"YOU ARE CALLED TO THE MISSION FIELD!"
These words rang out of the sanctuary of Park City Presbyterian Church (PCPC) during a John Piper mission conference. Thousands of people heard that message, but Trey Hill felt as if he were the only person sitting in that sanctuary and John Piper was speaking only to him. Trey knew at that moment he had been denying his calling for the past 12 years.
Trey was born and raised in Highland Park, an affluent neighborhood in Dallas. His parents were extremely involved in the community and felt a strong desire to teach their children the importance of giving back to others less fortunate. During Trey’s adolescent years, he felt a passion for inner-city youth and had a gift for relating to them, even though he had a much different childhood. This passion to connect with inner-city youth continued while he was at Baylor University. Many weekends, you could find Trey and his buddies playing pick-up basketball in the rough neighborhoods of Waco.
CALLING TO SERVE
God continued to use Trey’s gift after he graduated from college. While volunteering with Voice of Hope, Trey met Anthony, a tough inner-city 12-year-old kid. Anthony was smart but lacked motivation and had a negative attitude toward life. His dad was in jail, and his brother had been shot and killed; Anthony felt his life was on the same path. Trey felt a huge burden for Anthony because he could see his potential. Trey felt the need to encourage this young man, to show him how he could change the course of his life and that he just needed to believe in himself. This was another push from God letting Trey know that he needed to do more to help inner-city kids see that they have the potential to make a difference in their communities.
The turning point came when Trey attended the John Piper mission conference. He knew after attending this conference that the abiding discontent he was feeling was God revealing that he was designed to work in the mission field with the inner-city youth. Trey knew he needed to pray intensely and discuss this with his family, because it would change the trajectory of their life plan.
With the support of his beautiful wife (Melissa, whom I could write another post about her amazing grace, sacrifice, and passion for life), family, and church (PCPC), Trey began to lead efforts for a new ministry in West Dallas. He had a distinct and profound vision of ways to partner with and help the leaders in West Dallas transform their community.
Micah 6:8 is his foundation: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
In 2003, with the encouragement and support of PCPC, Trey revolutionized the church ministry into a 501c3 non-profit, and Mercy Street was born.
Mercy Street believes its duty is to enter into the brokenness of the community, becoming a part of it, in order to develop relationships. The staff and volunteers build the bonds from the inside out. One of the core principles at Mercy Street is having the staff live within the West Dallas community, being vulnerable to those they serve and building a transforming relationship between mentees and mentors. The goal of Mercy Street is to raise up a future generation that will change West Dallas forever. This is done by building relationships one at a time.
· Community Transformation
· Committed Relationships
· Catalytic Leadership Development
Mentoring is the foundation of Mercy Street. The program matches Christian mentors with the public schoolchildren in West Dallas. Believing that it needs to capture the hearts and minds of the children early, Mercy Street makes all of the matches in elementary school, 4th grade specifically, and asks that mentors walk with their students through the 12th grade.
In addition to mentoring the kids, Mercy Street also provides enrichment activities for students like sports leagues, leadership, educational opportunities, and monthly events.
VISION KIDS – Elementary Children
Vision Kids is the first step in the long-term mentoring journey. The first two years of a match occur while the child is in elementary school. This is a critical period when trust is being formed and experiences are being shared.
The goal for the first two years of the program is establish a loving, trusting relationship among the mentor, the student and the student’s family and to help build trust and aid in communication between the elementary school faculty and the student’s family. Mentors let the children know from the start that they are the future leaders of the community and they have a God-given responsibility to make it a better place.
VK 2 – Middle School
In VK2, Mercy Street seeks to equip mentors to walk with their students through the rocky, often awkward years of adolescence. They also begin to specifically teach the students that their choices have consequences. Good choices bring good consequences, and bad choices have bad consequences.
Their hope is that after being mentored for three years in middle school, the West Dallas youth will have a firm foundation in Christ from which to become young men and women filled with hope not only for their lives, but also for the life of their community.
NEXTPHASE – High School
Next Phase is the last official stage in the mentoring journey. Next Phase aims to help students prepare for the next phase of their lives—whether college or career. Mentors tell the students that high school graduation is not an end point, but rather a springboard into the rest of their lives. Mentors want to help provide the tools students will need to positively and confidently take the next step in their life journey. To do this, they combine one-on-one mentoring, small group discipleship, camp, college preparation and tours, and life and job skills training. By this time mentors have walked alongside their student for 4 years and are able to talk plainly about the challenges their students faces. The mentor often assumes different roles in the life of the student. The mentor might be an advocate, friend, wise counselor, comforter, guide, firm voice, or encourager.
SUCCESS OF MERCY STREET
· 100% of our mentored students graduated high school on time last year
· 30 students completed over 8,000 hours of intensive leadership training and service over the summer
· Completed the content for a book about the Mercy Street model- Spark! Creating Mutually Transforming Relationships to Restore Hope in an Urban Community.
· Partnered with SMU on a new data system to track student progress
· Solid leadership team established to help ensure the ministry’s future vitality
CHANGING A COMMUNITY
Through one relationship at a time, Mercy Street and many other ministries have changed the results in West Dallas. The apostle John says in John 1:14 “The word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us.” As a result, Jesus calls us to break down social and racial barriers and step forward to building a stronger foundation of change within the West Dallas Community. The Dallas Community is so gracious of the obedience of Trey Hill, his beautiful family and the Mercy Street team for hearing their calling and serving West Dallas.