Resource Library

Ministry in a Water Crisis

The following story is part of Lake Institute’s story collection, The Faithful Generosity Story Shelf, which highlights congregations and other religious organizations who have sought to use their assets and resources in creative—and sometimes surprising—ways as an expression of faithful giving.

Each entry in our Story Shelf is short enough to be read and discussed during a committee meeting or other group gathering. Our hope is that these accessible vignettes will spark new questions, conversation, and imagination among clergy and laity about what might be possible with the funds, buildings, land, and other resources in their care.

Representatives form Jackson State University and Alfred Street Baptist stand on the turf during a football game holding a large check.
$1 million check presented to Jackson State University from Alfred Street Baptist during halftime of JSU's 2022 homecoming game. Photo from Black PR Wire.

By Starlette Thomas

Jackson, Mississippi, has a water crisis. Honestly, the city has been in crisis for years now. Even before the water stopped running in parts of the capital city, residents didnt consider it safe to drink.

Then the water treatment system failed, after flooding exacerbated existing problems, and residents were left to find water to meet their daily needs or to boil the water that now ran brown in their kitchen sinks.

In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR), Jackson resident Fran Bridges said, Any house we go to in Jackson, you have to realize that people have been traumatized.” Bridges added, And you just have everybody almost in a daze.”

What can a church or organization do when a system fails its community? Miraculously, Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding banquet. What miracles could God perform through a church or organization for this city?

Alfred Street Baptist Church in Arlington, Virginia, has a long-standing history of supporting communities in need and has strong ties to the historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). In fact, it hosts an annual HBCU Festival,” now in its twentieth year and is dedicated to connecting high school students and their families to HBCUs and scholarship opportunities.”

Consequently, it came as no surprise when the church announced in a press release Alfred Street Baptist Churchs (ASBC) Mission Division will donate up to $1 million to Jackson State University (JSU) to help defray costs related to the ongoing water crisis in Jackson, MS, which began in late August 2022.” Meeting two needs with one donation, the church addressed the needs associated with both clean water and education.

Due to the water crisis, the universitys staff was forced to work remotely while students attended classes virtually. But it is hard to do either when you havent had a shower.

The citys water pressure remained low, but the pressures of campus life continued. Students still had books to read and papers to write.

Unfortunately, these students, while experiencing trauma, were still expected to login for lectures and discussion. But with no running water, the campus and halls were clear. It was clear they were going to need a miracle.

We are incredibly grateful for the generosity and philanthropy of Alfred Street Baptist Church, which has a long history of being an advocate for historically black colleges and universities,” said JSU president Thomas K. Hudson. Reverend Wesley and the Alfred Street family are living examples of the saying, give and it will be given to you.This $1 million donation will make a significant difference for our students and the solvency of our institution.”

The gift sought specifically to help the universitys students. Almost $400,000 was designated to assist students who had incurred expenses due to the water crisis. The remaining funds will be used to address the universitys needs to include portable restrooms and showers.

ASBC is pleased to provide support to one of the nations largest HBCUs in a crisis that impacts studentsdaily existence on campus,” said Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley, the pastor of Alfred Street Baptist Church. Effective learning cannot happen without ensuring that . . . the basic needs of these students are met.”

Sources

 “Alfred Street Baptist Church Designates $1 Million to Jackson State University for Support During Water Crisis,” September 27, 2022, https://www.pr.com/press-release/870392.

Debbie Elliot, Jackson, Miss., residents struggle with basic needs as the water crisis disrupts life,” October 1, 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/10/01/1126121420/jackson-miss-residents-struggle-with-basic-needs-as-the-water-crisis-disrupts-li.

DATE: July 15, 2022
TOPIC: Organizational Leadership
TYPE: Story/Case Study
SOURCE: Faithful Generosity Story Shelf
KEYWORDS: Justice
AUTHOR: Starlette Thomas