Six months ago WORLD asked readers to write to us about local ministries to the needy. We wanted nominees that are explicitly Christian and rely on volunteers rather than government dollars. We hoped also to find replicable efforts: What a group does in one place should be doable by others elsewhere.
Readers sent us information about more than 150 groups. We learned about so many great programs that narrowing the field was hard, but after reading reports and making phone calls we selected nine groups for our reporters to visit. You've read profiles of those groups in the past three issues.
We eventually asked three of the groups to send representatives to an Oct. 16 awards dinner in Dallas co-sponsored by WORLD and the American Bible Society (ABS). Here are the three finalists, each of which received from ABS a $5,000 award:
In the area of Critical Care (hope for those struggling with physical illness): CrossOver Ministry, which serves 3,000 individuals annually through a network of three free clinics located in poor areas of Richmond, Va. "Our mission is to provide health care, promote wellness, and connect the talents and resources of the community with people in need in the name of Jesus Christ." Nominated by Cullen Rivers (see "CrossOver appeal," Sept. 26).
In the area of Reconciliation (hope for those suffering in isolation or incarceration): Forgiven Ministry of Taylorsville, N.C., through which volunteers from local churches create days of reconciliation and forgiveness for more than 1,000 inmates, children, and families. "Our purpose is to reach the unsaved and unlovable with the forgiveness and love of Jesus Christ." Nominated by Beth Walker (see "Forgiven, not forgotten," Sept. 26).
In the area of Restoration (hope for those requiring support to enjoy life's basic resources): Snappin' Ministries of Oconomowoc, Wis., which aids children with disabilities by providing help to parents who are about to snap. "Our pursuit is to support and encourage those living with the challenge of parenting a special needs child, so that the genuine love and hope of Jesus will be experienced and shared in their everyday lives." Nominated by Jody Koehn (see "Keeping parents sane," Oct. 24).
From those three groups the WORLD staff then selected the winner of the 2009 Hope Award for Effective Compassion: Forgiven Ministry, which received an additional $5,000. In our minds all nine groups we have profiled in the last three issues, and the many more that received nominations, are winners. They reaffirmed our conviction that local people, not Washington bureaucrats, know what's needed to fight poverty in their neighborhoods. They also know the value of perseverance: They refuse merely to pull out a knife from a victim's back and say that he is healed.
Thanks to all of you who made suggestions: We plan to request more for next year's contest. In the meantime, please thank God for these three finalists-then go and do likewise in your own communities.
For more information on this year's Hope Award for Effective Compassion and to read profiles of other nominated organizations from this year and previous years, click here.