DENVER — Brianna McKinney says Denver is often a very lonely place. For community, people in the Mile High City might go to a coffee shop where they’re surrounded by like-minded people — but they’re still alone.
Denver is the 19th largest city in the nation, but it’s a lot of isolated, individualized people all living right next to each other, she said.
And Brianna’s burden is that there aren’t enough Christ followers pursuing them with the gospel and connecting them with churches. The city only has one evangelical church for every 32,000 people. To put that in perspective, there’s one marijuana dispensary for every 2,000 people and one brewery for every 7,000, she said.
“Denver is a beautiful place, and it attracts many people,” Brianna said. “But there is such a need for missionaries. There is so much work to be done and so few laborers to help do it. We are just in need of more people.”
That’s what brought Brianna to Denver in the first place. She was assigned there as one of the North American Mission Board’s very first Journeyman missionaries, a recently developed program for college graduates who are willing to commit to two years of full-time missionary service in an area of great need.
Typically, Journeymen serve alongside compassion missionaries or church planters to assist and expand their work. Brianna serves at the Denver ministry center and helps the director, Jason Tipton, meet needs locally and develop partnerships with churches, church plants and community organizations. She also coaches and onboards GenSend college students for summer missions projects.
“Our goal, our hope and our vision are that those community dynamics can switch, and one day we will see one evangelical church for every 7,000 people, or the dream, one evangelical church for every 2,000 people,” Brianna said.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic slowed things down in a lot of ways, “God still moved and He’s still working,” she said.
“We have seen individuals come to faith, relationships be built and continued, non-believers coming into church and while not believing yet, they’re here. They are here, and they feel welcomed,” she said.
Brianna’s work in Denver also involves offering support to a magnet school for refugee children. The partnership started following a prayer request several years ago, and “it’s just been recently that they have allowed us to step in and serve them,” Brianna said. “We actually found out that one of their community directors there at the school is a believer, and she’s the person of peace that we’ve been praying for, that so many people have been praying for. She was the door into letting us come in and serve their community.”
So far, Brianna’s team has rebuilt the school’s playground, painted a large outdoor mural and coordinated a backpack drive to provide school supplies. And through their Food for Families ministry, they’ve taken food packages to the students’ homes.
Through this effort, they’re “reaching 40 countries in one place,” she said. “That’s all God.”
At the ministry center, Brianna is also working to find new ways to serve the homeless as well as children in the foster care system. For the homeless, she assembles bags of specific things they might need and hands them out as she encounters people.
“That’s been one way that I’ve been able to tangibly meet needs here. I think the other way is just conversation,” she said, noting that as she meets each person, she asks their name and says she’ll see him or her next time she’s in that area.
She also started a burrito wagon ministry at her church, pulling a wagon full of burritos around to hand out to the homeless and other people in the community to build relationships and show them that the church cares.
For children in the foster care system, the ministry center partners with a local organization to fill backpacks with the essential items they need when they are removed from their homes and placed in foster care.
“One thing I love about the ministry center in Denver is we’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. We’re coming alongside existing ministries here and helping strategically partner our churches to further the mission,” Brianna said.
She said the funding from the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® is vital to the work. “Look at how the mission has moved forward,” she said. “It’s because Southern Baptists give that we now can go and do what we passionately love and financing is no issue.”
Brianna said she’s able to be in Denver because of the offering, which also supports more laborers to come too.
“The Journeyman program wouldn’t even exist if it wasn’t for the Annie offering, and I hear from church planters that I’m working with, ‘Thank you so much for coming. We need all the help that we can get,’ and that’s what the offering does,” she said. “Southern Baptists’ generosity to Annie allows for more feet to be on the ground in a hard place.”
The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering® provides half of NAMB’s annual budget, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to resource missionaries. The offering is used on the field for training, support and care for missionaries like McKinney and for evangelism resources.
Published March 10, 2022