VINTON–REACH interns and volunteers celebrate the completion of successful mission trips to the Roanoke area at the Under the Bridge Ministry on Walnut Avenue in Vinton each Thursday night during the summer months.
Pastor Frank Broughman from Under the Bridge treats that week’s REACH mission crew to dinner at the church as they wrap up their week of service to the community. This past week he prepared 20 chickens, two and half gallons of green beans, 20 pounds of potatoes, and piles of bread to feed some hungry youth ages 9 and up.
Under The Bridge Ministry is a “non-denominational Christian church and outreach ministry whose purpose is to fulfill the Great Commission, provide for widows, orphans, the disabled and the homeless in the Southeast Roanoke and Vinton areas.”
“We provide food for the body and the spirit to those in need,” is their stated purpose. “We want to see Roanoke be a place where the community serves the people and the people serve each other.”
Under The Bridge Ministry was formed in 2012 as an outreach program, “sending a group out to share the gospel and the love of Christ with the area’s homeless.” They found that the need was far greater than anticipated.
What began as an outreach program soon became a bus ministry, “allowing us to serve not only the spiritual needs of the less fortunate, but also provide them transportation back to the church, where they were able to hear God’s Word, get a meal, and take a few items of much needed clothing.”
They became an independent church, starting out in a house in Southeast Roanoke, but have now relocated to a house in Vinton. They use the downstairs as the church sanctuary and dining hall, and the upstairs for a clothes closet and youth room.
Broughman says he thinks of his church as a smaller Rescue Mission and somewhat of a replacement for Manna Ministries which left Vinton to merge with the Rescue Mission in Roanoke.
He preaches himself and invites other ministers as well. They hold services on Sunday at 1:30 and 6:30 and Bible Studies on Wednesday at 6:30 in addition to the bus ministry.
Pastor Tim Dayton who heads up REACH in Roanoke says that his group’s purpose is to “provide opportunities for groups and individuals to be in service to the Roanoke community, so that they recognize their assets and discover the joy of using them for others.”
He is the pastor at First Christian Church in Roanoke and coordinates groups which come to the area from all over the East Coast, and possibly beyond, to complete mission projects. Interns, generally college students, stay all summer–eight to ten weeks–and run the camp.
The volunteers—REACHers—last week came from across the state and will keep coming until August and time for school to start. The youngest was nine years old. For some it was their first mission trip.
The youth came to the Under the Bridge Ministry church not only for supper, but during the week to paint the church and make repairs and improvements.
As for why they leave their homes and travel to another location for mission work, Dayton says it is sometimes more motivational to “go elsewhere, more of a challenge and adventure—getting away from home, like going camping.”
The REACHers arrive on Saturday and leave on Friday, “getting a different perspective when branching out to locations outside of their own community and comfort zone.”
“It gives them a chance to meet the locals,” said Dayton. “REACH is about meeting people, and forming relationships. That is why people like Pastor Frank are vital to the REACH program—they already have connections in community and that allows us to grab on to their coattails. REACH volunteers fix houses, clean up the community, and feed people, but it is 100 percent relationships—breaking bread together. The tasks completed are incidental to the relationships formed.”
This is the sixth year for the REACH program in Roanoke. Dayton says up to 85,000 hours of service to the Southeast Roanoke area have been performed.
Mary and Mike Alford from Greenville United Methodist Church near Staunton, accompanied their daughter Ashton on the trip—their second daughter to participate. This is their third mission trip with REACH and their tenth mission trip as a family. They accompanied a group of eight from their church and spent the week rebuilding a deck at a home in Southeast Roanoke, painting a house, and working at the Food Bank, Goodwill, and the Rescue Mission.
Intern Josh Bell has been involved with REACH for four years; this is his first year as an intern. He is a student at Lynchburg College, studying international relations. He wants to work with the Red Cross. He says he loves community service which leaves him wanting to do more. He has discovered through REACH and missions work that he is happier doing things for others instead of himself. For Mary Beth Fair, this is her first year as an intern, but her sixth year with REACH. She is a chemical engineering student at Notre Dame.
Working for many years in community service, Dayton noticed that many programs were only treating symptoms of substandard housing, homelessness, hunger, environmental impact, at-risk youth and children, older adult care, and assimilation of immigrants, not bringing permanent solutions.
“I discovered three principles,” said Dayton. “First people caught in the middle of these situations tend to suffer from a loss of hope, a feeling that no one else cares, or an overwhelming helplessness that is self-perpetuating; in some cases, they suffer from all three. Secondly, people who often give of themselves seldom suffer from these issues for very long, if at all. Turns out, doing for others without any thought of getting something in return generates a type of happiness for the doer 100 percent of the time. And thirdly– very few people enjoy being on the receiving end.”
With these realizations, REACH was born. They have gained access to the community through programs like Pastor Frank’s.
Their “official” mission is to “encourage the people of Southeast Roanoke to connect and engage with each other through the use of their assets in order to ensure a thriving community. It is not about what we can do for them – it is about their realizing that they can do for themselves.”
Dayton says their goal is to create “service addicts.”
Pastor Frank and the Under the Bridge Ministry are well-known in the Vinton community.
Pastor B. Failes of Thrasher Memorial United Methodist Church says, “Pastor Frank is always bringing people and ‘stuff’ to our dinners and lunches and we are glad to share in this ministry. He is always kind and gracious and willing to help with whatever needs to be done. I have always been impressed with his passion for the people he serves.”
Pastor Jae Song, also from Thrasher, says “Pastor Frank serves people who are in need, not only caring for their financial needs but also caring for their life and soul. Also, he is willing to cooperate with other churches to make our community a better place.”
Broughman and Dayton are all about joy. When guests enter the church on Thursday nights they are greeted with a chorus of “Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In.” Nothing can make you feel more special and connected than that.