Written by: FBC staff member Jenny Bolinger
Bridges fascinate me, their construction, their purpose and especially their symbolism. Being from Pittsburgh, bridges are an important trademark of the city. I love New York City; one of my favorite things to do in NYC is to walk the Brooklyn Bridge. The history of how it was built is so interesting. It is unbelievable to think that 27 people died making that bridge. They gave their lives in order to make life a little bit easier for others. Bridges normally build from one side to the other, but in order for a bridge to be built, one side has to start first.
Bridge building is usually expensive, risky and only after completion is the effort applauded. Bridges must allow themselves to be walked on from both sides. Bridges unite voids. Bridges ultimately join us to something which was not once connected. If you think about it, the church is a bridge builder. The church exists to build up and unite the body of Christ for the spiritual, social and physical transformation of the city, locally and globally. At First Baptist Church, we want our story to be about “connecting people to Jesus.”
One of the bridges built is with the people of Mandaue City Baptist Church, also known as Ikthus Mandaue, in the Philippines. This partnership was forged 11 years ago. Each spring a team from First Baptist Church embarks on a trip to visit our partners in Manduae City. Activities during these missions trips include sports camps, construction projects and life skills-training.
In 2004 MCBC purchased land and named it in honor of our partnership, Ikthus New Castle Campus property. The priority was the development of the property. Both teams recognized the need to improve the property that will accommodate more ministries for the needy children and families.
For the past few years we have watched MCBC make improvements to the campus. Two years ago, during a visit we noticed children were playing in unsafe conditions such as construction scaffolding. FBC responded and collaborated to help create two playgrounds, allowing a safe-haven for children to play.
MCBC was able to build a two-story building that includes eight classrooms and an open basketball court that serves as an office, classroom and a playground. We have spent an extended amount of time at the IKTHUS New Castle property and understand the vision they see for it. Each year during the holidays, FBC has a special offering in which 100 percent of the funds are designated to ministries outside of the church’s walls.
In spring 2015, FBC and MCBC started the “Raise the Roof” project. This plan was created due to the need for a roof over the outdoor basketball courts. The total estimated cost of the project was $52,000. Our church raised $11,000, while MCBC saved $15,000.
During our talks with the MCBC, we learned the Converge Cornerstone Fund was offering a missional ministry grant. It was so exciting to think another ministry was willing to help strengthen a bridge we had built. We applied for it. The week before we left on our spring trip, I called Cornerstone and asked if there was any news regarding the grant. I was told they were going meet the next day to discuss our application. I contacted our friends and family in the Philippines, our mission leadership team and other prayer warriors to start praying for the grant to be awarded so this project could get rolling.
On May 14, 2015, a team of 10 (myself included) embarked on a journey to the Philippines. Our first day of the special-needs sponsored children’s camp, I took the team to the Umapad New Castle property. The property had lot of potential, however, the direct sunlight and high temperature rendered the outdoor areas useless. It was such a humbling experience to see how a roof can help a ministry flourish.
On May 19 I checked my email. Wifi is unreliable in the Philippines, so when I saw I had a connection, I decided to see what was happening on the other side of the world. I received an email that said:
Congratulations! First Baptist Church, New Castle, PA, is a recipient of the Converge Cornerstone Fund “They don’t have forever” Grant!
Some of the MCBC staff were in the room when I started jumping up and down yelling, “We got it”! I think I scared everyone at first. Pastor Nigel arrived shortly after, and I ran up to him in the hall and said, “Nigel, we got it, we got the grant!” He was so thrilled that he let out a scream and went running down the hall. It was a lesson about how perfect God’s timing is. Sure, I would have loved to find out we received the grant before we left, but God wanted us to celebrate together. I am so thankful for that experience.
The FBC collaboration has resulted in yearly visits in which ministry is done side-by-side. Each partner brings a unique set of skills, experience and resources to the table. This is not a donor relationship. Each partner has taken on a supportive role in helping accomplish the Great Commission. FBC is committed to strengthening partnered ministries around the world. The receipt of this grant helps with the financial burden of the roof. I believe this partnership between Converge and our church is God-honoring and encouraging to our ministry partners.
Thank you, Converge, for strengthening our missional focus.