The world needs hope. Which is why I'm glad WORLD Magazine has announced the winner of its Hope Awards!
During the summer, I told you about the finalists for WORLD Magazine's Hope Awards for Effective Compassion—Christian organizations that make a positive difference in their communities without receiving government funds. We now have a winner, so let's end the suspense—the envelope, please! And the winner is … all of us!
Well, actually, after tallying the record number of votes from readers, WORLD selected Delta Streets Academy in Greenwood, Mississippi. DSA, which began just five years ago, has 55 students, all black and all male, in grades 7 through 11. The school aims "to equip the young men who walk through our doors daily with the gospel of Christ, and the skills needed to live a life that honors God."
In 2008, Thomas McMillin Howard, 32, known as T. Mac, moved to the Mississippi Delta and taught math at the local public high school. T Mac found the students floundering academically. A third were dropping out; the ones who remained treated their school responsibilities as a joke. Eventually, he decided the at-risk young men needed a disciplined approach grounded in the Christian faith. So in 2012, T Mac left the public school and opened Delta Streets Academy, which began as an after-school and summer program for young men from at-risk neighborhoods.
The discipline is obvious. According to WORLD, "[Students] must tuck in their shirts, complete homework, and act respectfully toward adults and each other. They have a mandatory study hall period during the day and access to tutors after hours. And DSA is reluctantly willing to lose students who refuse discipline."
The Christian element is more subtle, but no less real. DSA, which for now is housed in the downtown First Baptist Church, seeks to "weave the Gospel of Jesus Christ into all areas of the school believing that glorifying God and enjoying Him forever is the foundation upon which all else is built." Imagine that.
A minister from another Greenwood church tells The Christian Science Monitor that T Mac wants white churches and civic groups to help heal the community's racial tensions "in a society still recovering from segregation…. He's a window into a world that many [white] Christians in Greenwood didn't know existed."
Says Marvin Olasky, the editor-in-chief of the WORLD News Group, "I've visited DSA twice and been hugely impressed by the way this Christian school educates African-American young men intellectually and spiritually. It's our 100th national or regional winner over the past 12 years, so Christian compassion is alive and well."
And that is just the tip of the compassion iceberg, according to journalist Warren Cole Smith. "Those of us involved in ministry or in our local churches know that if the great work of Christian ministries and local churches went away, there would be a giant sucking sound in civil society," Warren says. "However, most churches and Christian ministries do their work quietly, with little fanfare, so—according to a Pew study—many Americans don't understand that . . . Christians are more generous with both time and money than their secular neighbors, and that without this generosity, America would be in deep trouble."
But not if the other Hope Awards regional winners—and countless other organizations offering compassionate ministry—have anything to say about it. These are Navajo Ministries in New Mexico, Hope Pregnancy Ministries in Montana, Village of Hope in Zambia, and New Life Home in New Hampshire.
In their great book, Restoring All Things, my friends Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet ask a great question: "What is good in our culture that we can promote, protect, and celebrate?" It's safe to say that WORLD's Hope Awards are a small but significant answer—and we are all winners because of them.
Originally posted at breakpoint.org