Posted on October 18, 2021 Reaching Outside The Walls

Ever wondered how a grant can impact lives locally and facilitate further connections to international hearts? Let Dr. Cindy Falk, Special Assistant to the Short-Term Mission desk tell you what has transpired at her home church in Cooperstown for the past eighteen months:

“Since 2011, members of the First Baptist Church of Cooperstown have been active in short-term mission trips, sending individuals and groups to Haiti, Costa Rica, and Honduras in recent years. Church member Dr. Cynthia Falk serves as Special Assistant with STM and has provided leadership for teams from FBC Cooperstown and other American Baptist Churches. In March 2020, Falk was about to make a deposit on airline tickets to return to Honduras with a group from multiple churches in upstate New York. Then the pandemic hit, and the church had to rethink how it could best adapt its ministries in the era of COVID. The church has continued to provide financial support for the Ministerios de Fe Vida Nueva in Azacualpa, Honduras, and to support missionary Dilia Zelaya in her ministry there. With travel restrictions, the church has also redirected some of what it has learned through STM to meet new local needs resulting from the pandemic.

Rev. Joseph Perdue recognized the stresses that young people in Cooperstown faced as a result of remote learning, and he applied to the American Baptist Home Mission Societies for a grant to provide educational resources. With monies from the Louise Burchard Pierce Memorial Fund in place, the church worked with a local organization, the Angel Network of Cooperstown, to survey families with demonstrated need about strategies to improve their students’ educational experiences. While most families had access to internet, they noted a need for tutoring, and so the church started a one-on-one tutoring program in January 2021, which has continued throughout the school year. The program has engaged volunteers from the First Baptist Church, the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown, and the Rotary Club of Cooperstown, as well as paid college and graduate students, as tutors. Thirteen school students have participated in the free program with tremendous results. For several, tutoring sessions provided a bridge to returning to in-person classrooms. For others, tutoring continued after school once in-person classes resumed with tutors providing homework help, skills development, and help with test preparation.

The church has simultaneously partnered with Cornell Law School and the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown to create a new position to expand legal services for regional immigrant communities. The churches have made a gift to the Law School, creating a project to provide family and immigration-related legal services to low-income immigrant farmworkers, families, and youth. Cornell Law School’s Farmworker Legal Assistance Clinic will hire a two-year Legal Fellow, who will work out of an office in the churches to provide legal services in partnership with immigrant communities. The project will begin with a series of conversations with immigrants, community-based organizations and churches, legal service providers, educators, and judicial personnel to determine the project’s priorities. Again, funding from American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ Louise Burchard Pierce Memorial Fund has made the program possible.

The hope is that church members from FBC Cooperstown can return to Honduras during the summer of 2022. But in the meantime, short-term mission trips have influenced how the church has reached out to people in the local community. Church members had witnessed on mission trips how congregations can reach outside the walls of their church buildings to meet people where they are. They had seen firsthand the importance of education in improving the lives of individuals, families, and communities. And they had become aware of the many challenges that have persuaded people to migrate from Central America to the United States. Importantly, they have recognized that while they can be God’s hands and feet internationally, they must also be willing to do God’s work in their own community. Perhaps we should consider that one of the valuable lessons of the pandemic.”

Here is the link to the ABHMS article highlighting the special tutoring ministry happening at First Baptist Church of Cooperstown: