Passport receives Lilly grant for new initiative - Word&Way

Passport receives Lilly grant for new initiative

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (ABP) — An international student ministry and historical partner of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has received a $750,000 Lilly Endowment grant to help theologically moderate churches discover God's calling for both clergy and laity.

The grant will support a new program called Echo Initiative by Passport, Inc., a non-profit ministry organization started 19 years ago by husband-and-wife team of David and Colleen Burroughs while they were still in seminary.

The Echo Initiative — referring to God's call as a repeated sound throughout a Christian's life — will enable the ministry originally conceived as a summer camp for students in grades 6-12 to produce needed resources it cannot currently provide, said Colleen Burroughs, executive vice president for the organization based in Birmingham, Ala.

Developed in conversation with creative thinkers, ministers and theologians, the initiative will seek to broaden the conversation of call beyond paid vocational ministries to reach into the daily lives of children, youth and adults. It will produce tangible resources such as Vacation Bible School and retreat materials designed around the question, "How can I be a minister as a follower of Christ today?"

It will be funded by the largest independent donation in Passport's history and its first free-standing grant from the Lilly Endowment. "Christmas came early for our office this year," said Passport President David Burroughs. "We are very excited about the ability to implement the carefully crafted vision that this grant makes possible."

The Echo Initiative includes three phases.

An education initiative will produce resources for children, youth and adults designed to be flexible enough to allow for varied settings but cohesive enough to connect the conversation of God's call to follow over time.

An empowerment initiative will include training of college-age leaders for annual Echo events for youth and mini-grants for practicum experiences through PASSPORTexpeditions, a program that provides students with individual opportunities around a specific interest like ministry to victims of sex trafficking or addressing poverty through Passport's Watering Malawi well-drilling initiative.

An encouragement initiative will provide professional development support for youth ministers both to reaffirm their personal vocational calls and to cultivate a culture of calling with students in their ministries.

Colleen Burroughs said the Echo Initiative is particularly interested in offering the new resources in Spanish and is working out relationships to enable not only word-by-word translation from English but also considering cultural context.

She said Passport has already received the Lilly check and plans to "hit the ground running." Two expeditions are tentatively planned for next summer. Producing solid resources takes a bit more time, she said, but planning is already underway.

Though it is the first direct grant, this isn't the first time that Passport has participated in a program funded by Lilly.

Previously Passport worked with CBF in a Lilly-funded three-year program to create leadership "ecosystems" and with Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond in the Samuel Project, a Lilly-funded project that included a weeklong Echo experience for high-school students in 2005.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.