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.
Marks Village is a low-income housing community in north-east Birmingham, Alabama. About 5,000 residents live there.
Reconciliation is important for all of humanity. As sinners, our relationships with each other and with God are broken, and we can never find joy and peace until we embrace the restoration that Jesus Christ offers.
We seek to pave the way in Marks Village for people to be reconciled with God. Nothing good of any permanence can take place in someone's life until he or she embraces Christ as the Reconciler with God.
We seek to bring people together in a community that has been stretched to the breaking point. Where there is pain, it can be hard to find love. But we believe that the power of God can bring healing in damaged relationships and we are working to bring people together in love so that even greater things can happen in Marks Village.
Relief is needed where there is struggle. In Marks Village poverty is trying to beat people down, but we know that God is the Defender of the weak. Relief comes in two forms.
There are some problems that need immediate help. In order to become a part of the community, we are building strong relationships with the people and families there. This means we are always working to have each others' backs.
Through these relationships, those people can contact us when they find themselves in crisis, and we will work with our partner ministries to provide assistance. Similarly, when the ministry is in need of volunteer help, we know we can count on those relationships with Marks Village residents to come and support us.
In an area where poverty is prevalent, many deep and long term issues can get in and ruin lives chronically. We believe that these issues are also solved through building relationships and developing community.
We work together with those in Marks Village to support those working to recover from chronic issues in their lives by coming alongside and creating accountability relationships. We also are creating training and development classes and programs to build financial, family, and life management skills.
Rehabilitation is the rebuilding of people and community. Oak Tree Ministries is moving in, and we're doing that by renovating one of the buildings in Marks Village. We have already had several work days, where men and women from the community and around Birmingham have worked together to build the old building back into something new.
This building rehabilitation serves as a scale model of the community rehabilitation God is working in Marks Village. Once people are restored to a relationship with God and others, the community can gather around them and walk with them into peace and joy.
Relationships are the foundation of everything we do. Reconciliation, relief, and rehabilitation only happen in the context of strong relationships.
As a part of the community, we work together to bring God the glory through the spreading of the good news of Jesus Christ. We build relationships with others so we can tell them about the relationship God seeks to have with them and multiply disciples who are also spreading this news.
Already, Bible Studies are forming in the Marks Village community so that people can build discipleship relationships. We all need to look out for each other to "spur one another on to love and good deeds" (Hebrews 10:24). Our goal is for Marks Village to become a sustainable discipleship cycle, where there are always disciples who are making disciples who are making disciples...