ATLANTA –The second bi-annual Epoch Awards will take place Monday in Atlanta, Ga., as a red carpet celebration of missions innovators and charity leaders from around the world featuring an awards presentation of resources totaling $50,000 to further these efforts.
"Epoch 2013 honors the unsung heroes: the people who cross the boulevard or the world to serve where poverty, drought, HIV/AIDS, sex trafficking, homelessness and fear reign," according to an Epoch Awards statement to CP. "The evening will offer both celebration and challenge for all of us to address universal problems in unique and meaningful ways that dignify and set people free."
Held at Atlanta's historic Fox Theater, this black-tie event includes an eclectic group of presenters, speakers, and musicians with over 400 people expected to attend. The featured speaker is Bob Goff, New York Times bestselling author and founder of Restore International, a nonprofit human rights organization operating in Uganda and India. The event will also include live music from Worship-Acoustic-Folk duo, All Sons & Daughters.
Nearly 600 nominations were submitted for this year's Epoch Awards from which 20 finalists were chosen for six awards categories: Innovative Start-Up, Collaborative Project, Global Missional Leader, Outstanding Service in the U.S., Atlanta-Based Hero and the People's Choice. This year's nominees include Out of Darkness founder Jeff Shaw, Seeds Coffee President Jeff Huey, and Think Liberia founder Rosana Schaak.
Described by organizers as "a group of world-changing pioneers" for their innovative approaches to solving social crises, these finalists were chosen by a distinguished Nominations Committee which includes Dale Partridge of Sevenly.org, Jon Acuff of StuffChristiansLike.net, Jen Hatmaker of Restore Austin, and celebrity photographer Jeremy Cowart. "The Committee was hand selected for their creative outlook and impactful solutions, as well as their missional experience and lifestyle of service," according to an Epoch Awards statement. "They come from varying backgrounds and experience, but they all share a love and heart for missions."
Epoch's 2013 partners include Point University, Awana, and Food for the Hungry.
Epoch Awards is the brainchild of Tim Abare, COO of Adventures in Missions. According to Abare, it was the dream of a collaborative environment, a hotspot of sorts, for those who are "wrecked" by the plight and pain of people locally and globally. "Epoch is for history-makers and those who support them and make a way for them… for innovators, thought and action-leaders, and those who open-handedly give their time, talents, and resources to missions." said Abare. "We hope people will be captivated by the stories of the unsung heroes at Epoch as stories that inspire all of us to do more, give more, be more for those in need."
On the eve of the 2012 Epoch Awards, CP asked Abare five questions about what inspired him to start this initiative in 2011 and what he hopes it will accomplish today.
CP: What initially inspired you to start the Epoch Awards?
Abare: I was inspired by Anderson Cooper and CNN Heroes, one of the best and most-beloved specials on CNN, which recognizes "everyday people changing the world." I began dreaming about a way we could create a collaborative environment and find the people who are reaching the least of these, who have their heads down and arms open. Those who are embracing people in their pain. These "unsung heroes," individuals who primarily operate quietly and on small budgets, rarely receive recognition for the good they do, and these organizations serve the people society doesn't see.
CP: Why was the term "epoch" chosen for this awards initiative?
Abare: The term "epoch" refers to a particular period of time or history marked by distinctive features or a memorable event or date. The largely missional crowd, usually the last to don a dress or tuxedo, will be treated to a night to remember, a celebration of impact and lavish gratitude.
CP: What do you think is the most significant challenges facing missions organizations focused on justice issues today?
Abare: The biggest challenge is the gap between awareness of justice issues and the willingness for young people to take action. Many young people want to help create awareness, and some even give a few dollars towards the causes, but few will actually commit their lives to the action that will produce lasting change.
CP: Have you seen any encouraging signs in recent years in terms of growing involvement and impact in solving global problems?
Abare: A look at our finalists for this year's Epoch Awards – who were selected from a long list of almost 600 nominations – will show a number of the 20- and 30-something generation that are solving global problems in meaningful ways. In addition, Adventures in Missions, a major partner of the Epoch Awards, has sent out over 100,000 people for short and long-term missions, including 21-35 year olds on the World Race. Adventures in Missions had a team of guys go to Nepal and consult for an organization with thousands on staff. The problems they helped solve were so profound that one of the guys was offered a job to be a leader in the Kenya office expansion with 1,000 employees.
CP: Can you tell us more about Adventures in Missions?
Abare: Adventures in Missions is an interdenominational missions organization started in 1989 that focuses on discipleship. In several places around the world, its team members minister year-round to "the least of these." The organization believes that by giving people the opportunity to hold orphans, bring hope to the hopeless, and pray for the sick, lives are transformed. Adventures in Missions seeks to disciple as Jesus did and see God raise up a generation of radically committed disciples of Jesus Christ.