Fort Worth: Look no further than Broadway
Buckner and Broadway partner to provide services to the community, homeless
By Chelsea Quackenbush
FORT WORTH – Broadway Baptist Church’s relationship with Buckner International spans back longer than the past 15 years of their official partnership. While looking for historical continuity in the church’s ministries, a staff member found a photo from 1895 of a women’s Sunday school class sewing clothing for Buckner orphans at the childrens home in Dallas.
The official partnership to provide community services started in 1997.
“We’re about protecting children, promoting independence and building strong families – that’s where the overlap is between Broadway and Buckner,” director of community ministries Dan Freemyer said. “And all of that is accomplished through building strong communities.”
“Buckner support is what allows us to do community ministries that are the heart and soul of this church. Their mission to take care of all people really syncs up with ours,” head pastor Brent Beasley added.
A new twist on old ideas
Broadway’s May Street Market has revolutionized homeless ministries. Instead of making up bags of foods for clients, they’ve created a grocery store-type food pantry which allows people to shop and choose their own food. Broadway’s sack lunch ministry provides 100 to 200 brown bag lunches to homeless and day laborers three times a week.
Their clothing ministry is the same – clients peruse dozens of racks of generously donated clothing until the find what suits them. The ministry serves 30 adults two mornings a week and serves 75 children once a week. They also provided more than 750 school uniforms for children at the beginning of the school year.
The practice of giving and serving the poor is so ingrained in all church members that even youth groups realize their mission trips aren’t much different from what they do on a weekly basis at their church.
“They’ve gotten used to doing things every week that they do on mission trips,” Freemyer said. “When they find out where we’re going and what we’re doing, they’ll say stuff like, ‘Well, we already do that here.’ It’s unique and it’s very cool. I love that we’re raising our kids like that.”
Broadway also partners with Pennsylvania Place Apartments, located a few blocks from the church, to provide community programs and support to the low-income residents. They host an afterschool program for kids twice a week and take adults shopping during the week when they might not otherwise have a ride to the store.
“It’s about our desire not to just hand things out but to have impactful relationships,” Freemyer said. “There are a lot of people in the apartments who might not find a church otherwise if it hadn’t been through the connection of volunteers and staff.”
A feast of love
Perhaps the biggest ministry at Broadway is the Agape Meal, a banquet-style dinner every Thursday for about 175 homeless people in the Fort Worth area. About 50 to 60 volunteers serve and host guests at round tables for a time of fellowship and devotional.
“The Agape Meal has helped integrate the church,” said Jorene Taylor Swift, minister of congregational care. “It’s moved us from hand outs to relationships. Some people have been coming for the entire 16 years we’ve been doing it.”
Mary Newton is one of those people.
At her first Agape Meal, she laid her head on the table and wouldn’t speak to anyone. She came in from the streets with nothing.
The staff would learn later that Mary was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia but she wasn’t on medication. She suffered an abusive childhood and adolescence. Her family told her she was worthless and she believed them.
Mary did not warm quickly to staff and volunteers but after many years of patience and perseverance, she calls Broadway home.
“If I hadn’t taken that first step to talk to people, I don’t know where I’d be. I might be dead,” she said. “But this is the place to get help. What brought me here was the love and compassion … They wanted to help me. It’s not about the money. They’re happy for who you are.”
Instead of being served at the Thursday night dinner, Mary has taken her turn as the server. She loves talking to people and hearing their stories. She said she tries to spread the love and peace she has found.
“We’ve talked about welcoming all people including the poor into our community,” Beasley said. “It’s not just handing things out but inviting them into the church … We try to be welcoming with dignity.”