Last Thursday and Friday, Aaron Huffmann (our youth minister) and I drove with Harold Phillips of CBF Heartland to Helena/West Helena, Arkansas to check out the ministry of Together for Hope Arkansas. Together for Hope is the name of an initiative launched several years ago by CBF to positively impact poverty in the 20 poorest counties in the U.S. Some of these counties are found in South Dakota on reservations where the Lakota and other Native Americans live. Several of these counties are on the Texas/Mexican border, while still others are found along the Mississippi River delta region.
Helena, Arkansas is the county seat of Phillips County, one of those poorest 20 counties in the U.S. Together for Hope Arkansas is focusing their ministry efforts on making a difference in the next generation of children and young people through literacy and leadership development. The high school graduation rate for Phillips County has historically been abysmally low, so TFH Arkansas is striving to turn that statistic around by encouraging children from their preschool years to love books and learn to read early. Another program called Delta Jewels encourages teenage and adolescent girls to design and make jewelry which is then sold with half of the profits going to the girl and the other half being used to purchase additional materials for the program.
The two young women who are co-directors of TFH Arkansas are a true testament to the life-changing power of the gospel as it's lived out among the poorest of the poor. Mollie and Kat (short for Katherine) have networked well with civic leaders, school teachers and administrators, local pastors and church leaders, and others to promote the vision to impact Helena's next generation in a positive way. We're looking at a family missions trip there next June to try and assist their vision to become a reality.
One of the things that can be done in the meantime is to help purchase new and gently used preschool books for their ministry. They have a converted bus that serves as a mobile library on wheels that goes out to outlying rural towns in Phillips County to carry out the same strategy of promoting literacy. They also give away books to young children involved in the program and are seeking to acquire 500 books by Christmas. If you're interested in donating books for this ministry, here's a website to check out.
If you cannot donate books at this time, let me encourage you to pray for the ministry of Together for Hope Arkansas and like their page on Facebook. That's the main tool they use for sharing ministry needs and updates.