by Krissy Proctor
Bitter, cold winds may shortly be of little concern both to those in the Bryan community and others in the surrounding town of Dayton, but there are some who will continue to fight hypothermia for months, along with hunger, crime and despair.
Starting this semester, Bryan students are banning together, figuring out new ways to give hope to those who have none. On Feb. 9, students met at Mac’s Café in Latimer Student Center as an initiative of planned PCI group ProjectHOPE – a ministry devoted to helping the homeless and impoverished both locally and around the world.
“Poverty looks very different here in Dayton, very different from what it looks like in Chattanooga… and there is wasn’t a ministry like this until now. A lot of people talked about starting one, but nothing ever came of it, so I decided if I didn’t do it I didn’t know who would,” said ministry founder, junior Megan Bartlett.
The ministry, the acronym for which temporarily stands for Helping Overcome Poverty Everywhere, is still in its crafting stages, according to Bartlett, who says they plan to take this semester to experiment with the different ways students can use their gifts to invest in those trapped in poverty.
“I’m really looking forward to crafting this this semester,” Bartlett told potential members at last Wednesday’s meeting. “This is a pretty large general calling, something that no matter what your talent is, there is a need for it in this ministry.”
Danielle Rebman, assistant director of spiritual formation, also says she is excited about the potential this new group has to influence the community on and off campus.
“I’ve been hearing for a while from some of students in the student body that this is something they’d love to focus on… Poverty alleviation is just so multifaceted. Some of the other [PCI groups] work with people right here in the community but don’t work specifically with homeless ministries,” she said.
The launching of ProjectHOPE is well-timed for the homeless in the Dayton and Chattanooga areas. An article released by The Herald-News in Dayton announced the same week of the first meeting the probable closure of Rhea County’s only men’s shelter, Solid Rock.
The next meeting for ProjectHOPE will be Feb. 23 at 9 p.m. on the third floor of Latimer Student Center. The group plans to begin its work by visiting homeless shelters in the region and developing new ideas to raise awareness, such as through speakers, chapel announcements and possibly even a demonstrative campout such as was done during last year’s Opelousas Break for Change.
Rebman says she looks forward to seeing what the students come up with.
“It’s just another way Bryan students can be involved in other communities. Homeless ministry is very much a life-on-life ministry. You can’t just go drop off food – well, you can, but it’s a really messy kind of thing where you suddenly have someone’s story and you have this life you can’t really imagine and you need to go sit with people, and be with them and listen to them. I think it fits in very well with Bryan.”