The sound of pounding hammers reverberated in the steamy, 95-degree air of Jackson, Mississippi’s ghetto district. Residents peered out of their windows, puzzled by the sight of unfamiliar workers—white workers—sweating through the noonday heat to renovate the dilapidated house at 807 Pascagoula Street. Something was happening, to be sure—something more than a simple construction project. In some small way, perhaps, a past was being torn down and a future was being built.

The unlikely laborers had come from Minnesota, 1,500 miles to the north, to stay two weeks in Jackson. Hosted by Voice of Calvary (VOC), a 28-year-old ministry that serves the medical, housing, and spiritual needs of Jackson’s poor, this work crew of 18 men, mostly upper-income professionals from Presbyterian churches in suburban Minneapolis/St. Paul, had paid their own way to Mississippi. And they had raised $10,000 to cover the cost of materials needed to rehab the one-story, six-room house on Pascagoula, the sixth of 14 similar homes VOC plans to renovate and sell to low-income families through its Adopt-A-Home program.

In spite of the tight work schedule, the volunteers found time for fun and games, with no less constructive results. In the vacant lot next to 807, several youngsters were throwing a basketball at a wobbly hoop on a worn-out backboard. Two men from the crew paused in their duties, got a ladder, unbolted the backboard, and started repairing it. Soon a dozen youngsters were eagerly looking on.

A four-by-eight-foot plywood sheet (intended for the renovated house) became a new backboard. While the Minnesotans held the ladder and passed tools up, neighborhood residents repositioned the hoop and bolted the backboard to its 10-foot post.

Marcus, ...

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