The Baltimore Mud Bowl
Despite inclement weather Convoy of Hope helps usher in new
By Michael Nene and Kirk Noonan
Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is idyllic. Sailboats bob on the
water as tourists saunter in and out of museums, restaurants and storefronts.
Overhead seagulls float on breezes from the Atlantic. A few blocks away Camden
Yard and M&T Bank Stadium stand like sentinels watching over the city.
But venture into some of Baltimore’s older neighborhoods
— the ones torched and looted during the riots that followed Martin
Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968; the ones plagued by concentrated
poverty, gangs, drugs and crime — and you suddenly realize why Baltimore
was recently tagged with the lamentable appellation of the big city with the
highest murder rate in the nation.
Yes, every city has its scourge. Baltimore’s happens to be
its murder rate.
Despite the grim reality, many Baltimore residents refuse to
give up on their city. That’s not surprising given the city’s history. In years
past, Baltimore has been at the center of skirmishes, battles, riots, fires and
economic downturns. Yet no matter what hardships it has faced, the city has
always bounced back.
Resiliency and determination are hallmarks of Baltimore. But
in the city’s impoverished areas, few would argue that a little hope —
even a sliver of it — can go a long way.
Baltimore got an infusion of such hope recently when more
than 1,100 volunteers joined with more than 150 churches, businesses, agencies
and organizations for an event simply dubbed Baltimore Convoy of Hope.
Two days before the outreach is to take place, rain
inundates the city. At Clifton Park — which is in one of the city’s
tougher neighborhoods — volunteers, trucks and equipment sink in the
saturated ground as teams set up the site in an unrelenting downpour.
“It doesn’t matter if it stops raining or not,” says Kelly
Harrison, the local coordinator for the outreach and a staff member at Trinity
Assembly of God in Lutherville where George Raduano is pastor. “What matters is
getting the outreach site done and making it a place where God can be glorified
through His people.”
That’s exactly what happens.
Gwendolyn comes to the outreach to get some free groceries
but leaves with much more than that.
“My heart wasn’t right, but now it is,” she says. “I came to
get groceries, but I also received Christ today.”
Gwendolyn is one of more than 100 people who commit their
lives to Jesus Christ during the outreach. Of the more than 3,000 guests who
attend the outreach, nearly 2,600 of them say they needed prayer and were
prayed for by volunteers.
About 50 times a year Convoy of Hope rolls into impoverished
neighborhoods in an effort to give residents a much needed hand up. Services
vary at each outreach, but in most cases medical and dental services are
offered along with a free meal, groceries and a day packed full of
entertainment and activities for children.
In Baltimore honored guests have the opportunity to receive
medical screenings and haircuts, get help in writing resumes, speak with human
resource personnel from local companies, and enjoy a family portrait. Most
important, volunteers are always ready to offer prayer.
“I hit the job fair, got a haircut, and had some medical
screenings done,” says Barbara, who lives in the neighborhood. “Since I want to
provide for my family more, I also went to the job fair, and that was a big help.”
One local pastor says when followers of Christ can
demonstrate Christian love and action to an entire community, great things
“It gives people a sense of well-being that gives our
churches an opportunity to reach people and bring them in,” he says.
Michael Redmon, U.S. Outreach director for Convoy of Hope,
stops in the autograph tent where several former and current National Football
League players sign autographs for honored guests.
“This is a first for us,” he says as he surveys the action
before him. “We’ve been partnering with the NFL and have done several
NFL-sanctioned Super Bowl outreaches, but this is the first time we’ve
partnered with them for a non-Super Bowl outreach.”
Lenny Moore, a former member of the Baltimore Colts and a
Hall of Fame running back, is glad Convoy of Hope teamed up with the NFL.
“Some people are struggling and having a tough time,” he
says. “But Convoy of Hope reaches out to such individuals to let them know they
are not alone and they are not forgotten.”
Redmon says plans are afoot to take the concept to other
“Baltimore Convoy of Hope gave the NFL another vision of
what we can do together to better the nation’s communities,” says Redmon. “Now
other NFL teams have inquired about similar outreaches.”
Impressing the NFL and providing honored guests with a seamless,
carefree and extraordinary experience does not happen by accident.
According to Redmon, months of planning on the part of
Convoy of Hope staff and hundreds of local volunteers goes into each outreach.
Volunteers, he contends, are the difference makers at any outreach.
“Each year volunteers perform a variety of functions for
us,” says Hal Donaldson, co-founder and president of Convoy of Hope. “We could
not do what we do without them. The many hours volunteers have given us have
resulted in hundreds of thousands of people getting the help they need.”
Since Convoy of Hope was founded more than 15 years ago,
more than 2 million volunteer hours have been donated. Because of that generous
help, Convoy of Hope has been able to serve more than 27 million people in the
United States and around the world.
Message of Hope
As the day winds down, some of the local volunteers
reminisce about the hard days that followed the assassination of Martin Luther
King Jr. They talk of the looting, fires and how everything seemed so out of
Though poverty and crime have blighted the neighborhood
where the outreach is taking place, hope has had its way here.
“This area has seen nothing but murder, addiction and loss,”
says one community leader a day after the outreach. “But today many people are
waking up to a new reality of hope and love. This area will never be the same.”
And that’s exactly why Convoy of Hope exists.
MICHAEL NENE is a communications specialist for Convoy of
KIRK NOONAN is the former managing editor of Pentecostal Evangel.
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