“The gospel is a ‘go’ gospel. The first two letters are literally G-O,” says David Parsons, a North American Mission Board (NAMB) evangelism catalyst.
For the last 22 years, he and his wife Kathy have found unique ways to do just that: to go and meet people where they are with the gospel through their ministry, Mission Center.
When the Parsons first started their work with NAMB in Winston-Salem, N.C., they thought creatively about how to reach neglected communities.
David sought to mentor young men and boys he encountered, many of whom were fatherless and without male role models to look up to. He also sought help from others. He visited churches and encouraged men of God to mentor and invest in these children.
But the Parsons knew there was more they could do. They needed to be in the places where these families lived.
“We started thinking what would it look like to really go into these multi-family housing communities and be intentional where no one was,” David said.
They did not only want to visit; they wanted to be a fixture there. So with the help of some churches and other supporters, David and Kathy rented apartments in two locations and began work out of these outposts.
“We were amazed at how God was using it,” David said.
From these apartment complexes, the Parsons and their volunteers reached families right in their communities, providing fun and games and sharing the good news of the gospel.
“We were able to put in a little soccer field and create a little community by putting in picnic tables and a playground area,” David said, “and most importantly we were able to share with these families that there is a pathway to Jesus, and that we want to be a part of it.”
Today, Mission Center operates out of eight apartment complexes. The Lord granted them favor with the management of the complexes, as they bring vitality to these communities.
“Mission Center has four goals: to make contact with families, build relationships, share the gospel of Jesus Christ, and mentor and disciple,” David said. “And we do that spiritually, educationally, economically, relationally and societally, within the context of their culture.”
The Parsons recognize the communities’ multifaceted needs.
“We have lots of sports times for the young boys, and with some of the men we meet weekly at McDonald’s to disciple them and go through the Word together,” David said.
“We gave out over 1,100 coats this year and were able to gather the people’s apartment numbers and phone numbers in the process.”
With each coat, they took the opportunity to share about Christ.
“We always include the gospel in everything we do,” Kathy said, “These other things we do — serving a meal, playing bingo, making a craft — that is just something to get attention and build relationships so that we can present the gospel.”
“Many of these folks will never come to my church or your church,” David said, “I believe this ministry is effective because we are going to people where they are. … We go to them, and we will keep going to them.”
The Parsons take the philosophy of mobile ministry seriously. Now, they are taking the gospel on the road with a bus and a moving truck.
They initially didn’t know what to do with a bus when they were first given one. But they knew there was more work to be done. They prayed about it and decided to create a mobile classroom.
They reconfigured the bus so the seats line the perimeter, and placed a table in the middle for activities. The bus has a television and sound system to play gospel videos and songs. It’s stocked with Jesus Storybook Bibles, Action Bibles, coloring books, reading books and sports equipment.
It’s called the “God Loves You” bus — painted on the side in English and Spanish.
“There are so many possibilities because we’re not restricted by the need to rent an apartment or space in a neighborhood. We can pull into an apartment complex and invite kids and their families onto the bus for fun and a Bible lesson. We are free to present the gospel and pray and sing,” Kathy said.
The moving truck has also expanded the possibilities in their ministry.
On its outside they painted a dog and the words “ROVER Recreation Ministry,” with a small message on the back that says, “Follow me for fun.”
ROVER stands for “recreational outdoor vehicle empowering relationships.” The goal is to not only make ministry mobile, but to empower relationships and break down walls.
Inside are sports equipment, a grill, a popcorn maker, a cotton candy machine, pool noodles and more.
The Parsons are excited for the new doors these mobile tools have given them to uniquely partner with churches.
Already this fall, the Parsons have been able to partner with churches’ fall festivals, offering 15 minute rotating programs on the bus. This past Christmas, the Parsons had an opportunity to reach several neighborhoods.
The Parsons hope to take their ministry on the road to other cities across North Carolina.
“We are asking pastors to call us to your neighborhoods that are not being reached and let us partner with you to reach them,” David said. “When we go, we go to be the church. Your church. We are there to represent you and the gospel of Jesus, and we want you to go with us.”
“It’s not ours. It belongs to God,” David said, “and we want to take it and share it.”
To partner with Mission Center, contact David Parsons at 336-399-7613, or visit MissionCenterNC.org.
by Kari Wilson, N.C. Baptist contributing writer