The Justice & Mission Core Ministry of the Pleasant Hill Community Church, UCC sponsored a fund raising “Shrimp Boil” to support the Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, Mississippi last week. Back Bay Mission is a community ministry of the United Church of Christ (UCC), serving the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the wider church community since 1922 with faithful witness for social justice and compassionate service to the poor and marginalized. Dave & Loretta Heigle brought their shrimp boil rig and spices from Ohio where their church has a “Shrimp Boil” yearly to benefit Back Bay. A former Back Bay Mission Board member, the Heigles do this as a gift to the Community Church to help support the Mission. Morrison’s Food Service of the Uplands Village provided rice & beans, coleslaw, peach cobbler, and cold drinks.
Community Church member Mary Ruth, present Board member of Back Bay Mission, led an action team of 25 who planned, prepared meals, hosted, and served 100 people in a fun-filled event. An Uplands Board Member, Dick Ellerbrake displayed memorabilia from his civil rights years in Biloxi – a turbulent time. A short video was shown explaining the unifying work of the Mission to strengthen neighborhoods through ministries like education and empowerment programs as well as a housing rehabilitation program. These vital ministries help the people served be a part of, and build, their communities on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall on the Mississippi Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, changed this region forever. Approximately 130,000 homes were either entirely destroyed or extensively damaged. Some neighborhoods were wiped clean, leaving only barren slabs and lifeless streets behind. Massive redevelopment is now taking place; full recovery from Hurricane Katrina is still underway.
Last November, the PH Community Church sponsored a team of Work Camp/ Mission trippers who traveled to Biloxi for a week. Back Bay Mission welcomes more than 800 volunteers every year as mission trip hands-on volunteers, long-term volunteers, and interns. These UCC mission trips are so popular it is necessary to sign up 18 months in advance. The basic philosophy of the Back Bay Mission immersion experience begins with the idea that volunteers are as concerned with changing hearts as with changing houses. Equal emphasis is placed on making volunteer time spent with Back Bay an experience in faith formation and an experience of serving others. Homeless guests are assisted at the Micah Day Center with laundry, showers, haircuts, mail, telephone, and computer services. Emergency assistance is provided at the Food Pantry, and with meals offered at the Loaves & Fishes Soup Kitchen. And, of course, all the skills and energy of “Trippers” are used for housing recovery jobs: painting, dry wall, carpentry, roofing, cabinetry work, flooring – and other tasks.
As volunteers take what they learn at Back Bay Mission home with them, they have the opportunity to strengthen their own neighborhoods. They seek justice by helping the people served become more involved in their communities, educating people about the realities of poverty, and advocating on behalf of marginalized people in their community. To learn more about their mission opportunities, visit www.thebackbaymission.org, facebook.com/BackBayMission, or youtube.com/BackBayMission.