On a Sunday evening in March 2013, a group of church leaders and volunteers from Ambassador for Christ Church and the Church at Brook Hills met to organize the start of a Bible Club in Marks Village. In the Sunday afternoons following that day, we came to understand what great stories God was writing in that community! The Bible Club began with 20-30 kids ranging 4-18 years old who gathered with a group of volunteers from both churches at Ambassador for Christ Church just outside the community.
That Bible Club has continued ever since, growing to include 100-150 kids each week with volunteers from several churches across Birmingham and the Marks Village community itself. As the club continued, God began placing a burden on the hearts of a few of us that we needed to spend more time getting to know the kids in our discipleship groups, and being available to work alongside the community as it grows more in God’s glory. We knew there was more the community could be doing than what could be done in 3 hours on a Sunday afternoon.
It was from that burden of God that Oak Tree Ministries was formed. Founded by volunteers from the Bible Club, in close partnership with the churches that started it, we exist to further the work we saw in the first two and a half years of the Bible Club.
Board of Directors:
Alex Leath (chair)
Marks Village (also known as Gate City) is a low-income housing community in east Birmingham, Alabama. About 2,500 residents live there.
To see the gospel transform lives through word and deed.
Jesus said He came “to announce the good news to poor people… to announce freedom for prisoners… so that the blind will see again… to set free those who are treated badly…” (Luke 4:18-21) As followers of Jesus, we believe we must continue to make this announcement, because all have yet to hear! But, we also know we must do more than just speak.
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
1 John 3:16-18
We speak the truth of the gospel.
We lift the silenced voices so that their stories can be heard.
We believe reconciliation is possible, not easy, but possible.
We connect partners and resources to meet practical needs in the community.
We develop trauma-informed programs for children and adults to thrive spiritually, mentally, and physically (Mark 12:29-31).
We are here for the long haul. Brokenness came through relationships and healing will also come through relationships, but relationships don’t develop over night!
As we learn, serve, and grow together, God does something special. He is purifying us as He reveals sins of the past and present and unifying us as we repent and forgive one another. He is making us stronger, together. We will labor “until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.” (Amos 5:24)
Do Justice | Love Mercy | Walk Humbly
Justice is not simply punishment, it is a call to make things right. We believe Scripture is clear about God’s heart for the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized. He also gives clear instructions to those in a place of privilege to ensure justice is upheld.
“Speak up for those who have no voice, for the justice of all who are dispossessed. Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.”
Without Jesus, there is ultimately no good news in justice. The need for justice means that someone has done wrong and someone has been wronged. Pain is present even if just consequences are put in place. Only through Jesus do we see the solution of punishment taken and righteousness given offering wholeness to both the wronged and the wrong doer. He has taken the punishment that we all deserve for our wrongs. He has made it possible for us to walk in freedom, forgive others, and have abundant life. He calls us to be reconciled to one another.
The posture of our service is mercy. God has shown us indescribable mercy, and more than that, grace. When we truly grasp the love He offers to His children, it is impossible to withhold that love from others. Because we ourselves have been recipients of mercy, we can move beyond sympathy to empathy as we extend mercy to others.
We don’t claim to have all of the answers. The problem is complex and requires complex solutions. We do not believe poverty is as simple as it may appear on the surface. We come with humility, offering to listen, learn, and act when we are able.
We live in a broken world. Our relationships with God and with each other are broken, but God has had a plan from the beginning for a perfect, unified, and beautifully diverse family. While we wait for His fulfillment of this promise, we labor together to see His Kingdom come.
PEOPLE + GOD
Although we could never deserve it, we have been given peace with God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This gift changes everything. Because we have been shown abundant love and received this new life, we desire for every person made in His image to also have the chance to hear and respond to this good news. We seek out every opportunity to speak the truth of Jesus with joy; then, we take every opportunity to adorn our words with actions to display the gospel in a tangible way. We often fall short, but we rest in His grace and extend that grace to others. Jesus is the reason we are here, and He is the hope for broken people.
PEOPLE + PEOPLE
Our city has a history of racial division that has left deep wounds, broken relationships, and marginalized communities. We remain a largely divided city and we believe in crossing bridges to learn and grow together in order to see change. Following the teachings of Jesus, we surrender our rights to serve others above ourselves. We create a safe space for people to grieve, repent, forgive, rejoice, and heal together. When this happens relationships can be restored, both within the community, and with those who would otherwise never cross paths with someone in this community.
“Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: ‘Be reconciled to God.’ He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
2 Corinthians 5:18-21
Relationships are the foundation of everything we do. Yes, we have programs, but those programs are nothing without the people! The purpose of any program or event hosted by Oak Tree is to strengthen relationships in the community. Of course, we don’t stop with programs, we are in the neighborhood to act as neighbors! Sometimes, this means going to community meetings and school activities, and sometimes this means someone simply dropping by to borrow a cup of sugar or to chat over coffee. We are here to know one another’s stories and create new stories together.
We believe all people are made in the image of God and therefore all have something to bring to the table. We come humbly as cross-cultural learners, desiring mutually transforming relationships. We need each other.
We currently provide opportunities for relationships through these weekly activities:
Sistas Together, women’s Bible study group
Bible Club, elementary students
Reading Club, elementary students
Created for a Purpose, middle school girls
Oak Tree Warriors, middle school boys
Read more about our programs and find out how to get involved HERE.
Our activities might look a little different from traditional children’s programs. We strive to be a trauma-informed, safe place for healing relationships to grow. We practice Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) and are continuously learning how to best empower the children in Marks Village to see them thrive! You can read more about it HERE.