'Hope’ scholar shares gifts through Ozark Mission Project
Aug. 26, 2005
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Ben Crismon (center) helps guide Alyssa Baldridge (left) and Nate Bishop as they work on a client's porch in West Memphis, Ark.
By Allison Scahill*
WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (UMNS) — A United Methodist Gift of Hope scholar has
spent his summer giving hope to the residents of this Arkansas
Ben Crismon has been helping lead a team of young people who have been
repairing homes in West Memphis through the Ozark Mission Project, a
mission of the denomination’s Arkansas Area. Crismon also is a recipient
of a Gift of Hope Scholarship, provided by the United Methodist Board
of Higher Education and Ministry.
The Gift of Hope scholarship is for undergraduate students at any
accredited college who have shown leadership in the United Methodist
“The Hope Scholarship just gives me the chance to go to college. I get
to learn, and I’m planning on going into the ministry,” Crismon said.
“So it gives me the ability to go to a Methodist private school where I
can learn about myself and learn about God, then go to seminary from
Throughout the summer, Crismon has worked as a major group leader for
the Ozark Mission Project, which had 12 camps throughout Arkansas. Youth
and adults come from churches all over Arkansas to do minor home
repairs for people who need a hand.
Crismon, a sophomore and religious studies major at Centenary College of
Louisiana in Shreveport, said he received the call to ministry at age
12. The idea of being a minister intrigued him, he said.
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Ben Crismon (second from right) helps Lydia Dunlap with a caulk gun.
“I’ve always believed in using the gifts God’s given you. I think a lot
of the gifts God’s given me would be best suited in the full-time
ministry,” he said. Besides working in the Ozark Mission camp, he also
is an intern for Asbury United Methodist Church in Bossier City, La.,
where he works with a group of high school boys.
The summer job has helped him prepare for his future in the clergy, he said.
“It teaches me a lot about responsibility, about leadership. I’ve never
been directly in the leadership of this many people before,” he said.
“It’s keeping me focused on God at all times and making me rely on him
more than it does in my daily life. There are a lot of things that are
out of my control here, and I have to rely on God.”
Receiving the scholarship allowed him to take the staff position with
the mission project instead of a higher-paying job somewhere else, he
said. “This scholarship gives me the opportunity to make less money but
change people’s lives.”
The Ozark Mission Project is unlike anything Crismon has experienced.
“I keep coming back year after year because God is in this place in a
special way,” he said. “He moves here like I’ve never seen before. I can
do the physical labor elsewhere, but not see the same results.”
Lydia Dunlap, a recent high school graduate, was a participant in the
Ozark Mission camp, and she helped build front and side porches for a
woman who could not walk out of her home safely. Dunlap said the project
has strengthened her relationship with God.
“It’s not (about fixing) the porch; the porch isn’t going to last
forever, but your relationship with God will,” she said. “That’s what I
get out of it.”
Dunlap plans to attend the University of Central Arkansas in Conway,
where she will major in either finance or psychology and minor in
religious studies. A member of Conway First United Methodist Church, she
also wants to be an ordained minister.
|A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Alyssa Baldridge helps repair a client's porch in West Memphis as Ben Crismon provides guidance.
“I think (the project is) important because of the connection you make
with yourself and the connection you make with God,” she said. “You’re
really humbled here. Just being around stuff like this, you realize how
much you take for granted every day.”
Other participants agree.
“I’m glad to be a part of this project first off because I’m here with
my students — I’m a youth pastor — and I love to see them get out and
get involved with other people,” said Nate Bishop, with Siloam Springs
(Ark.) United Methodist Church.
“I’m really glad to be a part of this project because I really love
coming here and helping people and it always reminds me of how blessed I
am when I go back home,” said Alyssa Baldridge of Goddard United
Methodist Church in Fort Smith, Ark. “You’ve changed somebody’s life and
it’s a really great feeling.”
Crismon has enjoyed seeing the project’s impact on the student workers.
“The students are here with the right mind, and they’re focused on God,”
he said. “It’s amazing to watch them grow, and it’s amazing to see the
neighbors and how they interact with the students and how they interact
with me, and it makes me want to come back. I don’t ever really want to
Applicants for the Gift of Hope Scholarship must be active, full members
of a United Methodist church for at least a year, admitted to a
full-time degree program in a college or university, and maintain a
grade-point average of 2.5 or higher.
Information about scholarships and loans in the United Methodist Church
can be found online at www.gbhem.org/ or by contacting the Office of
Loans and Scholarships, P.O. Box 340007, Nashville, TN 37203-0007;
phone: (615) 340-7342.
*Scahill is a mass communications major at United Methodist-related
Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan. She worked as an intern this
summer at United Methodist Communications in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video Interview with Ben Crismon
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