After months of work, Soul City Jackson in the heart of midtown Jackson, Mississippi, has reopened an abandoned city swimming pool as a ministry to the neighborhood served by the church — and that’s not all.
Under the leadership of pastor Scott Fortenberry, there’s also a bicycle shop, a pottery studio and a monthly event called Burgers and Basketball to attract the area’s young people.
“We’ve done work on houses,” Fortenberry continued. “We’ve cut yards. We fix things. We’re giving opportunities for people to feel valued. As a result of meeting someone’s needs and then having your needs met by meeting others’ needs, we’re watching people lead a life of worship.
“My job as pastor of Soul City is to leverage the relationships that God has given me on behalf of those I serve.”
Fortenberry recalled driving by the dirty, dilapidated pool and saying, “’I think God is going to let us use that pool one day.’ Two years later, we just celebrated baptizing kids in the pool. We have the largest baptistry in the state.”
It’s a different way to draw people in, he explained.
“We’ve been [given] a great opportunity to be a missions outpost. Local churches have come on a pretty regular basis.” Over 25 teams of volunteers from Mississippi Baptist churches have pitched in and helped out so far this year.
The bicycle shop gives away donated bicycles to young people willing to put in a minimum of six hours work to restore them, instilling a sense of ownership in a group of kids that may have never had anything to call their own. The pottery shop gives the church’s neighbors a sense of pride and accomplishment in their creations.
“It’s watching God do the impossible,” Fortenberry said. “We have a 30-year strategy that says we’re going to raise a generation that will be the change in the neighborhood. It’s a long-term commitment.
“All across our city there are incredible people … [who] are bringing Jesus into some hard, difficult places, and I think we ought to celebrate those stories and look at what God is doing right here in the center of our state.”
‘A symbol of what God can do’
Fortenberry said the pool project is a symbol of what God can do through faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
“God comes into what’s dead and nasty and broken and not useful to anybody, and He takes all the mud and the muck out of us and places a brand new coat of paint on us and says, ‘Bless the neighborhood.’”
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EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by William Perkins, which was originally published by the Baptist Record, news service of the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board.