustice in the city, in the nation and around the world, Calaway said.
“It’s really those three things that we will always continue to be about and it’s those three things that Jimmy and Janet and our staff and our board of directors have fought for and have tirelessly worked for,” Calaway said.