The Power of Showing Up

Written by Founder Raul Rivera on Dec 17, 2015 in Outreach

In December of 2008, a seed was planted in the hearts of Jim and Melinda Hollandsworth. At the time, Jim was serving as associate pastor at Graystone Church, and Melinda was teaching at a local elementary school. During that holiday season, the small group that Jim and Melinda led chose to provide Christmas for a family they were sponsoring through another ministry called the Southeast Gwinnett Cooperative Ministry. This particular family lived in a nearby mobile home park called Gwinnett Estates, a community riddled with gang activity, drug and alcohol abuse, and below-poverty-level living.

Sponsoring that family was the beginning of something bigger far bigger than they could have imagined. Within a few weeks’ time, and with the desire to serve and love those who lived on the ragged margins of society, Jim and Melinda felt God leading them back to visit the family that their small group had sponsored for Christmas.

Although they had no particular agenda, Jim and Melinda knew that they wanted to connect with the children and families in the community. What they did not know was how God was going to use them to impact the families within that community for all eternity.

The toil of our labor produces fruit

After several visits to Gwinnett Estates in 2009, in August of that year, Jim and Melinda decided to begin assisting students with their homework after school once a week. To conduct the after-school tutoring, they were given permission to use the property manager’s trailer. Recognizing the success and impact that the tutoring was beginning to have on the kids, in November of 2009, Jim shared with the members of Graystone Church the need for volunteer help.

That very night there was a shooting at one of the residences in the community. Shortly thereafter, the property manager of Gwinnett Estates approached Jim and offered him the trailer where the shooting took place. The property manager offered it free of charge; however, the only caveat was that Jim would be responsible for the trailer’s renovation.

With the help of several men from the church, the trailer was renovated in no time at all and was quickly put to use. A trailer where drug deals and a shooting had once taken place became an avenue for loving and ministering to children in practical ways. This trailer became known as the Hope Center.

With a space solely dedicated to serving the children and families of Gwinnett Estates, things began moving quickly for Jim and Melinda. In April of 2010, they began serving in Gwinnett Estates two days per week, and then in 2011, they began serving every day.

Up to this point, the ministry had been operating as a ministry of Graystone Church. But in January of 2012, with the blessing of the church’s leadership, Jim incorporated the ministry as The Path Project with the state of Georgia and applied for its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. That first year The Path Project raised $170,000.

Because of their faithfulness, persistence, and obedience, they were able to minister to the children and families of Gwinnett Estates beyond what they had initially envisioned. But God was not done there.

Hope to the hopeless

Hearing about the positive impact The Path Project was having in Gwinnett Estates, the company that owns the mobile home community flew Jim up to its headquarters in Michigan. Impressed with the work that was being done, those in top leadership positions at the company wanted to see what it would take for The Path Project to operate in all of the mobile home communities that they owned.

Today, operating on an annual budget of $425,000, The Path Project ministers in 5 mobile home communities (4 in Georgia and 1 in Tennessee), with 5 full-time teachers/mentors, 7 part-time teachers/mentors, and numerous volunteers. Within these communities, where violence, drugs, and the lack of positive role models were the norm, The Path Project has provided, and continues to provide, hope where hope was once nothing more than a four letter word.

It is a marathon, not a sprint

Building any kind of organization from the ground up is no easy task. It takes hard work, commitment, consistency, and prayer to see a dream come to fruition. You may hear some people say that the toughest part of pursuing a dream is taking that first step. But perhaps the toughest part is not the act of taking that first step; rather, perhaps the toughest part of seeing a dream come to fruition is the actual day-in and day-out process of showing up.

When asked what advice he would give those who are currently pursuing the dream, or call, that God has placed in their heart, Jim gave the following five tips based upon his experience.

5 tips of success for your ministry to succeed

1. Keep showing up

It was about six years ago when a 7th grade girl who lived in Gwinnett Estates approached Jim and asked, “So, when are you leaving?” Jim’s response to the young girl was, “We’re not leaving, and we will be in attendance at your high school graduation.”

What Jim realized that day was that the girl was not intentionally being rude, but rather, she was speaking from her experience. Other organizations and ministries had come and ministered, but never stayed around for the long haul. It was that day when Jim made the decision that they would be around for the long haul.

Today, the young girl whose question challenged Jim nearly 6 years ago is a senior in high school. She is one of five students who have been a part of The Path Project since 6th grade, and they are on track to graduate in May. Of these five students, four of them will be the first in their families to graduate high school. This is the power of showing up day-in and day-out.

2. Surround yourself with knowledgable individuals

This not only includes those who are knowledgable in the areas of ministry, but also those who have sound business skills. Because your first passion is most likely going to be that of ministry related matters, it is necessary to partner with those who can help you guide and direct the business side of your ministry.

3. Invite people to see what God is doing

When you invite individuals within your community to come and see what God is doing in your ministry, that is an opportunity for them to see what your ministry is all about. One thing that Jim has noticed during this journey is that money follows ministry. In essence, Jim is saying that donors want to give to a cause or ministry that is already at work impacting the community. Donors want to know that their donations are being put to good use. By inviting them out to experience and participate in your ministry, they are seeing just that.

4. Educate yourself on what you are doing

One of the keys of success for Jim is that he continually educates himself on matters related to the ministry of The Path Project. For instance, because The Path Project ministers in communities with large Latino populations, he is determined to better understand immigration law simply because it is something that matters to those they minister to each day. Several ways that you can further educate yourself on matters related to your ministry is by attending conferences and workshops, reading books, articles, and blogs, and connecting with others who have similar ministries.

5. Listen for God speaking to you through others

For Jim, that was the 7th grade girl from six years ago who asked him when they planned on leaving. While there are others who have spoken into his life, what he has realized over the years is that God will speak to you through the most unlikely of people, but you have to be ready and willing to listen and recognize when it is him.

We are cheering for you

Building any organization from the foundation up is not easy. It takes hard work, commitment, consistency, and prayer to bring a dream to life. I believe that you have what it takes to make your dream a reality, but do you believe you have what it takes?

One of the best things for you to do during this time is to surround yourself with like-minded people: people who will support you, encourage you, and challenge you; people who have once been where you are. That is why I would like to invite you to join us at one of our upcoming conferences. Not only will you receive empowering information in establishing the foundation of your dream, but you will also have the opportunity to meet others in attendance who are in the same boat.

If you persist in prayer, focus your passion, and stay consistent, then there is no limit to the great impact and blessing your organization can be to your community.

Please feel free to comment. We always appreciate good dialogue. However, we do moderate each comment to ensure that it is on topic and not derogatory to other participants. We ask that you keep your comments brief and pertinent to the topic so that others may benefit.

Raul Rivera

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