Together for Hope in Oklahoma: Transforming Rural Oklahoma

Jason Coker with Together for Hope visited my church NorthHaven Baptist in Norman, Oklahoma today. When my family first joined Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas in late 2017, our first family mission trip was to the Mississippi Delta in early 2018 with what was then called Delta Hands for Hope—now Together for Hope. This is where my family met both Jason and Jakob, and we became friends. Strange how quickly Together for Hope is showing up again now that we are in Oklahoma—with my friends Jakob and Jason. Y’all, there is something weird happening, and I like it.

The mission trip to the Mississippi Delta was my first experience looking at rural poverty more intimately and learning what was going on in these areas.

Before I go further, let me back up a minute.

If you have followed me for as little as five minutes, you know the election of Donald Trump was traumatizing for me. I felt betrayed. So betrayed, in addition to the soccer betrayal, we changed our lives completely around in Texas. Changed churches and schools—and I learned a lot about our racist, classist and sexist systems and decided to be a change maker in the effort to dismantle these toxic principalities. The battle is not against flesh and blood.

Rural America came up as a driving force for the election of Donald Trump—in addition to rich people who wanted their taxes cut. Cannot leave them out, because I have a lot less empathy there. But rural America, this one I did want to hear and learn from. I graduated from a rural school, so I am not completely disconnected from this sect of our population. By listening, I realized we are often not listening to people around us when they are telling us they are hurting and they are scared. We see other issues as more important. I hear that. I have experienced that feeling myself.

I heard a man in an interview on CNN say they voted for Trump because he would at least voice their pain. Experts asked him if it mattered that Trump was lying and just playing on their pain. The man said this: Just someone acknowledging what we are going through—-Highlighting we exist—that was enough for me.

Y’all, my bleeding heart could hear that. And it made me sad he voted for someone was just playing on his pain to get elected for this to get noticed.

Something Jason talked about on this trip was how NAFTA exacerbated rural poverty. This is when the jobs left, and we did nothing to prepare rural America for the losses they were about to experience. I understand there was probably no way around joining NAFTA, but what I see time and time again is we do not create something new to help people transition when their lives have to change. We think people can just move and they can do it on their own without any help. We shame people for needing help. We all need help.

This should give us a lot more empathy for those on the border. I am sure most would rather not have moved!!!

So, today, we talked about Oklahoma’s rural poverty. It is not small and it needs our attention.

Friends, are you aware that destroying public schools is going to make poverty even worse? This is my voice now.

I feel called to Oklahoma for such a time as this. This seems like the worst time to be here. Who in Oklahoma is going to hire a woman like me in ministry? And Jake going into the public schools right when Ryan Walters is elected and is already working to implement a hostile plan that no one wants and could destroy public education—and the most impoverished will be destroyed first.

As I mentioned earlier, I met Jakob Topper and Jason Coker on this trip to rural Mississippi. I was nowhere near knowing I was going to be going to seminary at that point. I was going to be able to see myself as someone who can be called, and get the credentials, to rise up to the task at hand. But it happened, and Jakob was the second person (after George) to ask me if I think I might be called. He asked me on this Mississippi trip.

So yes, I believe God is at work. I believe what I cannot see right now, and I am so glad to be here for such a time as this.

Now for 2018 memory lane.

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