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Ministry in Selma


Selma, Alabama is a small town best known for the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of the 1960s and “Bloody Sunday” in 1965. The mention of Selma brings to mind different images for different people, and Selma’s history can be a controversial topic in some circles. But for Matthew* and Amelia,* Selma is home.

After graduating from seminary, Matthew and Amelia settled in Selma and began to build relationships with children and youth who were living in a government housing project. They shared meals together, celebrated birthdays, and had sleepovers. The couple shared the love of Jesus with kids who had experienced abandonment, abuse, and poverty at a young age.

Moriah* was in middle school when she first met Matthew and Amelia. She quickly bonded with the couple and loved having sleepovers at their home. “We would always pray before bedtime when she stayed over,” said Amelia. “Moriah would always pray that she could get braces.”

The couple knew Moriah’s single mother could not afford braces, but they prayed with Moriah for her dream to become a reality. Several months ago, Moriah asked Matthew to take her to the orthodontist.

“I didn’t want her to suffer the disappointment of realizing she couldn’t afford braces,” said Matthew. “I was praying about it and thinking through different options, and I heard God say, ‘I am going to provide.’”

Matthew took Moriah to the orthodontist for an initial exam. The orthodontist pulled Matthew aside and asked how he intended to pay for Moriah’s braces. Matthew explained that he did not have a plan, and the orthodontist offered to cover all of the expenses.

“Getting braces is a small thing in the grand scheme of life,” said Amelia, “but it is a big deal for Moriah. She had prayed for braces for years, and it is really sweet to see how the Lord provided for her. He cares about the big and small things in our lives.”

In addition to mentoring children and youth in Selma, Matthew and Amelia started a small group in their home. “We know a lot of people in their 20s and 30s who are not involved in church,” said Matthew. “Many of them do not see church as relevant to their lives, or they made mistakes in their past that has kept them from engaging in a church.” Matthew, Amelia, and another couple who serves with TMS Global invited people into their homes to study Scripture together.

Caden* is in his 20s and began attending the small group. Years before, Caden had been mentored by a cult that was active in Selma. Although the leaders taught about religion, they did not believe in Jesus. The leaders taught their followers that they had to come to God through the cult leaders and not on their own.

Caden had been mentored by the cult leaders and even lived with some of them during his teens. Matthew and Amelia’s small group was recently studying 1, 2 and 3 John, which contains teaching about false prophets. After studying these chapters for several weeks, Caden said, “You are different. They [the cult leaders] were false teachers and told me what to believe. You want me to have a relationship with Jesus.” Matthew said, “Caden understands that he can come to Jesus on his own. We hadn’t planned on studying false prophets in particular, but the Holy Spirit was at work and moved in Caden’s heart to show him the truth.”

In addition to their other ministries, the TMS Global cross-cultural workers serving in Selma are opening a free gym to their community. They envisioned a space where they could get together with people, promote healthy habits, and have natural conversations about life and faith. They recently found a location, and people donated equipment and helped to renovate it.

The TMS Global team in Selma hopes to connect local churches to the community with which they work. “Some people want to invest in relationships in this neighborhood, but they may not know how to get started,” said Amelia. “This area has experienced short-term mission projects, but there haven’t been people who stayed and invested long term. We want to help people connect and build authentic relationships.

“We aren’t here to solve all of the issues facing Selma. We are just here to love people and point to Jesus.”

*Names changed and stock photo used for privacy