Justice is at the heart of God and his intentions. From earliest biblical accounts and throughout the Scripture, God calls his people to order society based on justice, love and righteousness. He provides laws to govern themselves based on those principles. In particular, he commands us to loose the chains of injustice to “defend the poor and oppressed” who are often victimized by corruption and selfishness by the powerful and resourced. As the 8th Century prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, etc.) condemned the double-standard of “religious” Israel, he called the “chosen” to repentance from the hypocrisy of injustices against the weak and powerless, particularly while hiding behind the façade of religious activity and ethnocentrism. Jesus completed the Law and showed mercy and grace to the disenfranchised who came to understand the covenant was “written on the heart,” not the letter of the law. He showed compassion to the prostitute, the tax collector and the leper, yet confronted the outwardly religious Pharisees. As followers of Jesus, Christians are called to feed the hungry, remember the prisoner, orphan and widow, and invite the “stranger” (alien) into our homes even as we are doing it for him.
In 1991, after years of an informal neighborhood ministry, Jimmy and Janet Dorrell created “Cross Culture Experiences,” a non-profit Christian organization designed to help students leave the comfort of their own cultural experiences and come to understand and love the poor and marginalized. A “poverty simulation,” out-of-country “exposure trips,” and a few neighborhood Bible clubs filled the their time since the couple were bi-vocational. Within the year, a Christian foundation (Christian Mission Concerns, established by Paul and Katie Piper) chose to fund a $75,000 start-up program called “Mission Waco” to be led by the Dorrells. Within the year, the ministry exceeded expectations and CMC relocated oversight to Cross Culture Experiences.
Mission Waco’s programs were built around three goals: 1) relationship-based, holistic programs among the poor and marginalized, 2) mobilizing middle-class Christians toward “hands-on” involvement, and 3) addressing some of the systemic issues which disempowered the poor. These goals became the mission of our organization: 1) Provide Christian-based holistic, relationship-based programs that empower the poor and marginalized; 2) Mobilize middle-class Americans to become more compassionately involved among the poor; and 3) Seek ways to overcome the systemic issues of social injustice which oppress the poor and marginalized.
As volunteers, interns, and donations increased, and as local gaps were identified, additional programs were added to the existing children and teen programs. Today, there are some twenty-five programs for all ages and a staff of over fifty persons. A board of twenty Christian men and women from different churches oversee the direction. Through its entire history, Mission Waco staff and volunteers have worked hard to balance “hands-on” relationships with the poor, local churches, and the community. The call to bring good news to the poor has been a driving force since its first day, and the desire to create a biblical base for empowering compassion is still at its core.
In the summer of 2012, Kent McKeever joined our staff as Director of Mission Waco Legal Services (MWLS). After graduating from Baylor with an undergraduate University Scholars degree and then from Princeton Theological Seminary with a Master’s of Divinity degree, Kent continued his service among the poor and marginalized in both Jackson, Mississippi and Longview, Texas. He then felt the call to law school and graduated from Vanderbilt University Law School in May 2012. Kent came to join us in our mission by addressing the serious need in our community for affordable, compassionate, and holistic advocacy and legal services.
After listening to the community for several months in the late summer and early fall 2012, MWLS began to focus its legal services and advocacy in the following core areas: immigration, employment, education, and housing. The vision of MWLS is to offer our community a holistic, community-driven law office that targets some of the most pressing needs in our community in a dignified and empowering manner. Currently, our core projects promote collaborations among the legal service and social service communities in McLennan County as together we address the need for holistic advocacy, general legal education, and affordable legal services for low-income and marginalized members of our community.