Here at SOUL, we are absolutely committed to seeing the changes in Memphis that God has on His heart for it and so we love displaying how these changes are happening. We hope to be able to provide images that you can realistically see some of the amazing things that God is doing through ministry workers in our city in a way that inspires our city to even more action.
This week we sat down with JD Wilson, Family Advocate with the Binghampton Development Corporation and a SOUL intern, and asked him a few questions about the work that he is doing with the BDC:
Where are you from?
Lawrenceville, GA – a quiet suburb outside Atlanta.
I come from great parents that had us in church every Sunday and worked extremely hard to provide us with a comfortable, safe life. There were 4 kids in our family, all of whom are proud graduates of their respective academic institutions – I graduated, like my wife, from Auburn University. Unlike my wife, I did not graduate with honors and in 4 years, but that is a different story for a different day. We’ve been married for almost 9 years and have 3 wild kids – Amos, who was adopted from Memphis, Evie (who came along 8 months after Amos) and Noah, who is the wildest, funniest 2 year old on earth.
What do you like about Memphis?
In general, we just love the diversity of Memphis (and what that diversity adds to our city). Ethnic, socioeconomic, cultural and culinary diversity make Memphis an amazing place to both live and raise children. Specifically, the Grizzlies, Jerry’s Sno-Cones, Central BBQ, the National Civil Rights Museum and the Memphis Zoo are some of our family’s favorite things.
What do you do and what inspired you to do it?
I was inspired to do what I do when we first saw the need for student ministers in the neighborhood 5 years ago. God has given me a skill set that I believed would be valuable and helpful here and when the Lord opened the door, we decided to walk through it.
Practically, my job consists of lots of mentoring, after school programming and collaboration with other great organizations around our city. Our main goal is to help students develop as whole people – reconciled to God and using their gifts and talents to change the world. Each day we host after school programs aimed at providing kids with exposure, experiences and role models. Whether it’s an evangelistic block-party style club like Club 61, dance, or garden club – everything we do is filtered through those three lenses.
What are some challenges you’ve experienced in your ministry?
I get asked all the time why we would move our family onto one of the most dangerous streets in Memphis. We’ve lived here 18 months and there have been 22 shootings within a 2 block radius of the house. We’ve had a bullet come through the living room, I’ve been caught in the middle of a shootout in front of our house – you get the picture. At the end of the day, we’re here because we believe God has called us and gifted us uniquely to be a blessing to the students here and a good neighbor on the street. I think one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced in ministry has been the enormity of need. Poverty infiltrates and tends to erode almost every area of life. In our work, it is tempting to try and play the role of savior or social worker – both of which are futile because we don’t have the resources to sustain all of our families for the next 20 years. It has been a lesson in humility to stay in the lane in which I’ve been given significant influence and remember that there is only One who can truly meet needs. We
How has SOUL impacted the way you do ministry?
SOUL has been a Godsend for me. What has been most impactful for me has been our community learning style. Almost every class involves a group discussion component. Hearing from the 8 other people in our class who all come from different backgrounds, have different ministries and different ideas has challenged me and helped me to understand life in a different way. Also, being taught and mentored by someone who has as much experience and success in their ministry background as Ken has been invaluable. I’m able to bounce ideas off of him, ask for advice for specific situations and avoid pitfalls.
Far and away, the most influential book I’ve read is The Pursuit of God, by AW Tozer. It shaped the way I view the Christian life. I can single out two other resources that have impacted my ministry here in the neighborhood specifically. One being John Perkins’ Let Justice Roll Down. While not a practical “how to do community development” book, learning Dr. Perkins’ story and watching his work from a distance has been one of the best possible resources I could’ve asked for. The third resource has been my classmates at SOUL. To be a part of an incredibly impressive group working together toward common goals all over our city has blessed me in ways I could’ve never imagined. I now have 8 other brothers and sisters from all over Memphis (and the United States) who are different from me, yet inseparably linked by God’s grace in our lives.
What do you hope to see change as a result of your efforts
Our prayer, very simply, is this: that every student growing up in the communities we partner with would know who they are, how they’re gifted and how to get where they want to go. Obviously within that very simple statement are many layers. We do, however, try to simplify everything we do into one of those three categories. We want students to know their identity is in Christ alone, what gifts God has given them and how those gifts can be leveraged to change not only their world, but THE world. We truly believe that if able to remain on our current trajectory, we will accomplish those goals for every student that comes through our program.
If you want to hear more about what JD is doing with the BDC, feel free to email him at JD@bdcmemphis.org.