Wilson to coordinate community-based ministry
Rev. Dustin Wilson, a 2007 religion graduate and pastor of Freedom Roots, a compassionate ministry in East Spencer, N.C., is now the coordinator of the Community Based Ministry Movement of The Wesleyan Church under the Spiritual Formation Department.
Jeremy Summers, director of spiritual formation for The Wesleyan Church, says Wilson will take the lead in a team devoted to community-based ministry.
Summers said that Wilson “lives out his faith Biblically in engaging the community around him.” He added that Wilson lives out the mandate of “making disciples of all nations.”
Wilson, along with his wife, Rev. Hannah Dawalt Wilson (also a 2007 SWU graduate) and their three daughters moved into East Spencer, a historically African-American community in North Carolina.
“Before moving, we drove down Long Street in East Spencer and saw a sign for a grand opening of a café, the ‘No Name Café.’ The spirit of the Lord spoke to me and said that’s how people from that area view themselves,” Wilson said. “In that, God said you’re to move there and plant hope.”
The Wilsons spent the first two years listening to the community and gaining their trust, overcoming socioeconomic and racial barriers to open doors.
“Now we eat with our neighbors and break bread together,” Wilson said, adding that they started a garden area on their property as well as have helped to start other gardens in the community – something he maintains is critical because East Spencer is a Food Desert. There are no grocery stores or produce stands located within walking distance for residents, many of whom have limited transportation. “We try to inspire others to garden and be good stewards of the land. There’s an ownership aspect – it makes them feel empowered,” he said.
Wilson also built partnerships with African-American pastors and community leaders and began conducting basketball camps at a local park.
“In this area, there’s not much for youth to do; this is a way to offer a positive alternative to that,” said Wilson, adding that several hundred youth come to the camps. During one camp, NBA former player, now coach Bobby Jackson talked to the youth about peer pressure and not giving in and gave his own testimony. His story was especially inspiring because he grew up playing basketball on the courts where the camp was held.
Pastor Anthony Smith, a local pastor and friend serving on the board for Freedom Roots, says Wilson is “a salt of the earth kind of brother” whose passion for Christ is authentic.
“His humility and ability to connect with community stakeholders from different cultural backgrounds has been a vital asset to our common missional work,” Smith said. “Dustin's chief qualities have been his integrity, gift of discernment and neighborhood hospitality. We keep each other accountable and energized to do our mutual work. We do family life together and create collaborative space for local community leaders.”
“Overall, Dustin's passion for Christ and kingdom is both winsome and authentic. I am grateful that this brother is in my life and in the life of our community.”
“In May of this year, we organized a one-day conference called, ‘Community Based Ministry Café,’ for leaders to educate them on the way we do community development and how it can be rooted in our faith,” Wilson said. “The key has been empowering local leaders. It has created lots of energy.”
Wilson has joined an African-American pastor friend, Rev. Timothy Bates, who started a prayer and presence group called the Nightcrawlers. On Friday nights, the Nightcrawlers hit the streets at 10 p.m. marching, singing and offering fellowship and encouragement to those who come alongside of them. Wilson recalled a young man who tried to turn his life around and started coming to Nightcrawler marches. Unfortunately, his life was one day cut short as he was shot and killed on the street. The following Friday, Nightcrawlers gathered at the spot where he was murdered, and held prayer.
“Nightcrawlers have also been known to dissolve tense street activity,” Wilson said. “When they see 30 plus people singing praise to Jesus, the guys fighting each other stop and some join hands and pray with us.”
Wilson hopes to build from these experiences from East Spencer as he co-labors with others in the community-based ministry movement.
Summers commented that community-based ministries will be a vehicle where teams work with churches and faith based organizations to disciple the community.
“We’re doing more development type work – integrating the church into the community,” Summers said, adding that they work to build relationships with community organizers and community officials.
“At the end of day, what’s important is how we disciple the community,” Summers said, noting that Wilson will carry on the vision behind community-based ministry and connect with pastors in various ministry areas.
For details about what God is doing through Freedom Roots, visit freedomroots.net.