Remembering our Roots

By Luann Turner, Mission 98 Executive Director

“Remember the wonders he has done.” I Chronicles 16:9

During one of Mission 98’s socially distanced summer kids’ clubs, five-year-old Riley sat on the sidewalk coloring with Anna, a staff member. Anna sparked Riley’s interest when she began to share about the truth of Jesus, and the little girl decided she wanted to ask Him into her life. However, she was distracted by the ants crawling around her feet and began shrieking, \”They\’re going to get me!\” Anna reminded Riley that she could pray and ask Jesus for help, so the five-year-old immediately asked God to make her brave with the bugs. After a few minutes, Riley realized that she wasn’t afraid anymore. She put her hands on her heart, looked up at the sky, and exclaimed, \”He hears me!\”

Looking forward in faith always seems to be rooted in how well we remember the past. Today, it is good to remember Riley and the wonder that she discovered one summer afternoon. We share a similar sense of wonder at Mission 98 as we reflect on the faithfulness of God—the faithfulness that was, is, and will be.

God was faithful 19 years ago, when Mission 98 was birthed at Bear Valley Baptist Church as a multi-housing ministry. It was nurtured and grown there until it launched as a nonprofit organization in 2017, with the intent of bringing the kindness of Jesus and the truth of His gospel to the approximately 98 percent of apartment residents without a church home. 

God was and is working faithfully in other ministries across the metro area—many of which, like Mission 98, developed out of Bear Valley. Frank Tillapaugh, who pastored there for many years, wrote: 

“A while back, I talked with Dave Runyan, leader of Denver Unite. Dave thinks that currently 75–80% of Christian ministry in education, medicine, legal services, and housing in Denver has roots in Bear Valley. Today, the Denver Street School, Open Door, Inner City Health, and Mile High Ministries touch thousands of lives each year.” 

Remembering our roots is important for all of us, especially in seasons of uncertainty or change, and Mission 98 has deep roots. 

Our roots have allowed us to thrive in our three years as a nonprofit. Mission 98 has impacted more than 20 apartment, mobile home, and motel communities, built partnerships with a dozen churches, and laid the foundation for future growth with the addition of two full-time staff members. 

God is faithful, and His work will not be stopped. Even COVID-19 couldn’t hinder His plans for Mission 98. Although the pandemic shuttered most of our normal ministries and routines, it also opened doors for relationships beyond what we could have imagined. In mid-March, we began delivering bags of groceries door to door in eight communities. Included in each bag are devotionals or Gospels of John. Residents receive a knock on the door, a smile, and an offer of prayer with each gift bag. At this writing, our team has delivered over 2,000 bags, one door at a time. In addition to this, children have received 1,225 activity bags and over 3,000 meals this year. We cannot measure the gratitude with which this kindness is received. We cannot count the tears that have been shed in surprised appreciation. We cannot know the encouragement that these gifts have brought, each pointing to the kindness, care, and salvation of Jesus. 

Lives are also being touched through our blossoming clothing ministry, as Mission 98 now has a van with which to distribute free clothing to various communities. Residents are experiencing God’s love through simple miracles, like finding a jacket in the perfect size, having a meaningful conversation, or receiving prayer. 

We are also grateful for the miracles that took place during the holiday season. Between our partnerships and our direct ministry, 800 bags of groceries were sent out as Thanksgiving gifts, followed by the delivery of Christmas presents to children. 

As we reflect on God’s faithful work both today and throughout our history, Mission 98 now looks forward to what God will do. With my retirement pending, we have hired Fred Elliott-Hart to take Mission 98 into more apartments, to encourage and support more churches, and to develop an intern program that will train a new generation of city missionaries. 

Even as we anticipate what is ahead for Mission 98, we understand that we cannot know the future—as 2020 has clearly shown. However, as the old song reminds us, we know who holds the future in His hand. Today we are remembering all that He has done, seeing all that He is doing, and looking forward to all the surprises and miracles that He has ahead. The adventure continues, forging more memories for us to look back on next year and giving us more reasons to be startled by His wonders. 

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